DIY tin can lanterns. Image:

We suspect that if you’re reading this article, you’ve got a pretty good eye for creativity or, at least, a desire to explore. Nothing says “green holiday” like opting for homemade decorations and gifts. The personal touch of your holiday craft project makes decorations and gifts more unique and memorable.

Keeping in mind both your time and money, we scoured the crafting world for the most clever, eco-friendly projects that are sure to make this holiday season a little more inspired. Happy crafting!

1. Ornamental Flair

Ornaments are typically harder to recycle due to their varied makeup of plastics, glitter, metal, and the like. And whether you tore open your poorly taped box to find broken ornaments or your Christmas tree simply needs a makeover this year, don’t make an extra trip to the store for new ornaments.

For an “earthy” Christmas twist, use the acorn litter in your backyard to make felted acorn ornaments. We love these because they’re not holiday-specific and can be used any time of the year as pendants or nifty wall decor.

Recycling bottle caps is a hot topic around here, because most recyclers require them to be recycled separately from their bottles. But if you’ve been saving your bottle caps, Mother Nature Network has the perfect bottle cap bow ornament craft project to remedy that growing heap of caps. We love that you can personalize the ornament with you favorite photos or designs.

2. Set the Mood

We’re not sure how the chemistry works, but the smell of a fresh pine- or peppermint-scented candle mixes so well with sugar cookies and eggnog. Instead of spending $20 on store-bought candle holders, make your own tin can lanterns from those cleaned out food cans from your holiday meal preparations.

Do you have mismatched fancy china teacups that you never use? Add an elegant touch to your holiday with teacup lights. Use them as centerpieces on your coffee table or give them as gifts to your co-workers. This project is especially great because it looks expensive but only requires a few materials and is as easy as melting a couple of old candles. We would expect nothing less from Martha Stewart.

3. Festive (and Funny) Outdoor Decor

A holiday wreath from fresh winter greenery isn’t a new craft idea, but most of us probably don’t have step-by-step directions for constructing one that can hold up in even the windiest of weather. We’re suckers for reuse, so we love Plenty magazine’s holiday wreath, which incorporates waste from food packaging as part of the project’s foundation. We also loved this wreath made from pages of old books.

And we promised a laugh, so we had to throw in penguin yard figurines made from leftover 2-liter soda bottles. The winter equivalent of the traditional yard flamingo, these penguins make for a fun holiday craft project that is sure to draw a smile from even your Scroogiest of guests.

penguins made out of plastic bottles
Make your own cute penguin figures out of plastic bottles. Image: Wonderful DIY.

4. Custom Cozy Clothing

Our T-shirt reuse article was wildly popular, so we know you love clothing projects. But we thought we’d think outside the bottom dresser drawer and find holiday craft projects for the other items in your closet. If you’re spending more time in the kitchen during the holidays, don your chef hat and recycle an old skirt into an apron. And don’t be afraid to use that ’80s-inspired houndstooth pattern or cheeky hot pink floral frock.

We all have at least one faux pas sweater stashed in the back of the closet. If you’re not attending a tacky Christmas sweater party this year, consider turning it into warm leggings or a sweater skirt for your child.

5. Greeting Cards Galore

So, the mantle is full and you’re running out of refrigerator space to display those stacks of holiday greeting cards. You can always recycle paperboard and paper envelopes, but if you just can’t bear to toss them in the bin, try bending, cutting, and gluing them to make a variety of household decorations. Martha Stewart has a comprehensive guide for use of old cards.

Cards are always great for scrapbooking and collages, but Instructables has great instructions for repurposing holiday cards into gift tags. Or, you can check out the instructional video below from Fountain of 30. Remember to encourage your recipient to recycle or reuse the tag once your gift has been opened.

Do you have holiday craft project ideas?

Editor’s note: Originally published on December 7, 2009, this article was updated in November 2018.

Feature image: Guide Patterns