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Craft These Colorful Christmas Trees From Recycled Mail

Learn how to save the earth's resources and make Christmas tree décor from recycled mail.

Learn how to save the earth's resources and make Christmas tree décor from recycled mail.

A Greener Way to Decorate for Christmas

I love the holiday season, but always feel frustrated about how much we throw away in the form of holiday cards and gift wrapping. At the same time, I also feel bad about how much junk mail I end up throwing in the trash. I decided to save a few days worth of junk mail and see if I couldn’t use it somehow to make some Christmas crafts and save myself from buying new material.

I started with the easiest shape, a tree, which is pretty much just a triangle. With a little coloring and cutting, I discovered several ways to make little trees to decorate and deck the halls for the holidays. Read on to see how you can make some of your own.

Tips for Upcycling Christmas Crafts

Following are some general steps for gathering and preparing the material for your trees. Later on in the article, I describe several different designs you can make with the envelopes and mail you've collected.

Save the junk mail envelopes that come in colors or in patterns.

Save the junk mail envelopes that come in colors or in patterns.

1. Save a Few Days' Worth of Junk Mail.

I especially save any colored paper and any envelopes that have designs on them. I have discovered that many security envelopes having intriguing patterns on the inside, and many of my trees are made from this patterned paper. I also saved big (8x10) envelopes to use as the backgrounds for pictures or cards.

Use markers to make colorful rectangles on the patterned envelope paper.

Use markers to make colorful rectangles on the patterned envelope paper.

2. Use Markers to Color the Patterned Paper.

I used these Crayola markers and found that the colors complemented each other nicely.

Cut your colored paper into thin strips.

Cut your colored paper into thin strips.

3. Cut the Paper Into Strips or Triangles

The nice thing about these folksy trees is that you don’t have to make all of your lines perfectly straight. For most of these trees, I cut the paper into strips and then arranged them into tree shapes. For others, I cut out triangles and arranged them in different ways to make trees and scenes.

Ideas on How to Arrange Your Decorated Paper to Make Trees

The different kinds of trees are picture below, with instructions on how to cut them and put them together.

1. Horizontal Striped Tree

For this one, I cut a triangle out of a piece of cardboard, and then glued strips of colored paper onto it in a diagonal stripe pattern. It’s easiest to glue rectangular strips to the cardboard and then trim them up to the triangle at the end. Put a small rectangle on the bottom to make the trunk.

You can make this first type of tree by gluing your colored paper strips to a cardboard triangle, and trilmming the edges.

You can make this first type of tree by gluing your colored paper strips to a cardboard triangle, and trilmming the edges.

2. Easy Horizontal Striped Tree

This one avoids the work of cutting out strips. Cut a triangle out and then color the stripes onto that triangle. Cut out a small rectangle and color it brown to use for the trunk.

This is a simpller version of the tree above. Simply draw on the stripes rather than cutting strips of paper.

This is a simpller version of the tree above. Simply draw on the stripes rather than cutting strips of paper.

3. Vertical Strips Tree

Cut several thin strips and then arrange them into a triangle shape, overlapping at the top and then fanning out at the bottom.

For this tree, arrange the paper strips vertically in a reverse fan shape.

For this tree, arrange the paper strips vertically in a reverse fan shape.

4. Triangle Strips Trees

Once you have cut into thin strips, arrange them in triangle shapes and glue them to a piece of paper.

Arrange your colored paper strips into triangles to make this scene.

Arrange your colored paper strips into triangles to make this scene.

5. Simple Patterned Triangle Trees

Use a colored marker to draw some triangle shapes on your patterned paper and then cut them out and attach them to a piece of paper.

The patterned paper in these trees comes form the inside of security envelopes I received in the mail.

The patterned paper in these trees comes form the inside of security envelopes I received in the mail.

6. Colored-in Patterned Triangle Trees

Use a marker to draw three triangles, then color them in with markers. Cut them out and arrange them on a piece of paper. Draw snowflakes on the background paper.

These trees are made from triangles that has been colored in. I used a black marker to outline the trees and draw in the snowflakes.

These trees are made from triangles that has been colored in. I used a black marker to outline the trees and draw in the snowflakes.

7. Stacked Triangles Tree

Draw three triangles: small, medium and large. Color them in, then cut them out and arrange them vertically, the smallest on top.

I made the triangles different colors of green to differentiate them.

I made the triangles different colors of green to differentiate them.

7. Layered Triangles Trees

Draw three triangles: small, medium and large. Color them in, then cut them out and arrange them vertically, the smallest on top.

Layer several different sizes of triangles inside each other for this type of tree.

Layer several different sizes of triangles inside each other for this type of tree.

8. Cake Layer Tree

Cut several thin strips of colored paper, making each one shorter than last. Arrange them from smallest on the top to largest on the bottom. Arrange three very thin strips into a star at the top.

Cut strips of different lengths and arrange them with the longest on the bottom and shortest on the top.  The star on top is made with several short, narrow strips of paper.

Cut strips of different lengths and arrange them with the longest on the bottom and shortest on the top. The star on top is made with several short, narrow strips of paper.

9. Notched Tree

Draw a tree in a typical notched shape. Color and cut out.

This tree was drawn freehand, and is all on one piece of paper.

This tree was drawn freehand, and is all on one piece of paper.

10. Confetti Tree

This is the one you make when you have lots of little pieces of paper leftover from your other projects. Draw a triangle and cut it out. Then take little pieces of colored paper and glue them in a random pattern on to your tree.

You can use up scraps from your other projects to make this tree.

You can use up scraps from your other projects to make this tree.

Ways to Use Your Recycled Mail Trees

The pictures below show ideas on how you can use the trees you created for gift bags, greeting cards, ad ornaments. Use your imagination to add a little cheer by using these trees on holiday items!

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