An illustration of common holly

An illustration of common holly (Ilex aquifolium). The berries are popular with birds, but mildly poisonous to humans - so it's best to keep any reserved for crafting out of reach of children.

Three ways to go eco-friendly at Christmas

It's easy to go overboard at Christmas, but there are plenty of options to cut back on plastic and other single-use materials.

Here are three crafts to help make the festive season a little more eco-friendly.

Read on to find out how to make a natural Christmas wreath, how to wrap presents in an eco-friendly way and how to make a plastic-free alternative to tinsel.

Make a natural Christmas wreath

Christmas wreaths are a great decoration to make at home, but a number of methods suggest using non-biodegradable and single-use materials such as floral foam.

It is possible to make a wreath that you can compost at the end of the festive season. Any materials that can't be composted can be reused next year.

You will need:

  • foliage
  • gloves
  • pruning shears
  • twine
  • ribbon

1. Find a spot where you have permission to collect foliage.

2. Put on your gloves and carefully pick some foliage that is varied in size, colour and texture.

3. To create the base of the wreath, select some of the larger, more flexible branches. Bend them into a circle and secure with twine. 

Large, flexible branches are twisted into a circle

4. Use your remaining foliage to build up the wreath. Working around the circle, tie on smaller branches and leaves. Make sure you've got plenty of overlapping foliage and check the wreath from all angles so there are no big gaps.

5. Weave in any loose ends around the edge and decorate your wreath by tying on pine cones, feathers or other items you've collected.

6. Tie on a ribbon and use it to hang your wreath for all to see.

7. When you take your Christmas decorations down in January, don't forget to compost your wreath. 

A finished wreath is hung on a wooden wall with a ribbon

When collecting foliage for your wreath, remember that cuttings of evergreens, such as conifer and holly, will last longer.

If you collect ivy and berries, make sure they are kept away from children and pets as they can be poisonous.

Try to use twine and ribbon made of 100% natural fibre, such as cotton. If you use non-biodegradable materials such as nylon, carefully detach them from the wreath before composting and try to reuse them next year. 

Eco-wrap presents

Presents are a big part of Christmas, but tape, wrapping paper and gift cards are often made of or contain non-biodegradable plastics, such as glitter.

Here's a way to go more eco-friendly and make your gift stand out under the tree.

You will need:

  • brown paper
  • twine
  • foliage
  • metallic pen
  • eco-friendly paint
  • scissors
  • paintbrush

1. Head outside to collect leaves and pine cones that you'll use later to decorate your present.

2. Back inside, roll out your brown paper on a flat surface. Weigh down the corners to make sure it can't roll back up.

A gift is wrapped using brown paper with a homemade pattern of painted leaf-prints

3. Select a leaf with a clear shape. A fresh or very recently fallen leaf will work much better than one that is dry and crumbling. Cover the leaf with paint on one side.

4. Press the leaf onto your brown paper like a stamp. Carefully peel it off so you don't smudge the pattern. Repeat this process all over the paper until it's fully decorated, and leave it lying flat to dry.

Leaves and a pinecone are tied to the top of a gift as a decoration

5. Once the paper is dry, you can begin wrapping your presents. Instead of using plastic, non-recyclable tape, you could try an origami method and secure the paper in place with twine or cotton ribbon.

6. Using the foliage you collected earlier, tie some decorations onto your present to make it stand out. 

7. For a gift tag, you could write a Christmas message on a large leaf or just write directly onto the wrapping paper. Then, pop the present under the tree. 

A colleciton of eco-wrapped gifts of different sizes.

When printing on your brown paper, make sure you are working on a wipe-clean surface, just in case of any mess.

Instead of painted brown paper, a reusable alternative is natural fibre material secured with a knot or twine.

For decorations on your present, as with the Christmas wreath, cuttings of evergreens will last longer.

Make a plastic-free Christmas garland

If you're aiming to reduce the amount of plastic you use this Christmas, making your own decorations is a great way to get started.

Follow the guide below to make a plastic-free alternative to tinsel that you can bedeck your home with.

You will need:

  • Oranges
  • Pen or pencil
  • Skewer
  • Twine or strong string
  • Yarn needle or similar blunt-ended needle
  • Scissors or utility knife (and adult supervision)

1. Start by peeling the oranges. Try to leave the skin as intact as possible.

2. Use a pen or pencil to mark the outlines of stars (or other shapes of your choice) on the inside of the orange peel.

Several stars have been drawn in red on the inside of orange peel

3. Carefully cut out each star with scissors or a utility knife.
You could use a star-shaped cookie cutter instead if you have one.

4. Use a skewer to make a hole through the centre of each star.

5. Thread the twine onto the yarn needle and pull it through each of the orange stars. Space the stars out evenly on the string.

A number of small stars are threaded onto a long piece of twine

6. Hang the Christmas garland up in your home. As the peel dries, it will shrink a little and become preserved. 

An orange peel stars garland is twisted around a stair handrail intertwined with ivy and fairy lights

Are you looking for more ways to reduce the amount of single-use plastics you use? Or do you need to find a present for an eco-conscious person in your life?

Homemade food wraps are a popular choice for replacing cling film and are very quick to make. Find out how to make beeswax wraps.