christmas decorations

12 days of plastic free Christmas: day 2

The festive period brings with it a huge rise in the amount of single-use plastics. Everything from decorations, to wrapping and even some of the food on your Christmas table.

Here at the University of Hull we are asking everyone to take a pledge about reducing their plastic waste at Christmas by providing simple, easy and affordable ways to help minimise plastic waste in the home. Our 12 Days of Plastic-Free Christmas will run from December 1-12 and include, fun and easy to do swaps this Christmas.

Christmas decorations

Tinsel is almost unavoidable at Christmas. It adds a certain sparkle and tack that we all hate to love (or love to hate). Its uses at this time of year spread from decorating the tree, to decorating ourselves (one too many mulled wines at the Christmas party will ensure that) and it is a firm favourite to use as bunting or garland around the home. It is so popular that in one year, a single manufacturer of tinsel in the UK produces 14 million metres of the stuff; that’s enough to go around the world every two years1.

It has been a part of Christmas décor since 1610. Originally, made out of silver, it was an addition to only the richest of society’s Christmas decorations. It’s come a long way since then and is now made out of PVC1 (a type of plastic), making it extremely low cost and available to pretty much everyone.

Unfortunately however, given the often short lifespan of tinsel (it seems to thin quicker than my uncles prematurely balding head of hair), it is more often than not, single use.

These lost sheds of tinsel inevitably find their way into our environment and waterways, contributing to the mass of plastic waste created over the festive period. However, with more Nordic trends in Christmas décor becoming ever popular, we suggest that by swapping out tinsel for homemade and plastic free garlands or bunting, not only can you reduce your plastic use over the festive season, but you can also ensure your decorations are right on trend – all whist maintaining the same low cost of tinsel too.

Here we give a few suggestions, but this one is all about getting artistic, mixing and matching your favourite resources to create your own unique and trendy piece. Plus many of these suggestions will add a lovely scent to your home, which is always a welcome bonus.

Some suggestions include

  • Orange
  • Cinnamon
  • Pine cones
  • Popcorn
  • Cranberries
  • String/wool
  • Needle

The string or wool will form the length of your bunting/garland, so measure this against where you want it to go, and cut to the correct length accordingly. 

christmas decorations oranges

Dried Orange Slices: If you are using orange, these first need to be dried out. Cut your orange into slices around half a cm thick. The amount of oranges you use depends on your creative ideas and preferences. Make a hole in the top of each of the orange slices (we recommend using a skewer or chopstick) to enable you to thread string through it later. Place the oranges on a wire rack and put in the oven on a low heat of 60 Degrees Celsius for around 5-6 hours, or until dried. It is a good idea to try coincide this with any slow cooks that you might be doing over Christmas to reduce your overall energy consumption. Once dried, allow to cool and harden overnight. Your orange slices are now ready to thread in a pattern of your choice.

Pine cones: Pine cones make a lovely addition to this festive decoration and look really effective when dipped in a little white paint to resemble snow. It really is as simple as putting some paint in a shallow dish, and dipping the cone in gently to obtain the coverage that you desire. Allow to dry and then tie to the string.

Cinnamon: Cinnamon can be purchased from almost all supermarkets, local shops and increasingly at this time of year, craft stores. Group the cinnamon to the desired size and then we recommend wrapping the main body of string round it several times, securing in a knot. You could also use some ribbon to bunch the cinnamon together and thread the string through this to secure to the decoration.

Popcorn: Popcorn can look really affective, especially when contrasted with bring red cranberries. Pop the Kernels in a pan on the hob or microwave, and then use a needle to thread them onto the garland.

Cranberries: Dried or fresh cranberries can be threaded directly onto the string with a needle, adding a delightful wave of colour to your decorations.

christmas decorations jar

Sources: Festive - the evolution of tinsel

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