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10 Fun Tips for Making Your Holidays Green

Top view of Woman preparing Christmas gift

Make the holidays fun again by making your own gifts and decorations!

But you need to start early. How about now, or soon? If you wait until December to start, it will stress you out, and those gifts won’t turn out nearly as nice as you had hoped.

The “green” part is that you’re not buying new stuff. Homemade, do-it-yourself gifts and decorations are the ultimate recycling. In fact, reusing and repurposing like this are actually better than recycling.

Get on the DIY green holiday train with these 10 tips!

  1. Talk to yourself. Not necessarily out loud, but think about your gift-making plan and be honest with yourself about your motivation. Are you making your own gifts for people on your list because they always make gifts for you? Rethink that, and only do it if it’s truly fun for you, and you know the gift recipient will appreciate what you make. A present should be all about the givee, not the giver.
  2. Give thanks and get thanks. Especially if you have little kids in your life and you’re starting in early or mid-November, why not make decorations for the big family gathering on Thanksgiving (which is on the early side this year—November 24). You could start on Veterans Day (November 11), a day off for students and many others. You could even do this project on Thanksgiving morning with the grandkids—let someone else do the cooking!
  3. Use a net. The Internet and your public library are your best friends for finding ideas and videos to make anything you can imagine. Smartphones and tablet computers make this easier than ever. A simple online search for “diy green holiday gifts” or “green thanksgiving decorations” (don’t use quote marks in the search) will give you a good start. Or try Pinterest. The King County Library System and Seattle libraries usually have lots of books on these topics, and librarians can help you find them. They may even have a special seasonal section set up for those books.
  4. Think outside the Christmas box. This year, Hanukkah starts the evening of December 24 and ends on New Year’s Day evening, which gives you more time than in many years to make Hanukkah gifts or decorations. You can make a menorah out of anything (some synagogues even have kids’ competitions for this), and ideas are just a click away.
  5. Play to your strengths. The “play” part is important. Remember tip #1—it needs to be fun, right? What do you love to do? What do you have a knack for? Jewelry-making? Paper crafts? Woodworking? Making clothing? Cooking? If time does seem limited to make your gifts, definitely pick a specific project you’ve done before. For a first-time project, you may need to make a prototype and you may have some failures, and it can take forever.
  6. Materials come first. Well, almost first, after the idea. And because we’re talking “green” gifts here, it may take you a while to gather materials. Making something out of plastic bottle caps or toilet paper rolls? (Hey, you can make a beautiful reading-glasses case out of a TP roll and a piece of scrap fabric.) Start collecting your materials now! Likewise if you’re going to make gifts repurposing things like sweaters you find at thrift stores. Thrift-shopping for materials always takes longer than you think. Another key to green DIY gifts is using low-toxic paints, markers, etc., and finding those may take a while.
  7. Grow your own. If you have a garden, since it’s November the tomatoes are long gone, but you still may have some fresh veggies and likely some herbs that you can use for food or decoration gifts. If you have a rosemary bush or a holly tree, you’re a lucky DIY gift-maker—you can make endless stuff from those. Mint is another super-useful herb, still good now and often very abundant.
  8. Make it a party. Make holiday gifts with friends. You could host an informal party, where you all join in to make a food item like pesto that you can freeze. Have your guests bring little plastic containers for the pesto, and everyone takes home several to use as gifts.
  9. Embrace the possibilities. If you get good at making your own gifts and really love it, you could do it year-round. Even better, once you’re an expert you could make a little money, or a lot, by selling your creations at craft fairs or on online marketplaces like Etsy.
  10. Share the joy. Help others learn about the rewards—and challenges—of making your own green holiday gifts and decorations. Tell your friends. Do a little informal class next year at the senior center. Send out photos on Facebook. Do a blog posting or make a video showing how you did it. As rewarding as making and giving green gifts can be, helping others learn a new skill might be the best part.

Green Holidays logo

King County’s Green Holidays program offers more holiday tips. Enjoy!

Tom Watson, a regular AgeWise contributor, manages King County’s EcoConsumer public outreach program. Have Green Holidays ideas to share, questions, or suggestions for future articles? Contact Tom at or 206-477-4481.