We all know the drill, shop till you drop. The road to Christmas Day is paved with the blood sweat and tears of shoppers eager to get all their shopping done. The festive season is the biggest mass consumption event of the year, but it doesn’t come without a price. The environment is a big loser, with the festive period producing 5.5 per cent of the UK’s annual carbon footprint single handed, and 736,571 tonnes of refuse. Among the biggest contributors to the tonnes of waste and pollution are decorations. From plastic baubles to foil-wrapped chocolates, there are plenty of planet-polluters in the mix. But there’s a way around the problem: making your own.
‘In the current economic climate, making your own decorations and presents has definitely become more and more popular, and it is a great way of helping reduce your carbon footprint as well as saving money,’ says Ruth Bond, Chairman of the National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI). ‘Recycling materials that would otherwise be thrown away and turning them into Christmas decorations is a great way to spend time with family and friends during the festive period, and by not buying new decorations, you will be actively preventing climate change.’ Whether you’re making the most of leftover scraps of fabric and old plastic bags or raiding the local woods for pine cones to beautify, here are a few ways to get stuck in.
Take a break from tradition and try making your own wreath from ribbon, material scraps or even plastic bags. Bend an old wire coat hanger into a circle shape and attach two scrunched-up double pages of newspaper to the wire with sellotape (one double page will cover about half the coat hanger). Then cut your material, ribbon or coloured plastic carrier bags into eight centimetre long strips and tie them to the wreath. Finally, wrap the hook of the hanger in matching ribbon, or cut it off and attach a thick piece of ribbon to hang the wreath. You can also add a bauble or bow to the middle for a fun finishing touch. If that's a bit too traditional for your tastes, try making a wreath from old CDs for a 70s disco style decoration.
Instead of plastic baubles for the tree, wrap match boxes up like tiny presents, and hang with ribbon or a thread. You can hang dried pine cones or seed heads from the garden in the same way - stick on some glitter for a bit of sparkle. Or why not make paper chains out of old magazines, newspapers or old wrapping paper?
Bake your own decorations
First make a stiff dough by mixing plain flour and water with a dash of salt, then flatten it with a rolling pin. Next, use cookie cutters or a knife to make festive shapes in the dough - remembering to put a small hole in the top of each for fastening it to the tree. Finally, bake the shapes in the oven until hard, then decorate with non-toxic paints and glitter. To make the decorations extra sweet and colourful try making a ‘stained glass’ effect biscuit, which can be eaten. Search for a good biscuit recipe online and make festive biscuit shapes as above. Make Christmassy holes in the biscuits and fill with an organic fruit flavoured boiled sweet. The Natural Confectionary Company (www.naturalconfectionary.co.uk) has plenty to choose from. Bake for 20 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown and the middles have melted, then leave to cool.
Take a regular sized orange and wrap thin red ribbon around it length and width ways. Either glue or pin it to the orange and leave enough ribbon to make a loop to attach to your tree. Then press cloves into the skin of the orange, either covering the whole thing or creating patterns. Take a leaf out of Sarah Lund’s book and use Fair Isle patterns as inspiration: they look fabulous but are fairly simple to recreate.
Plenty of popcorn
Thread plain popcorn onto string to make natural garlands, wreaths and decorations. For an especially Christmassy feel, use natural food colours to dye the popcorn to suit your festive colour scheme. Good news for the birds too come January as the popcorn can be unthreaded and put out in the garden for them when the decorations come down. Make sure you use plain popcorn if you’re planning on dishing it up as an avian dinner: salted, sweet or flavoured varieties will make them ill.
Not everyone has time to devote to constructing decorations but instead of coming home with a sparkly box of Tesco’s finest, search out quirky second hand or vintage baubles on Freecycle, Ebay or Gumtree. Not only are they cheaper, they’re often prettier and will add real interest to your Christmas tree.
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