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The 12 DIY's of Christmas: A Zero-Waste Holiday Craft Guide

By Sam Miller

Save money this Christmas: create beautiful Christmas decor yourself with items you probably already have lying around in your recycling bin!

1. Coffee Cup Christmas Fairy House Ornament

These fairy houses are easy as pie to make, and an excellent craft for your little ones (if you’ve got some little elves running rampant in your home, this is a good way to keep them busy!).

All You Need:

 

      • Coffee cups with lids
      • Old tissue paper, napkins or paper towels
      • X-Acto knife
      • White acrylic paint or gesso
      • Craft glue or hot glue gun
      • 2-3 pine cones (preferably those found outside au naturel!)
      • Optional:  Wire or string to hold up your ornament!

Instructions:

 

The House:

 

    1. Clean out coffee cup of any residue. Dry completely.
    2. Cut doors and windows into coffee cup, starting from the base up.
    3. Cover coffee cup with generous first coat of gesso or acrylic paint.
    4. Rip strips of paper towel or tissue paper.
    5. Add strips to still-damp coffee cup so that the surface has ridges and some interesting texture. Paint over with gesso/acrylic. Cover entire coffee cup like this, except for top and interior.
    6. Measure strips of tissue paper to all openings. Roll strips and dip in paint or gesso, ensuring that the rolled strips are completely sodden.
    7. Attach these measured strips near the openings, like you would molding to doors and windows. Make sure there are no air pockets or gaps and the entire surface is closed in with paint/gesso.
    8. Do a few coats of gesso or acrylic paint to bind the “stucco” of the house, and to give it a uniform color.
    9. Let the “fairy house” dry.

 

The Roof:

 

    1. While you’re waiting for the fairy house to dry, break apart your collection of pinecones so that you have a good handful of wooden chits (they look like roof tiles when all separated!)
    2. Using little dabs of craft glue, add the pinecone “tiles” to the lid, starting along the outer ledge of the “roof” and working your way inward, to the top and center of the surface.
    3. Add the remaining tip of your pinecone as a chimney-piece, using a large blob of glue!
    4. Let roof dry for 2+ hours, or overnight.
    5. Once the tiles are dry, glue the coffee cup to the inside of the coffee lid.

Optional: Before you start adding your “tiles”, pierce a hole for the wire or string that will hold your ornament to the tree. Create a loop through the and tie off inside the lid so that the ornament won’t slip.

2. Coffee Tray Christmas Tree Star

Biodegradable - or bio-luminescent? Make your christmas tree glow with this easy-peasy zero-waste Christmas tree topper!

All You Need:

 

      • A coffee tray
      • Gold or silver acrylic paint / gold or silver spray paint
      • Gold and silver beads / glitter / detailing
      • Scissors or an Xacto knife

Instructions:

 

    1. Cut out the center of the coffee tray.
    2. Shimmy the cut-out center of the tray away from the scrap outer frame of the tray.
    3. Paint your star gold or silver.
    4. Let dry.
    5. Using craft glue, add confetti, beads or glitter to add a bit of pizzazz!
    6. Perch it atop your tree by wedging it between the boughs, or glue a bit of wire or string to the back of the star and use that to support it at the top of your tree. You can also create two “stars” and glue them together so that you can fit the tip of the tree between the two!

3. Coffee Lid Tree Ornaments

Coffee lids are, luckily, recyclable, but if your lid has even the littlest bit of food residue, it may not be processed at the facility. Get crafty and divert your waste this holiday!

All You Need:

 

      • Coffee lids
      • Spray paint
      • Wire ornament hooks or string
      • Photos or magazine pages (for cutting)
      • Optional: stickers for decorating
      • Craft glue or glue gun
      • Scissors
      • A thumb-tack

Instructions:

 

    1. Spray-paint the coffee lids gold or silver. Let dry.
    2. Using a pencil or pen, trace a circle on an image using the coffee lid as a guide.
    3. Cut out the circle, cutting inside the lines by a few millimeters.
    4. Add a few spots of craft glue or hot glue to the inner center of the coffee lid.
    5. Paste the circular photo/image onto the glue, making sure to center it inside the coffee lid.
    6. Decorate with stickers, washi tape - whatever you like!
    7. Above the sip hole of the coffee lid, pierce a hole using the thumbtack.
    8. Using this hole, hook an ornament wire or loop of string so that you can hang up your new ornament.
    9. Hang on your tree, or create multiple for a sweet Christmas wall hanging!

