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Reduce Waste This Holiday Season by Upcycling

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The holiday season provides opportunities to gather with family and friends, enjoy seasonal décor, eat special meals…and upcycle.

What is upcycling? Often mistaken for meaning the same thing as recycling, upcycling is reusing a product to create a product of higher quality or value than the original product. Reducing waste can take a little outside-of-the-box thinking. We’ve created a few holiday tips for decorating, cooking/baking or gifting more sustainably:

Upcycling Tips for Holiday Decorating

Holiday décor trends change year-to-year. Finding ways to update your décor while reducing waste can be tricky. Consider reusing materials that are hard to recycle, like fabric, to make something new. Here are a few ideas to get you started!

ornaments wrapped in fabricFabric-Wrapped Ornaments

Update your ornaments with some glue and fabric scraps with these steps.

  1. Remove the ornament caps.
  2. Cut 1-inch-thick strips from the desired fabrics.
  3. Cover the ornament with craft glue.
  4. Wrap the fabric around the ornaments.  
  5. Allow the glue to dry completely.
  6. Trim any excess fabric and attach the ornament caps.

Decorative garland

Fabric Garland

Create your custom garland with twine and spare fabric from around the house—old t-shirts, felt, etc. Here’s how:

  1. Measure how long you want your garland to be.
  2. Select the fabrics to coordinate with your holiday décor and cut strips, estimating you’ll need 20 strips per 12 inches of garland.  
  3. Cut the twine the desired length with room to create knots at the end for hanging.
  4. Knot the strips in the desired order along the twine until complete.

Spray painted pine cone Spray-Painted Décor

Give small holiday houses, ornaments or other pieces of décor a fresh look with a coat of white, silver or gold spray paint. Don’t forget to lightly sand the décor or apply a primer before painting. If your paint canister is empty, check how to recycle it locally.


Upcycling Tips for Holiday Cooking/Baking

Holiday gatherings can be filled with fun and food. Finding use for leftovers from your holiday meal or treat can be tricky, but we’ve included a few ideas below to help.

Veggie cooking Rethinking Holiday Leftovers

Ham, turkey or whatever main dish you choose for your big holiday meal can be used throughout the day. For breakfast, consider adding in ham, turkey or another meat into an omelet or another favorite dish. For lunch, make sandwiches with your leftover bread, meats, etc. For dinner, reuse leftover turkey and vegetables to create a turkey pot pie, combine leftover meats with a few vegetables and broth for a delicious soup or make mini tarts from left over pie. For an evening snack, cut leftover meats and cheeses into bite-sized pieces to create a charcuterie board or use leftover rolls and meat to create sliders.

Sonoco is working to eliminate food waste with sustainable, innovative thinking. Read more about our sustainable packaging work.

Cookie tinsRepurposing Tins

Small tin containers can be perfect for storing and sharing homemade or store-bought cookies, chocolates or other sweet treats. With a gift tag attached, wrap a ribbon around or place a bow on top before sharing this tin package.


Upcycling Tips for Holiday Gifting

Sticking to your holiday budget while giving meaningful gifts can be stressful and challenging. Here are few ideas to help you stay on budget without sacrificing quality:

Wrapping giftsWrapping Gifts

Wrapping paper can be recycled responsibly, but you can reduce your waste even more if you get creative. Try wrapping gifts with these upcycling tips:

  • Use newspaper or the unprinted side of paper bags for wrapping gifts.
  • Create gift tags from discarded holiday cards.
  • Place oddly shaped gifts in leftover cardboard boxes before wrapping.

Gift givingGifting  

Giving can easily become wasteful. Finding ways to share thoughtful gifts that reuse discarded items or materials can be tricky, so we’ve included some ideas to help.

  • Regifting—it’s sometimes frowned upon. In reality, it can be a great way to give a second life to lightly-used or like-new items that you no longer need.
  • Claim “upcycling” as the theme for your next gift exchange. Not only can this help reduce waste, but it can help inspire more creativity during the holiday season.

In addition to these tips, there are countless other ways to upcycle and reduce waste during your holiday gathering or time-honored tradition – it just takes a little planning, resourcefulness and creativity and you can truly make this season the most wonderful time of the year. Want to know more about how we’re conserving resources and limiting our environmental impacts? Visit our sustainability hub to learn more.