7 zero waste Christmas decoration ideas [plastic-free!]

Looking for eco-friendly zero waste Christmas ornaments, decor or gift wrap ideas? I was wondering about this about three years ago when we got our first tree. I didn’t feel right about buying a ton of decorations that were not biodegradable at all. I started exploring zero waste decor and realized it could be loads of fun! It takes time, and currently, as a new mom, it can be a challenge, but I hope to make decoration creation part of our family traditions. Here are seven ideas that we have been using to keep our holidays low waste and lots of fun.

Dried oranges

Grapefruit and salt dough garland. Fully compostable but hang on to the string for next year.

Dried oranges are just as beautiful as a garland or an addition to your gift wrap. They can be a little tricky to prepare, so make sure you follow instructions closely. There are many tutorials online. If making them yourself is too much trouble, you can buy some on Etsy or other local vendors. I love these because they are just fabulous for Christmas, but they are also perfect for any time of year. Hang onto your garland after the holidays and keep the oranges for birthday presents in the coming months.

Gingerbread Cookie Ornaments

These circle cookies are easy to make. Piping them is a little trickier.

Making gingerbread ornaments was my first attempt at zero waste decor, and it was a hit. I baked a batch of these easy cookies and used them as ornaments on the tree and gift wrap decor. Google “vegan gingerbread recipe” to find a good option. They remained fresh for weeks so you could eat or compost them after the holidays. I recommend making them just a day or two before your holiday event so that they are extra edible for hungry little cookie munchers. Cookies are an excellent alternative to candy canes that are covered in plastic wrap. Include a small basket next to the tree where you can keep discarded cookie ribbons so that you can wash them and use them again the following year.

Adding cookies to a gift is a fun touch. It’s not very sanitary without wrapper so I add these at the very end.

Salt dough ornaments

Little salt dough circles added to the garland.

Salt dough ornaments are a fun, kid-friendly craft. You can make handprints, stars or Christmas tree shapes. You can also make smaller pieces to add to a custom garland. I’m excited to make this a family tradition allowing my one-year-old to paint her very first ornament this year! If you want to keep this compostable, use food colouring as paint.

Popcorn garland

I find popcorn garlands adorable. It can come off a little corny, but if you keep it simple, I think it can be quite beautiful. I wouldn’t recommend eating this garland; compost it once the holidays are over.

Dried flowers

Dried flowers are making a big come back and I found some stunning bouquets at local florists. You can also dry your fresh flowers by hanging them upside down for a few days. My favourite blooms for the holidays are baby’s breath because they look like specks of snow. They are also straightforward to dry, and you can get a lot of mileage out of them. If you want to add a splash of colour, statice purple flowers dry well, and they are cheap and easy to find. Dried bunny tails are cute too, and you can repurpose them for easter. I like to use dried flowers for table arrangements, gift wrapping or even added to the tree.

Hang flowers upside down to dry them. It shouldn’t take more than two or three days.

Scarves and vintage fabrics

Scrap fabric gift wrap. No sewing required!

Hit up your local thrift shop and pick up a few vintage scarves or a piece of fabric. Someone’s old drapes just might make a beautiful table runner or a fabric gift wrap. You may have heard about Furoshiki, a Japanese practice of wrapping items in fabric which versatile and beautiful. You can save the fabric and reuse it over and over, or in the case of a scarf, let the recipient keep it as an added part of the gift. If you’re any good at sewing, the vintage fabric also makes lovely bunting or gift bags.

Buy local and handmade

Okay, I get it, going full DIY is not for everyone. And that’s okay. Almost everything I mentioned above and be purchased on Etsy. If you don’t want to make your decor then opt to buy from local artisans or ethical retailers. In Montreal, I already found two great places to find some beautiful decorations.

Quebec-based Goodee is selling Christmas Bauble’s handcrafted in Colombia. I like this site because it offers socially-conscious design-focused products from artisans around the world.

Photo from Chez Nous Creations, located in Rosemere, Quebec.

A friend of mine has been raving about Chez Nous Creations‘ custom handmade decorations. Not only are these a lovely decoration idea, but they also make a fabulous holiday gift.

Whatever you decide to do, make it fun. And if you do end up buying a lot of glass or plastic ornaments, just make sure to hang on to them as long as possible to reduce what you send to the landfill!

Happy holidays everyone!