Are you interested in making compostable Christmas tree decorations? Are you looking for sustainable Christmas ideas? Read on to learn all about these compostable Christmas tree decorations!
On the “holiday crazy” scale from one to absolutely extra, I fall right at the “treated myself to a personal Christmas tree” mark this year.
Sorry, not sorry. The holidays can be stressful, and sometimes, a gal just needs a Christmas tree without any Star Wars ornaments on it. (Nothing says festive like Jabba the Hut and Darth Vader leering at you through the twinkle lights, my friends.)
However, I do realize that while purchasing a personal tree may count as self-care in my book, it’s not exactly the most sustainable Christmas choice I’ve made this year, even if I plan to dispose of it responsibly. So what, I wondered, could I use to decorate my tree besides cheaply made ornaments, plastic decor accents, and everyone’s favorite Jedi Knights?
I challenged myself to use compostable Christmas tree decorations, and y’all, I am thrilled with the results! My whimsical, old-fashioned Christmas tree absolutely makes my heart sing, and I love that none of my decor will wind up in the landfill.
Scroll on down to get inspiration for your own compostable Christmas tree decorations and to answer all those commonly asked questions! And remember… may the Force be with you.
Note: Are you eyeing my Christmas tree lights with suspicion? I get it. Those are admittedly not compostable, but they are actually recyclable through the Holiday LEDS recycling program, which we used for our broken lights this year.
Compostable Christmas Tree Decorations (Other Than the Lights)
Cranberry and Popcorn Garland
Cranberry and popcorn garlands are very nostalgic for me, and I have childhood memories of making them with my momma. All you’ll need are fresh cranberries, popcorn, a needle, cotton thread, and a little patience!
If you’re short on patience, I strongly recommend letting your popcorn get a little stale. The added moisture will keep the kernels from snapping when you push the needle through. I sat mine outside for about 30 minutes in the South Carolina humidity, and I was good to go!
Do cranberry and popcorn garlands last?
Your cranberry and popcorn garland will last much longer than you may initially think it will. Mine has been up for more than two weeks, and there’s no rot, mold, or anything gross like that. The cranberries will start to shrink in size, however, as time goes on.
The key in our house has been to keep the garland arranged out of reach of our popcorn-loving dog. Can dogs eat popcorn and cranberries? Yes, according to the American Kennel Club, but it’s not ideal.
What do you do with a cranberry and popcorn garland after Christmas?
If you used a biodegradable, natural-fiber thread, you can pop the entire thing in your compost bin. Otherwise, you can nip the string, shake the cranberries and popcorn into the compost, and toss the thread in the trash. Are you really dreaming of a sustainable Christmas this year? You can use the cranberries in a holiday simmer pot before throwing them in the compost, which will actually help them break down even faster.
Dried Orange Slices
Dried orange slices are a holiday classic, and they’re also compostable Christmas tree decorations! Dried oranges are a snap to make, especially if you have a dehydrator and a mandoline slicer. (You can also air-dry them, use an oven, or even pop them into an air fryer.) Slice your oranges as thin as you can to speed up the process, and use a needle and thread to create a loop for hanging them on your tree. The dried fruit has a luminous, stained-glass quality that you’ll love!
How long do dried orange slices last? Will they attract bugs?
According to Homes & Gardens, a properly dried orange garland will last two years or longer. The key is storing them properly!
I’ve always popped mine in the compost after the holidays, and I’ve never had an issue with bugs, rot, or mold.
What do you do with dried orange slices after Christmas?
For those that skimmed over the section immediately above, you can reuse properly stored dried orange slices for more than two years.
Do you hate storing holiday decor as much as I do? If you’ve used a biodegradable, natural-fiber thread, you can put your dried orange slices in the compost bin immediately.
Because they’ll have been exposed to dust, floating pet hair, and God-knows-what-else, I don’t recommend repurposing dried orange garlands or ornaments in food or beverage projects. You can, however, reuse your orange garland in several crafty ways before composting it! My favorite way to reuse dried orange slices is to add them to aromatic firestarters and give them as gifts!
Paper Christmas Tree Decorations
It’s hard to beat papercrafts or origami when it comes to compostable Christmas tree decorations, but most of us don’t have tons of time or enough patience to properly execute intricately folded crafts.
For a quick shortcut, use a large decorative hole punch to cut shapes from old sheet music, discarded books, or maps. You can tuck them right into your tree; the needles are surprisingly effective at holding paper shapes in place.
Do you want to kick it up a notch?! Consider making paper chains or stitching your shapes together into a garland. As a kid, my mom and I made a paper star garland and decorated it with markers, and it’s one of my favorite Christmas memories.
Are paper ornaments compostable Christmas tree decorations?
As long as your paper doesn’t have metallic elements, foil, glitter, glue, paint, or laminated portions, you should be able to compost it.
What else can you do with paper decorations after Christmas?
Paper cut-outs are an awesome, versatile crafting material. The opportunities are endless, and I’ve used mine as gift tags and on tablescapes in the past. You can use them in paper mache projects, collages, or firestarters as well.
Salt Dough Ornaments
Salt dough is a simple mixture of salt, flour, and water, and it can be used to create beautiful holiday ornaments, tiny sculptures, and so much more. Simply shape your ornaments, pop them in the oven or the dehydrator, and enjoy!
I like to embellish mine with biodegradable materials like edible glitter, fresh botanicals, food coloring, and water-softened loose tea mixes, but many people will paint their salt dough creations and seal them with acrylic varnish (rendering them not compostable). Do you want a bit of a sheen but don’t want to use acrylics? Try adding an egg white wash to your dried ornaments!
How long do salt dough ornaments last?
Unpainted and unsealed salt dough ornaments can last up to two years, depending on what you’ve put in them and their humidity exposure. When you tire of them, toss them in the compost bin!
If you seal salt dough ornaments with acrylic varnish, they will last for decades. However, they will not be compostable.
Dried flowers are one of my must-have eco-friendly crafting materials. They’re an easy way to add a little magic and romance to a project without creating more plastic waste or adding to the complicated world that is our recycling system.
I was running short on time, so I simply tucked my dried flowers in the sparse areas of my tree to add some color and texture, but you could easily bundle them with your dried orange slices or cinnamon sticks for a different look.
How long do dried flowers last?
Dried flowers can last for years if they’re displayed in low-humidity settings out of direct sunlight! I have several dried flower bouquets that are two and a half years old, and they’re still beautiful.
When your flowers begin to lose their color or shape, you’ll know it’s time to add them to the compost pile.
I wish you all a happy, healthy, and peaceful holiday season. Do you have compostable Christmas tree decoration ideas or a favorite sustainable Christmas hack? Share them in the comments below!
All photos via Reese Moore Photography
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About the Author
Reese Moore is a photographer, content creator, and pickle connoisseur who divides time between Charleston and Lake Lure. When she’s not behind the lens shooting stunning images for Reese Moore Photography, Reese loves to spend her time wandering the woods with her dog Gatsby or adventuring with her husband Logan in their Airstream Basecamp.