Green your holiday decorations

Holiday fever is rapidly setting in, with holiday lights and Christmas tree lots springing up around town. Whether you celebrate Chanukah or Christmas, it’s time to think about decorating to usher in the holidays.

There are fun, creative options to decorate “green” this year. You could make your own decorations, drawing materials from Nature to create one-of-a-kind ornaments. buy and add to something, or purchase ornaments from a company or organization that involves recycling and /or repurposing materials that would have ended up in a landfill.

Bring Nature indoors to brighten your holiday

Want to go natural?  Christopher Grubb of Arch-Interiors design group, Inc. suggests using seasonal evergreens, branches, berries, pine cones, nuts, dried fruit, squash and pomegranates to trim the tree, make floral arrangements or create a beautiful centerpiece.

Or try using paper mache´, combined with chicken wire and/or balloons and paint to create unique holiday decorations.

Decorations are generally expensive, says Jeff Gordon, owner of Entranced with making paper mache´ as a kid. Gordon wanted to pass this on to his daughter and her friends.  He uses the paper that’s around, including used printer paper and newspaper.

You have to do a recycled “mix” of paper, he said, to make it work. Used printer paper is too thick to use on its own.

“We probably put together decorations that are more unique and look better than the store-bought stuff,” he said.

Making paper mache´ is simple. Mix together one part flour to five parts water, then boil about three minutes, let it cool down and voila!

Making this with your kids has another important aspect, Gordon said.

You can create your own beaded garlands or add to a store-bought one for a unique decoration

It becomes more important as kids become teenagers to continue to bond. “This is a perfect way to do it,” he said. “Once you’re doing it and involved, they really love it!”

You might also creating a beaded garland to drape across your fireplace mantle. Andrew Schrage of suggests using floral wire to hang ornaments from the garland. Or buy a pre-made beaded garland (available at many supermarkets) and add your own ornaments to them.

“It’s inexpensive and makes an old holiday decorating tradition seem new,” Schrage says.

And, says Gordon, if you create your own decorations,  “even if the results aren’t great, it’s still unique, something you can hang onto.”

This beautiful ornament is made from recycled Ponds cold cream jars and broken dairy glass

Want something that combines tradition and recycled materials? Bottled Up Designs has an elegant looking Snowflake ornament made from vintage 1960’s white Pond’s Cold Cream containers and reclaimed broken dairy glass. This beautiful ornament looks like it has snowflakes inside.  A wire fused into the glass creates a permanent hanger for the tree. Affordably priced and available in 2 styles, the Snowflake comes with its own “Story of the Glass”, detailing the story behind the ornament – what it comes from and how old it is.

Another holiday decorating option features green and fairly traded items made by a women’s collective in the Phillipines, artisans from Haiti and Guatemala.

Three Stone Steps, a small import company in Baltimore, carries products that are made from recycled, upcycled, and sustainable materials. Its founder, Ellen Reich, considers herself a curator rather than an aggregator.

Her desire to “help people with ethical consumption” has her work with the World Fair Trade Organization to make certain everything is certified.

These dreidels from Three Stone Steps are made from recycled newspapers, magazines and office paper

Each unique ornament comes with a hand tag –which can double as a gift card – that tells about the women who made them and a story about their artisan collective.

Three Stone Steps features both Chanukah and Christmas decorations. Like their colorful Christmas ornaments, their small dreidels are made out of recycled newspapers, magazines, and office paper.

With plans to expand her Judaica line for next year, Reich is currently designing two new metal menorahs, made by Haitian artisan Evenson, whose simple yet beautiful metal Christmas tree you may remember seeing in my holiday column last year. Three Stone Steps carries his smaller desktop metal tree on its website.

Their holiday ornaments – in sets of three or individual ones – can be found online at

However you decide to decorate, remember simple is best. Whether you bring in from Nature, create or add onto store-bought decorations or purchase ornaments that make a difference to others, it’s about enhancing the spirit of the holidays.

As Jeff Gordon says, “simple is what works.”


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