My family used to buy new decor for the holidays every year. Being a broke college student and learning about sustainability has taught me to treat the planet better than that when I celebrate the holidays. Here’s how I creatively reuse my Christmas decorations year to year.
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Past: New Christmas Decor Every Year
Growing up, I had the privilege of decorating my Granny’s house for the holidays. I enjoyed it so much because it gave me a way express my creativity in real life. I sincerely appreciate that I had the freedom to do that at such a young age. However, as I got older and branched out on my own, I better understood how expensive decorations really were. They cost too much for a broke college student!
As my understanding of sustainability grew, I also knew the cost was more than monetary. We were risking the health of our planet, and thus our own health, each year that we got “all new everything” for Christmas decor. I vowed to find new ways to decorate, and that started with alternative Christmas Trees – creatively making trees from scrap items instead of buying a Christmas tree. Now, I reuse the decor that I have invested in, and I will continue to do so for as long as possible. Here’s how I keep it fresh and exciting while using the same Christmas decor each year!
Decorate the Christmas Tree With Me
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Quick Fact About Christmas Decor Waste
- “Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, American household waste increases by more than 25 percent.” – EPA
- “Trash cans full of holiday food waste, shopping bags, bows and ribbons, packaging, and wrapping paper contribute an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills.” – EPA
- “Artificial trees contain non-biodegradable plastics and possible metal toxins such as lead.” – National Christmas Tree Association
Present: Reuse My Christmas Decor
Invest in Quality Christmas Decor
If you are starting from scratch with building your Christmas decor collection, my first piece of advice is to search thrift stores, vintage stores, and flea markets for vintage ornaments and Christmas decor. One of my favorite vintage ornament finds is a set of heavy metal wire spring-like ornaments with glitter glued to them. They are legit vintage finds – even the glitter is heavy duty, and it doesn’t really come off!
Make Your Own Christmas Decor
You can add to your current decor in a low waste way by making your own ornaments and decorations, especially from food items or from thrifted items. This DIY Burlap Bow is really easy to make, and it yields gorgeous results!
Securely Store Your Decor
Keeping your Christmas decor in tact and in good shape is one of the best ways to make it last for several years. I have yet to buy the fancy storage containers that are sold to store wreathes, bulbs, trees, etc. This is mainly because all of my decor can fit into one large storage tub. Here are some tips as to how I keep my decor looking like new each year:
- Keep the boxes that your decorations come in. These will help you to securely store the decor.
- Example 1: I wrap my Christmas lights around the boxes that they came in. It’s very difficult to actually get them back inside the box without jumbling them up. By wrapping them around the box, they don’t get tangled.
- Example 2: I store my Christmas tree in the same box it came in. Don’t forget to put the tree base and any additional parts in the box with it so that you don’t lose it from year to year. if you happen to forget, put the parts in a bag and tape them to the box. This has worked well for me so far.
- Create a system to store your decorations.
- Example: In my system I group all “soft” items together and all “hard” items together. While they are all in the same box, packing in the boxes for the tree topper, bulbs, and lights at the bottom of the storage tub. On top of that, I place all of the garland, cloths, and ribbons.
Choose a Classic Theme
I have chosen gold and natural materials as my theme over the past 5 years. These elements will remain the same for many years to come. My number one tip is to keep it simple – chose one major color with few accents. Or, if a lot of color is your thing, use colorful lights! Keeping the base elements simple makes it easy to change up the decor each year if you desire your decor to feel fresh and new each year.
Change the Placement of Your Christmas Decor
Switch up where you place your decor from year to year. One year I created a garland of greenery and burlap. Originally, I used to use to line the bar in my living room/kitchen. This year, I’ll be using it above the window in my living room.
You can also omit some decor. There have been several years that I did not include the burlap decor. Leaving it out creates an entirely different feel than previous years when it is included. It feels more refined and less rustic without the burlap decor.
Annual Low Waste Tradition: Buy Only One Ornament Per Year
If you feel the need to buy something new, you could form a new tradition of purchasing just ONE ornament each year. Why not make it an ethical and eco-friendly ornament, as well? Your family could work together to decide the type of ornament to fit your theme. Why not make this a fun, minimal waste tradition each year?
My family’s Christmas decor is mostly all gold, with some white, burlap, and natural (wood, pinecones, etc) accents. This year, my son has really gotten into Harry Potter, and my husband joined in and is loving the wizarding world, too. The one ornament that we’re going to add to our tree this year is a Golden Snitch! We may even DIY an ornament from secondhand finds.
Future: Natural Christmas Decor
If/when then time comes that we need to purchase new Christmas decor, we’ll start with second hand finds and natural decor. When I was really young, my dad used to buy real Christmas trees. Natural Christmas trees were a bit of a hassle to clean up afterwards inside the house. However, they smell very nice and bring the outdoors inside in a cozy way. Natural decor is compostable. After the fun of making it and using it to deck the halls, it can be turned into a nutritious food for plants after it is fully composted.
How are you reusing your old decor? How are making sure to limit the amount of waste that you create when decorating for Christmas?
Let me know in the comments below!