Eco-Friendly Winter Decorations!

Written By: Anya Uzo - 12/5/2019

Winter is my favorite time of year to see folks decorate their spaces to the T. Whether that be beautifully hand-whittled kinaras of tables filled with nature’s bounty or opulent menorahs shining so angelically through windows. I simply love the tradition of people expressing themselves, their heritage and their creativity this time of year.

However, what does catch me by my heel is the cost of all this beauty. Tinsel, ornaments, lights, candles - things add up. Last week I was staring at a bag of scented pine cones at Grocery Outlet for 10 minutes that were being sold for $5. Now I love me some pine cones, but a part of me couldn’t justify spending that much money on something that I literally see sprinkled on the streets of Seattle. At that moment I knew there was no way I was going to buy holiday decorations; I was going to make them.

This is my low budget and eco-friendly option to celebrate this time of year, and I know for sure there are many other ways to make just as good (if not better) decorations, so please feel free to share with us other ways you like to decorate your space.

Pine Cone Garland

Washington is the Evergreen State, right? I figured this very Christmas-themed natural resource might be a great biodegradable way to decorate, while not breaking the bank.

Foraging is your friend!

Make sure you forage your pine cones from an ethical place. Seattle is filled with parks, however Seattle Parks has a policy that it’s unlawful for any person (besides authorized Department of Parks and Recreation or other City employees) to “remove or destroy” any “shrub, tree, geological formation, plant, flower.” A solution I found was to walk around your area. Some folks are so thankful for you to pick up pine cones off their lawn, especially if they are near a walking path and they can’t do it themselves.

Don’t clip or pluck.

One lesson my foraging teacher taught me was that nature will show you when it’s ready. Some plants can be seriously damaged if you snip or cut parts of them off, especially if they are parts of the plant that are for reproduction, like pine cones.

Let nature get the biggest piece of the pie.

Over-foraging can have irreversible effects and seriously diminish the rate of reproduction or survival of the plant for the next season. One rule I like to keep in mind is that for every mature tree I pick from I take no more than 4 cones, so with the 6 trees I foraged from, I only felt good taking about 20 pine cones. Little critters and bugs like pine cones too, so let them have a share as well.

Bake but be aware.

I bake my pine cones, firstly to get off all the sticky sap and secondly to kill off any critters that are living in side, and lastly because it makes my apartment smell amazing! However, pine cones are nature’s fire starter and can be a serious fire hazard if you’re not careful or leave them unattended. I bake mine slow and low, at 200 degrees for about an hour and a half.

Get some sturdy string.

It can be kitchen string, burlap twine or even some colorful yarn. Cut and tie a 10-inch long piece and tie it to each end of the pine cone. Continue until you have a little pine cone train formed.

Dried Orange Garland

Dried orange garlands are not only great decorations that are eco-friendly and low cost, but they are the perfect project to practice knife skills.

Remember your spider fingers.

For your oranges to get fully dry, you are going to want to cut them into ½-¼ inch thick slices. This can be tricky because they are so darn round, but as long as you make a flat side to start out and your (spider) fingers grip the orange firmly in place you should be fine.

Patience!

Like making pine cone garlands, patience is a virtue when making dried orange garlands. If not dried out slow enough it can lead to mold and fruit flies. I baked them for 3 hours at 250 degrees, flipping them every 30 minutes. Then, I let them air dry for another 48 hours before tying them up into garland. I really wasn’t kidding about being patient for this one.

A Different Technique.

You can use the same string or yarn for dried orange garlands but you might want to get a thick needle or practice your paring knife skills by puncturing a hole into the opposite ends of each slice. This will allow you to tie each segment of string to something.

Let the sunshine in!

I personally love to hang dried orange garlands in front of a window or doorway that gets ample natural sunlight. It’s such a splendid sight to see the sun peeking through each of the slices.

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