As the holidays approach, I always attempt to fill my schedule with many Christmas themed affairs (sometimes too many). One of my favourite holiday endeavours is making homemade decorations, and as a person who is environmentally conscious does, I aim to create and embrace sustainable decoration options. This year I decided to try a few new ones made of natural materials and the results were quite lovely. Through this space I want to be able to share ideas about making sustainable choices, and these ornaments do just that!

Three ornaments in one! Natural elements tend to combine well to make more intricate ornaments. The lower cinnamon ornament pictured was pressed with a pine branch before baking.

This week I have also been feeling a little like I’ve been drowning in the stress of the holiday rush, and other life exhaustion, and have come to realize there is no need to get worked up about a time that is supposed to be about relaxation and joyfulness. One of the reasons the holidays can cause stress is how we approach it. Often we try to involve ourselves in many holiday commitments, making sure we purchase gifts for everyone on our list, sending cards and packages, buying new decorations, cooking amazing meals, and baking holiday treats. It’s really just too much, and sometimes we need to realize that less can be more.

Choosing to do less around the holidays does not mean you don’t have any holiday spirit, it just means you are simplifying the things you already would be planning for. Changing how we approach the holidays could include skipping the new Christmas nick-nacks or portioning meals more appropriately at your family dinner. It could also mean cutting down on our Christmas consumption rate, using what we already have, and making sustainable choices for activities we do choose to engage in, buy, or make ourselves.

The baked orange slice

Now, back to the Christmas decorations! 

Do note that these can almost be made completely from natural materials or things you would be upcycling, with the exception of any glues or paints.

Most of these are also self explanatory once you see photos, but the first few do require a bit of a quick explanation.


Orange Cookies

Orange Slices

Baked Cinnamon Ornaments

Spray Painted Leaves and Pinecones

The Classic – Popcorn and Cranberry Garlands

Orange cookie making

Orange Cookies are made from the peels of naval oranges and are really not cookies at all, but do require a small cookie cutter! To make the peels into ornaments choose a small cookie cutter, the smaller the cutter the more ornaments you will get. Using a mallet or heavy object, press the cutter into the peel in a flat surface. No need to hammer or bang the object, the weight alone will slice it nicely. Next, use a needle to poke a hole and thread string through the shape while it’s still fresh. These will take a few days to dry out, and flattening them with a few books every now and then will keep them from curling. And that’s it!

Hangs beautifully with the cinnamon ornament

The next one, orange slices, involve slicing the oranges or any other citrus fruit and baking them in the oven at 200 degrees F for 2-3 hours to dry them out. They can also be placed in a dehydrator instead if you have it, a microwave, or just by air (however this one takes some time)! They turn out looking beautiful and can be easily strung together with needle and thread.

The last one I’ll explain is the cinnamon ornament. This one mixes equal amounts of both cinnamon and applesauce together to form a dough. I found I needed to add the applesauce slowly to make sure I didn’t have an overly saturated dough. Once mixed, roll it out, cut your cookie shapes and bake for 2-3 hours in a 200-250 degree F oven. I also noticed that the shapes were difficult to move once I had cut them, which is why I chose to cut them right on my baking surface. Once they were dried out, I was able to sand the rough edges with sandpaper, and coat the ornaments in mod podge. You don’t have to coat them in glue, however I felt like it would increase the durability. Mine dried out really nicely and made my house smell nice in the process!

Baked cinnamon circle cut ornament

As for the others, pressed leaves and pinecones can easily be spray painted to make garlands and are great for festive centrepieces. The classic strung popcorn and cranberries does take some patience and time, but the end result is stunning on a tree and can even be an alternative to Christmas lights. 

Spray painted leaf, no need for hanging string!
Spray painted oak leaves spread among the tree branches
Popcorn and cranberry garlands on the tree

All of these options are an easy craft to try, even with kids, and are a great way to not only save money on decorations, but also cut down on holiday waste while you’re at it!

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