10 Green and Cheap Holiday Decorations

iStockThere are plenty of good reasons these days to explore holiday decorations that are both “green” and cheap. Avid crafter Michael Aldrich, of Greenfield, MA claims “green, home-made holiday decorations are a lot more special than anything you can find in a store. You get to recycle, use your creativity and you end up with something people will cherish.” Aldrich offers his top 10 picks for decorations that are easy on the earth and your wallet.

1. Frozen holiday wreaths: “Most people have a Bundt or Jell-O-mold pan. If not, you can probably pick one up easily at a thrift store.” Aldrich says all you have to do is put an inch of water on the bottom of the pan and freeze it. Then, layer your choice of holly leaves, berries, bittersweet, small pine cones, etc., pour more water over the mixture and freeze again. Once the layer of natural items is frozen, pour another inch of water on top and freeze again.

After everything is frozen, place the pan briefly in warm water and your wreath will pop right out. Now tie a string around the top and hang on your front door. Keep in mind that the temperature needs to be 32 degrees or colder outside for the wreath to stay intact. “You can also add red or green food coloring to the water, but I like having the wreath clear. It looks more elegant, like crystal,” mentions Aldrich.

2. Frozen candle holders: If you are throwing a party, frozen candle holders are unique and beautiful. Again, they need to be used out-of-doors, as you would an ice sculpture. Aldrich instructs that you need 2 tin cans (preferably without ribs), one smaller than the other. Pour an inch of water into the larger can and freeze. Then place the smaller can inside the larger; fill the space between them with natural materials like pine or holly twigs, tiny colorful stones etc.; add water to an inch below the top with water; and freeze. Once everything is frozen, add another 3/4 inch of water and freeze again. Remove as you would the holiday wreath in a sink or pan of warm water. “All you need to do now is place a votive candle on top.” 

3. Frozen wine bottle holders: Follow instructions for frozen candle holders, except ... don’t pour the last 3/4 inch of water on top. According to Aldrich, you just need an inner can large enough to accommodate the size of a wine bottle. If the wine bottle holder is to be used indoors, place it on a surface that won’t be damaged by the ice melting.

4. Dried apple, orange, or lemon slices for garlands: Aldrich explains that the technique to drying slices of fruit for garlands and maintaining the color is to “heavily brine the slices of fruit – about one pound of salt per quart of water for about an hour.” The slices of fruit are then layered on paper towels and “dusted’ with more salt, which can be brushed off later. The additional salt helps dry the fruit more quickly and furthers the preservation process.

5. Lemon peel ornaments: Using a paring knife, cut off a lemon peel in a circular downward motion to create a spiral. Then brine the peel following the instructions for dried fruit (above). Once the peels are dry, pierce one end with a needle and string with colored thread to create an ornament.

6. Handmade wreaths: “All you need to buy is a form and spool wire. Gather your greens and wrap them onto the form with the wire.And for those who are wreath-challenged, you can simply tie greens together with stems of white birch, or holly and hang them as a swag.”

7. Paper cutouts: “Cutting out angels, snowflakes, or circles you can turn into garlands from whatever paper you have around the house is a great to do with kids. You can even use old magazines or simply color whatever your cutouts are any way you want.”

8. “Santa” apple heads: Carve faces into the apples, or hollow them out like a jack-o-lantern. “You can use seeds for the eyes.” Preserve the apples with the brine recipe in No. 4. Aldrich recommends that you place tealights inside the hollowed apples -- or turn a non-hollowed apple, which has been carved and preserved, into a "doll" by adding stick limbs and tiny clothes. You can also use the non-hollowed carved apples as tree ornaments.

9. Recycled clothing for ornaments or stockings for stuffing: With minimal sewing skills and a little glue you can create stockings from old flannel shirts, jeans, etc. “Use the buttons and whatever else you want to attach to the stocking for designs or someone’s name for example,” advises Aldrich. He also suggests creating ornaments by cutting out shapes of fabric, gluing to cardboard and decorating. “You could even glue someone’s picture onto the ornament.” 

10. Decorative fat balls for outdoor trees: Soften vegetable shortening or suet; then mash in seeds and berries (do not use holly berries as they are poisonous). Form into a ball, tie twine or ribbon around it and place in the refrigerator to harden. Then hang outside on a tree as a bit of holiday landscaping for your feathered friends. “The suet balls are a great gift for bird lovers too. Just make sure they're kept cool and opened quickly.” 

Cris Carl writes for networx.com.

Updated November 29, 2018.

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