Lisa Vollrath is a prolific mixed-media artist whose work includes altered books, art journals, collage, gluebooks, and paper crafts.
Recycled Christmas Crafts, Gifts, and Decorations
Christmas is a time of year when dollars are particularly tight. To save on some of your holiday decorating, and even a few of your gifts, consider recycling materials and making items yourself.
Whether you're looking for ways to stretch your holiday dollars, or just want to bring a more handmade feeling to a very commercial season, these crafty ideas will give you a head start. They all use recycled materials, so you'll be doing something good for the planet as well—as your wallet—as you work through your holiday to-do list.
CD Christmas Ornaments, Magnets, and More!
Old CDs provide an excellent blank surface to decorate. I made the photo magnet shown here by simply gluing a printout of a photo, and some strips of paper, to an old CD. One or two magnet strips, applied to the back, will make it stick to any metal surface. Stamp on some text, or glue on some buttons or ribbons, and you'll have a sweet little decoration for your file cabinet or fridge!
You can turn your old CDs into all sorts of pretty things with these crafty lessons:
- Clearly Altered CDs from Go Make Something
Step by step instructions for making clear ornaments from your old CDs.
- CD Christmas Tree Ornaments from First Palette
Kid friendly instructions for making ornaments using dimensional paints.
- Recycled CD Glitter Snowman from Crafts by Amanda
Instructions for making a glittery snowman ornament from a CD..
- Recycled CD Candle Holder from Dollar Store Crafts
How to make a candle holder using a CD as the base.
- Recycle Old CDs from Make Stuff
Instructions for a CD wreath and ornament.
Light Bulb Crafts
Wondering what to do with all those light bulbs you've replaced? Turn them into holiday ornaments! Light bulbs can easily be painted, or coated with glue and rolled in glitter.
This quick video from the Live Well Network shows how to recycle your burnt-out Christmas lights into glittery decorations. The same technique can be used on just about any item you want to glitter:
Here are more ideas for recycling light bulbs into holiday ornaments and decorations:
- DIY Light Bulb Ornament from Balancing Home
This lesson shows how to turn old Christmas light bulbs into glittery ornaments.
- Recycled Light Bulb Hot Air Balloons from Dollar Store Crafts
This one is not specifically for Christmas, but still a great idea that could be adapted: turn old light bulbs into hot air balloon ornaments.
- Christmas Santa from All Free Crafts
You'll need a few painting skills for this lesson, which turns an old light bulb into a Christmas Santa ornament.
- Cute Penguin Guys from Sweet Thing Designs
Here's another very simple idea for turning light bulbs into penguin ornaments.
Pine Cone Crafts
Every neighborhood has a pine tree that's dropping its cones all over the street. Pick up the ones on the sidewalk and street, or knock on your neighbor's door, and ask if you can collect a few. Dry them near a heat vent for a day or two, and they'll be ready to use.
A few easy ways to use pine cones you've collected:
- Spray them with spray paint.
- Tip them with a little snow paint or gesso, and sprinkle them with glitter.
- Attach a ribbon to the stem end with hot glue, and turn them into ornaments.
- Fill a clear glass container with them, to use as a centerpiece.
- Wire or hot glue them into inexpensive pine wreaths and garlands.
Here are a few more lessons on how to use pine cones:
- Yo Yo Stuffed Pinecone from Fave Crafts
Use stuffed fabric yo yos to fill up large pinecones .
- Make a Pine Cone Reindeer from Kids Fun Reviewed
A simple idea for recycling pine cones that would be fun for kids.
- How to Make a Pine Cone Skier from Somethin' Beautiful
Another cute, simple idea that might be fun to do with kids.
- Holiday Decorating with Pine Cones from Country Living
The folks at Country Living put together a slide show of their pine cone decorating ideas.
All those pretty cards you get each year? How can you bear to throw them away! Save the Christmas cards from this year, and turn them into next year's holiday goodies.
These Christmas ornament cards were made by punching circles from old printed cards. Add a little silver paper cap, a wire loop, and a pretty ribbon bow. Complete instructions are posted at Go Make Something.
- Heart House Ornament from Michele Made Me
Instructions for a very clever dimensional house ornament, made using many layers of a house shape with a heart cut in the center.
