Homemade & eco-friendly Christmas tree trimming

Last year I got all crafty and made all of the decorations for our Christmas tree. The mood didn’t strike me this year (although we still have several of our salt dough ornaments from last year), but in case any of you are inspired to create an eco-friendly homemade Christmas tree, I thought I’d repost the blog I wrote a year ago.

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Our homemade-decorated tree  12/14/08

Originally posted Dec. 15, 2008

After writing my holiday eco-friendly crafts post, I got this insane great idea that it’d be lots of fun to make all of the decorations for our Christmas tree this year.  I was hoping to involve the kids in the crafting, but my first two attempts – with popcorn garland and cranberry garland – were not as successful as I hoped. Turns out that popcorn is fairly hard to put a needle through and I didn’t want to risk Ava poking the heck out of herself, so she and Julian ate popcorn while I threaded it. The cranberries were a little harder than I would’ve liked too so I did those myself while the kids ate them and then spat them out because they are, of course, very tart. ;)

I also made the star on the top of our tree by cutting it out of a pie tin (super sharp edges) and gluing it to a piece of black paper.

Finally this morning, I decided on a project we could work on together (at least Ava and I could and Julian could help out later) – salt dough ornaments!

Here’s the recipe that I used.

Salt Dough Ornaments

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 cup water
Optional: 1 tablespoon any type of oil (to make it easier to work with – thanks to Brighid for the tip)

I didn’t have enough sea salt, so I used my kosher salt (after grinding it up in the food processor a bit). It worked just as well. I think table salt is probably what they have in mind for this recipe though.

Mix salt and flour. Add in half the water, then gradually add the remaining water. Knead until the dough is smooth, this can take up to 10 minutes.

I divided up my dough into different segments and used food coloring on some of it.

For flat dough ornaments roll out the dough (to about 1/4 inch thickness) on baking paper, wax paper, or directly on a cookie sheet. Use cookie cutters, cut-out templates, or just use your hands.

Add details to the ornaments with a toothpick and knife.

Don’t forget to use a straw to make a hole so you can hang the ornament. (I forgot to do this on two of mine. Oops!)

Baking: Time varies based on thickness of ornament
Temperature: 325°F.
Time: 20 minutes or until dry - They should be hard to the touch, but not brown.

After they are done baking and cooling, you can paint, add glitter, spray with a clear finish, etc. We chose not to do this and let me tell you why I’m glad we didn’t.
a) because Julian decided to start tasting several of the ornaments
b) because a few, invariably, got dropped or stepped on and broke, but because they don’t have any extra stuff on them, I can just throw them into the composter. (The popcorn and cranberries can go out for the birds when you are done with them or into the compost bin). :)

Finally, add ribbon, yard, string, twine, etc. and your ornaments are ready to hang on the tree or give as gifts.

And now, the pictures…

Ava hard at work 12/14/08 Decorating candy cane ornaments 12/14/08 Ornaments ready to go into the oven  12/14/08

Putting yarn in our ornaments  12/14/08 Finished ornaments  12/14/08 Ava showing Julian how to hang ornaments  12/14/08

A tree on a tree  12/14/08 My little candy cane 12/14/08 Julian gets the hang of it fast  12/14/08

Ava’s happy tree 12/14/08 Last-minute rearranging before bed 12/14/08 Our homemade-decorated tree  12/14/08

I don’t know if we’ll stick with just the homemade decorations on the tree – I think we may add a handful of ornaments we’ve collected over the years – but I will say that despite the extra work involved, I really enjoy the organic-feel and personality that our tree has this year. It’s been a lot of fun. :)

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11 thoughts on “Homemade & eco-friendly Christmas tree trimming

  1. That’s a good question. We use an artificial tree year after year (and actually traded our old artificial tree for a different one with someone on Freecycle). I love the smell and look of real trees, but I haven’t justified buying one yet.

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  3. Amy – good post, im going to try the salt dough!

    @rivster
    Christmas trees are a crop – they are replanted each year, one for every tree cut down. its sustainable and if you buy one as locally as you can it supports the local economy too.

  4. Rivster – I found this info over at http://www.healthybitchdaily.com/ which is similar to what Mel said…
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    CUT TREES. With more than 32 million Christmas trees sold in America each year, there is some concern that dying trees release greenhouse gases when they decompose. Nonetheless, most cut trees come from farms that grow them specifically for the holiday season, much like flowers or food. Because they are some guy (or gal’s) business, each tree that gets cut down for Christmas gets another one planted in its stead and the cycle of oxygen production continues. Some very important things to keep in mind if you go the cut tree route:

    Buy local. The closer the tree lot is to the actual farm, the less miles it traveled to get there. Most lots have literature on where their trees came from.

    Organic is best. Many tree farms use a ton of pesticides on their trees, so do some research to find an organic grower or distributor in your area.

    Have a recycling action plan. Figure out our recycling plan before you buy. Don’t let holiday fatigue get in the way of composting or chopping your tree up for mulch. Whatever you do, don’t leave it on the curb for the trash truck!

    FAKE TREES. While they sound eco-friendly, they’re actually pretty terrible. Made from petroleum products, they emit gas chemical fumes and when you do finally get tired of your fake fir, it will end up in the eternal landfill of death (where it will never decompose). Ever. Is that clear? Next!

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    it makes me feel bad about our crappy fake tree. hmm. perhaps i’ll freecycle it after xmas and we’ll start buying a fresh local tree next year?

  5. I keep thinking I want to do this too. Not just homemade clay ornaments, but all sorts. I think we need to get a small tree just for the kids though because I can’t imagine making enough to hang on our huge artificial one. But I LOVE love love the idea of it. Maybe getting closer to when my kids stop making crafts we’ll do it and display a few year’s worth.

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  8. That is a great idea! Thanks for posting that. I will have to give it a try this year and see how it looks on my tree. I havent made decorations for years. The last one i made was when i was in 2nd grade. My kids will love making these crafts!

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