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Christmas on a Budget: Upcycled Ornaments Save the Planet and Money

With the global economic crisis looming, many people need to tighten their purse strings this holiday season. The concept of upcycling may be just the right idea for those trying to stick to a budget. Upcycling is defined as the process of transforming one item into another and thereby increasing it’s value.

There have been recycled craft ideas for as long as there have been elementary schools.  Perhaps these teachers of our youths have got it right.  The world is slowly (okay, very slowly) turning green.  Here in Canada, recycling is becoming an every increasing part of life.  My toddler even knows better than throwing away her yogurt container.  But what if these items were removed from the recycling chain all together and made into something completely different.  Recycling takes a certain amount of energy and resources as well.  Perhaps these energy and resources can also be saved by upcycling our trash into items that we can use.

The economic crisis is definitely casting a shadow over the holiday season.  Upcycling can also be used as a way of saving money.  If you could take your family’s cast offs and turn them into something useful, you could definitely save a few bucks while also educating your family on the need to be environmentally responsible.

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Christmas cards are a great source of a raw art material.  Here the cars have been painstakingly cut, folded and pasted together to form a three dimensional star shape with an array of colours.

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This project also involves used Christmas cards cut, folded and pasted together into balls.  This could also be made out of sheet music, birthday cards or even colourful pieces of magazines or boxes.

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In this example, the process of remaking the cards into something else is simplified.  Even kids could be involved in the making of these ornaments which are dictated more by the design of the card than anything else.  While these may be simple, they would surely liven up a Christmas tree or present.

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These creatively painted burned out bulbs are looped with beaded wires to hang them on the tree branches.  I especially like the Grinches on either side of the photo.  This shot in particular shows the process of upcycling.  Burnt out bulbs are considered garbage while these creatively painted bulbs could surely be sold quite easily at any craft show.

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These old spoons have also seen the hand of a creative painter.  Bending the ends of the spoon over to hang them from tree branches is an exceptionally great idea that I surely would have never thought of!  I really like the penguins on this one.

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This picture shows how a painted baby food jar can be placed over a light bulb and transformed into a snowman lit from within.  This tiny Frosty the snowman is super cute and won’t even melt!

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This picture shows a craft made by kids in Africa.  Flattened bottle caps are strung together to form these Christmas balls.

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This funny tree is full of squished pop or beer cans painted white.  The spout of the can makes a really cute mouth for the snowman.

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These gorgeous hearts are for sale on Etsy.  They are made out of knit sweaters that are no longer wanted.  It would be fairly simple and straight forward to stitch these cast-offs into any shape of Christmas ornament you wanted.  They look really nice decorated as above with ribbons and bells.

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If you’re really not crafty, maybe this one is for you.  Empty boxes are cut with squiggly scissors into tree shapes with stars or without stars on top.  All you’d need to do is loop some thread or wool through the top to hand these from the tree.

With a little creativity and ingenuity, people can save money during the holiday season.  These few examples of handmade, upcycled ornaments are literally just a drop in the bucket in terms or recycled ornament ideas.  There are thousands and thousands of decorating ideas out there.  Ornaments look great on the tree, around the home or as a decoration on a gift package.  Take a good look at what you’re throwing away and even recycling to see if you could give it a makeover.  Happy Holidays!

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User Comments
  1. Joyce B.

    On November 22, 2008 at 8:17 pm


    Good ideas, I like pretty much all of them and will use some this year.

  2. Joie Schmidt

    On November 28, 2008 at 6:48 pm


    What a creative, great article – filled with wonderful ideas!

    Blessings.

    Sincerely,

    -Liane Schmidt.

  3. Mark Bentley

    On November 18, 2009 at 4:10 pm


    You can find more of Paula’s writing highlighting environmentally friendly products, services, innovations and issues at her new blog Green Colored Glasses.
    Living green doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive.

  4. Nicole Utah

    On November 29, 2010 at 11:54 pm


    Can you please give the exact details to make the frosty baby food jar oranament

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