- Recycle and Repurpose Old Greeting Cards from All Free Crafts
Lots of ideas for making things from old greeting cards: ornaments, houses, boxes and more.
- Easy Recycled Christmas Ornament from Fave Crafts
Make the easiest Christmas ornaments ever with recycled greeting cards and cookie cutters.
Glass Bottles and Jars
I can't stand to throw empty glass bottles into the recycle bin before I've considered them for use in craft projects. These how-to lessons will help you turn empty glass containers into pretty items for holiday decorating.
- Frosted Winter Bottles from Ten Two Studios
Learn several ways to frost your bottles with this easy lesson.
- Decorated Glass Jars from Go Make Something
Turn any glass jar into a pretty package for your own home made goodies with this easy lesson.
- Magic Reindeer Food from DLTK
This simple idea comes with printable poems to attach to the finished jars.
Tins and Tin Cans
Metal tins, like Altoids tins, are great items to recycle for holiday items. These easy ideas will help you turn metal tins into holiday ornaments and decorations.
- Beaded Altoids Tin Ornaments from Ten Two Studios
This lesson shows how to turn empty Altoids tins into lovely hanging ornaments with beaded fringe.
- Altered Altoids Tins Christmas Ornaments from Oops, I Craft My Pants
Here's another variation on turning Altoids tins into Christmas ornaments.
- Tin Can Snowman from Practically Functional
If you're looking for a quick and easy Christmas craft, look no further! This adorable tin can snowman is not only a great way to recycle some leftover tin cans, but it's fast and simple to assemble.
You know those chipboard tubes you're left with after you use up the paper towels or bathroom tissue? You can make stuff from them!
Here's a quick video on how to make an easy ornament from a toilet paper roll:
More great ideas for recycling paper rolls:
- Toilet Paper Roll Wreath from Proverbs 31 Life
Instructions for turning toilet rolls into roses, which are glued to a wreath form.
- Toilet Paper Roll Christmas Trees from Reading Confetti
A super easy lesson on how to turn a toilet paper roll into a spiral Christmas tree ornament.
- Countdown Calendar from Maya Made
Instructions for a clever advent calendar variation, made from recycled paper tubes.
- Nutcracker Toilet Paper Roll from DLTK
Turn a cardboard roll into a nutcracker ornament.
© 2010 Lisa Vollrath
johnmariow on November 13, 2016:
My wife and I really like your ideas. My wife particularly likes the ornaments made from toilet paper rolls. You are very creative. Thanks for sharing these wonderful ideas.
Ashly Christen from Illinois on November 22, 2015:
I may have to put some of these ideas into play this year! thanks for sharing! feel free to stop by for a recipe or just some light reading
peachy from Home Sweet Home on January 13, 2015:
i like the cd ideas, very unique and beautiful, voted up
Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on November 26, 2014:
Beautiful. Looking forward to christmas and this article made me feel as though it is here already.
ShelbyLinMarie on December 08, 2013:
Thank you for the ideas. I love recycled crafts!
rattie lm on October 19, 2013:
I think it's terrific. Anything that is recycled has to be good. Another wonderful lens for teachers. Thanks!
garyrh1 on November 16, 2011:
Nice. You can also put old CDs in the microwave for a couple seconds and they turn a really nice color. You can then make some nice ornaments with them.
Stephen Carr from Corona, CA on December 21, 2010:
Great ideas! Next best thing since re-gifting!
Joy Neasley from Nashville, TN on December 19, 2010:
I like your pinecone craft...I live in an area that it is easy to get pine cones by just walking outside and down the road. I love getting a spray can of snow and giving them a dusting with it. Then just hang on the christmas tree.
bluestonesolar on December 18, 2010:
Thanks for your cool ideas! We should all be doing our bit, whether it be recycling our debris, walking or using public transportation more regularly or trying to be more resourceful with the energy we consume.
noobeegin on December 04, 2010:
Really nice ideas for recycled Bhristmas ornaments and gifts.
javr from British Columbia, Canada on December 02, 2010:
It is the thought that counts, after all. I've seen a lot of wonderful art that was made totally from recycled items. Blessed!