Tinsel alternatives: plastic-free Christmas decorations

Image of pom pom tinsel in red white and green with soft focus fairy lights in the background.
Make some cozy and eco-friendly tree decorations. (Photo: Charlotte Armitage/WTML)

As the festive season arrives, it’s time to decorate! But, as we become more aware of the need to reduce our use of plastics, what does that mean for lots of our favourite tree decorations? Tinsel adds a great pop of light and colour, but it’s made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which takes up to 1000 years to break down, so it’s terrible for the environment! Instead of buying tinsel for your tree, why not try some of these fun and easy crafts you can make with your family?

We have a few ideas to get you kick-started, all of them simple show-stoppers!

Tissue paper tinsel

Fold a thick strip of tissue paper in half lengthways and use scissors to cut a fringe as thick or thin as you like. Unfold the strip for fantastic plastic free tinsel!

Why not layer several strips together for thicker or multi-coloured tinsel?

Tissue paper tinsel looks just like the real thing! (Photo: Rachel Hoskins/WTML)

Pom pom tinsel

You might have seen pom pom garlands in shops recently but why not make your own? You don’t need many supplies and they make a great impact!

You’ll need some wool in your chosen colours (we went for a Christmassy red, white and green) and a pair of scissors.

You will want to start with plenty of wool. Start looping it over three fingers – using two fingers will make a smaller pom pom – and keep going until you have a nice thick bunch of looped wool. Make sure not to go too tight or it’ll be harder to get off!

Carefully remove the loop and place it on a flat surface. Cut a small length of wool and use it to tie the loop into a bow shape. Make sure the knot is nice and tight and cut off the excess. Then, cut the loops of wool to make the pom pom fluff. Make as many as you like and tie them to ribbon and voila!

Pine cone garland

For this craft, you'll need plenty of pine cones! Look out for them on a walk and collect a few to take home. Even if they are closed when you pick them up, the warm and try of home will make them open up. Tap your pine cones gently outside or over some newspaper to free any bugs hiding inside and then prep to paint!

Once your pine cones are dry, paint them with whatever bright colours you fancy, it might help to add a layer of white underneath to make the colours extra vibrant.

Attach the dried pine cones to ribbon or string to make the garland and string it up or pop it on your tree!

Close up image of a pine cone garland with the pine cones painted red, white and green, and strung up on candy striped wool.
We chose traditional colours for our pine cone garland. (Photo: Charlotte Pattinson/WTML)

Oakleaf garland

For this very simple decoration, you just need pens, paper and a pair of scissors.

Cut a strip of plain or patterned paper and fold it backwards then forwards into an accordion shape. Make each section about six centimetres across then draw on a natural shape while leaving a strip at the top to connect the shapes.

Cut around the shape through all the layers of paper to make a garland. We used an oak leaf shape and coloured them bright green and yellow.

Image shows two oak leaf garlands up on a light wood wall with fairy lights. One is yellow and the other is green.
You can make a garland as simple or as complex as you like, just keep some paper at the top to link them! (Photo: Charlotte Pattinson/WTML)

Mini tree bunting

This extra cute decoration is perfect for kids of all ages. Start off by cutting out diamond shapes in paper or card. Fold these in half and glue them into triangles with a bit of string tucked in the long side. Leave these to dry, we used paperclips to hold them in place.

Once dry, let your imagination run wild! Kids can paint on plain colours or draw on festive designs, we went for these fabulously cheesy Christmas jumpers!

Image of mini bunting hung up on a light wood wall. Each triangle is a different Christmas pattern.
What pattern will you draw on your Christmas bunting? (Photo: Charlotte Pattinson/WTML)

Small changes make a big difference

Reducing the amount of plastic we use is a great way too help our environment and introducing kids to these ideas will help instil great values about protecting our planet. Continue the learning with a Nature Detectives membership for your little ones. They'll get super-fun seasonal packs in the post which will get them inspired to engage with the natural world, as well as loads more ideas for how to help wildlife and the environment, all while supporting our native woods and trees!

How do you decorate your tree?

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