4. Spare Fabric Christmas Garland

Textiles are some of the most wasted materials on earth. Don't toss the floss!

All You Need:

 

      • Two or three different types of material.
      • Scissors

Instructions:

 

    1. Cut 1 inch thick strips of the cloth.
    2. Tie the ends of three strips together in a knot (use a bead if you’d like!)
    3. Attach the knot to your wall, or tape down the end to the table.
    4. Braid the strips together until you have a braided rope.
    5. Tie the completed braid off at the end (use another bead!)
    6. Repeat this process with the remaining strips of cloth.
    7. Tie the braid ropes end to end until you have a nice long cloth garland.
    8. Optional: cut up bits of any remaining cloth and tie or glue them to the garland in even sections.
    9. Wrap your homemade garland around your tree, or use it to hang up your coffee cup ornaments on your wall!

5. Old Magazine Gift Ribbons

Magazines are the quintessential craft material. Make them work for you this holiday and save money on gift wrapping!

All You Need:

 

      • Old magazines
      • Scissors
      • Glue or tape

Instructions:

 

    1. Cut 1 inch thick strips of a magazine page horizontally (so that your strip is only as long as the magazine page is wide).
    2. Take one end of a magazine strip and curl it back over itself so that the end of the strip is touching the center of the strip.
    3. Tape or glue the end of the strip to the center of the strip. It should make a loop shape on one end.
    4. Do the same process to the other end of the strip so that you have two looped ends.
    5. Repeat three to five more times (depending on how large you’d like your bow). You may want to cut an inch or so off your strips as you go - the more compact the loop, the better it will fit together as a bow.
    6. Tape or glue the pieces inside of each other, stacking at varied angles so that you get a nice, full-bodied bow.
    7. For the final peak of the bow, cut a strip in half. Loop one end like you’ve been doing. The strip should only have room for one loop.
    8. Tape or glue the unfinished end of the piece to the center of the almost completed bow. This will hide the interior of the bow, and give it a nice symmetrical peak.

6. Cardboard Box Christmas Village

Yes, you can buy your own Christmas Village just about anywhere these days. But if you wanted to buy all these things, would you really be reading this article?

 

Make your own memories, and make your own holiday village with the boxes you’ve collected this past month using minimal materials.

All You Need:

 

      • Cardboard boxes
      • Scrap cardboard (a large box you don’t intend on using, for example)
      • White gesso or acrylic paint
      • Optional: black & red acrylic paint
      • Xacto knife or scissors
      • Tea lights or string lights
      • Optional: wax paper (for “screen” effect)

Instructions:

 

    1. Cut a doorway and windows into your house, making sure that the window stays close to the same height as your door, and vice versa.
    2. Optional: glue wax paper to the inside of your house at the openings so that the tea light will appear behind a sort of screen.
    3. Using the scrap cardboard, cut two rectangular roof tiles and two triangular ones. Glue them together to make a roof shape.
    4. Glue roof to your “house”.
    5. Using white paint, trace the outlines of your roof tiles, etc. Have some fun with it!
    6. Place a tea light inside your house and display your new village in your home!

7. Tin Can Christmas Candle Holders

This one is simple - but make sure you're being safe! A hammer to the finger might just ruin your holiday fun.

All You Need:

 

      • Clean tin cans, without labels
      • Dremel with piercing bit / OR hammer & nail
      • Optional: white, silver or gold spray paint
      • Tea lights or string lights

Instructions:

 

    1. Clean your cans thoroughly with soap and hot water
    2. Scrape off labels
    3. Using your tool of choice, pierce a series of holes all around your tin can. Create star shapes for a truly Christmas-y DIY experience!
    4. Spray paint your finished can in the color of your choice.
    5. Let dry.
    6. Add lights and set up on a flat surface!

8. Toilet Paper Roll Gingerbread Men Ornaments

All You Need:

 

      • Paper towel and/or toilet paper rolls
      • Pencil
      • Optional: gingerbread man cookie cutter
      • Scissors
      • White paint / white gel marker

Instructions:

 

    1. Flatten the roll with your hand, ensuring that the roll is folded evenly.
    2. Cut along the fold-line so that you have two toilet paper roll halves.
    3. Using a cookie cutter or your own amazing art skills, trace a gingerbread man shape lengthwise onto both halves of cardboard, tracing on the opposite side of the roll you want to display (the side with any bits of glue or toilet paper).
    4. Cut out the shape.
    5. Pierce a hole with your pencil or scissors in the "head" or your gingerbread man (this is for hanging later)
    6. Using your white paint or marker, draw gingerbread detailing onto the cardboard.
    7. Let dry.
    8. Once dry, loop a thread or ornament hook through the hole in your gingerbread man's head and hang up on your tree!

9. Toilet Paper Roll Pillow Boxes for Gift Cards

All You Need:

 

      • Paper towel and/or toilet paper rolls
      • Washi tape / OR paper scraps and glue
      • Scissors

Instructions:

 

    1. Flatten your toilet paper roll evenly.
    2. Flip the ends of the roll inward (see picture) and flatten with your finger to make a nice crisp fold.
    3. (If it doesn't hold, you can use a bit of craft glue to keep the shape intact).
    4. Decorate using washi tape, or with scrap paper.
    5. Add gift cards and tie up with twine or string.
    6. Gift away!

10. Painted Straw & Empty Pen "Bead" Ornaments

Plastic straws - we all know how terrible these little buggers are for the environment. While we should all be going the #stopsucking route, if you have gotten straws in the past, collect them instead of throwing them out. They're pretty sweet craft material!

 

The same goes for plastic pen cases once the ink has run out!

All You Need:

 

      • Straws and old pens
      • Beads
      • Ornament hooks or wire
      • Scissors
      • Spray paint

Instructions:

 

    1. Cut one inch long pieces of the straws and pen cases until you have at least a twenty pieces.
    2. Spray paint the color of your choice (we like gold and silver!).
    3. Let dry.
    4. Run a piece of wire through a bead. Tie off the end so the bead holds.
    5. With the untied end, run it inside the straw or pen case until it comes through the other end.
    6. Add another bead, and/or create a loop so you can hang your new ornament on your tree!

11. NYE Wish Bottle Stocking Stuffers

These are a super sweet and intimate gift for your significant other, a family member or a child you love. Write out all your fond memories of your special person from the past year, with all your hopes for them in the future. They'll love reading through it on a cold winter night!

All You Need:

 

      • Pill bottles and/or glass bottles (no labels!)
      • Strips of paper (for writing your wishes and your memories!)
      • Craft glue or super glue
      • Decorations of your choice (good options include: buttons, beads, glitter, washi tape, wire, burlap - the list goes on!)

Instructions:

 

    1. Make sure your pill bottle is clear of any labeling.
    2. Decorate your pill bottle - this is the fun part!
    3. Let all decorations involving glue dry.
    4. Write out your wishes and your memories on the scraps of paper.
    5. Roll up into tiny scrolls and drop them in your decorated bottle.
    6. Decorate the lid now, ensuring that you let it dry before fastening it to the bottle.
    7. Make someone's year and drop them into their stocking!

12. Keurig Cup Jingle Bell Ornaments

Single use coffee pods are terrible - just TERRIBLE - for the environment. Not only do billions of them get used every year - the plastic ones are non-recyclable - at least, not easily recyclable.

 

Make use of the useless and turn the junk into jolly jingle bells!

All You Need:

 

      • Keurig cups (cleaned out and all labeling removed)
      • Spray paint (gold and silver work best)
      • Bells or beads (to make a sound when the bell is jingled)
      • Thread or ornament hook

Instructions:

 

    1. Clean out your pods. Once you've emptied all the coffee grinds, you'll need to remove the thin liner inside the pod. Lucky for the earth, this is compostable!
    2. Pierce a hole in the center of the bell, at the top.
    3. Spray paint the pod silver or gold.
    4. Push wire or an ornament hook through the hole you made in the top of the pod.
    5. Twist the part of the wire inside the pod (the "bell") so that the wire will not slide through.
    6. With attach the remaining wire (still inside the "bell") to a bead or bell so that it will make a sound.
    7. Twist the wire on the top of the bell so it does not slide through from that direction.
    8. Hang up your beautiful bell pod!



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