Sierra Magazine: Explore, enjoy and protect the planet.

From 2015 onward, new posts will appear only here: http://www.sierraclub.org/greenlife


The Green Life: 10 Last-Minute DIY Gifts

« How Does Less Gas Become More Emissions? | Main | Green Stocking Stuffers for Everyone on Your List »

December 13, 2013

10 Last-Minute DIY Gifts

Glass jar snow globe
Image by Lori Eanes

We've already given you four great squash tips and three perfect pie recipes for the holidays, but what about the gifting aspect of this holiday season? With an unusually short post-Thanksgiving shopping window, buying gifts has only become a more hectic endeavor, causing a nationwide plague of anxiety that is then bottled up inside of the automatic doors at stores. Now does that sound like the best environment for holiday cheer?

Shopping is also a quick way to increase waste and expand your carbon footprint from all that extra packaging and driving. For the sake of your environment and mental well-being, we found 10 perfect do-it-yourself gifts that can be made using items that are likely gathering dust in your house right now.


Plastic bottle

Plastic bottle cellphone holder
Image by Lori Eanes

Plastic bottles, whether from soda or shampoo, pop up everywhere in homes. Rather than recycling them right away, this year you can create something new with two great craft ideas.

With a hefty, flat plastic bottle, like one for shampoo or body wash, you can make a cell phone holder for the tech guru who seems to have just about everything. Use an adhesive to attach fabric for a personalized touch that adds a pop of color and covers unsightly labels. Bonus: cut a hole for a charger at the top of the holder for easy, space-saving wall storage.

If you have a plethora of lightweight plastic bottles lying around, these hanging planters are the ideal gift for the green thumbed person in your life. This project will brighten up any home during the winter months.



Umbrella frame photo hanger
Image courtesy of Nancy Elaine Davis

At this time of year, your umbrellas may be in good use. However, if you happen to have an extra one lying around "just in case" or have been holding on to that broken umbrella for a little too long, you already have the needed materials for these two upcycled projects.

For the first craft, you can use the fabric from the umbrella to make a tote bag. Although this DIY project will take more sewing skills, tote bags are one gift that never goes out of style, whether used at the grocery store or beach. Since this bag uses the umbrella fabric, it has the added features of being waterproof, extremely light, and durable.

Don't get rid of that umbrella frame yet! You can create a wonderful mobile out of the frame, like the one in this photo from the blog Ella Elaine. With the frame hanging from the ceiling, either right side up or upside down, attach photos, ribbons, and other tidbits for a personalized gift that will please anyone on your list.

Glass jars

Glass jar terrarium
Image courtesy of Jennie Lyon

Glass jar projects have quickly become a huge trend in the DIY world. Whether you're putting food in them or making lights out of them, it's hard to go wrong with any gift in a glass jar; it practically screams adorable.

The ideal childhood wintry toy has officially been upgraded. Using only a glass jar, water, glitter, and a figurine or two, you can create a gorgeous snow globe. This craft is easy, quick, and a great opportunity to get younger kids crafting together. Adding particularly elegant trinkets will make a wonderful gift for the friend who could use an upcycled upgrade to his or her holiday decor.

Many people have someone in their lives who just cannot seem to keep a plant alive. This winter, all hope is not lost for these not-so-garden-friendly folks! You can surprise them with a terrarium in a glass jar. An easy project that is even easier to take care of when it's done, the terrarium will delight the receiver and bring needed greenery to dreary winter days.


Bike reindeer statue
Image by Lori Eanes

We already gave you some gift ideas for the stylish cyclist in your life, but if your bike has been gathering dust or is partially broken, consider extending its life with these projects instead.

As they say, the best way to spread holiday cheer is to make a Rudolph statue out of a bike. This project is more complicated than some of the others on this list, considering you have to strip your bicycle down to its frame (so don't worry if you have some missing parts). However, all this work will certainly pay off when you see the astonished look on a friend's face at the latest addition to their holiday lawn. Perhaps the best part is that this project is completely reversible, so you can also use it to pass down a bike with more pizzazz than simply putting a big bow on it.

If you decide not to pass down your bike with the statue, you can use the wheels to craft bicycle wheel pot racks for the person who never seems to have enough storage space in their kitchen. It may be a good idea to ensure the recipient doesn't mind you drilling holes in the ceiling, however.

Road map

Map paper basket
Image by Lori Eanes

With the modern world's fancy GPS gadgets installed in cars and smartphones, you may find that your old road maps have been piling up in the backseat of your car, craving attention. These two crafts will make your maps feel useful again and serve as an ode to road trips of the past.

Rather than spending the day on the road to stores and malls, bring out two or three of your old maps and weave them together to create a road map paper basket. Although cutting strips from the maps and weaving them together may take longer than other crafts, the end result will remind your loved one of those long car rides you shared in the past or a place you both used to call home.

If all that weaving sounds a little intimidating, you can still share a memory by making map heart art, a favorite for avid Pinterest users everywhere. Pick a place where you and a loved one travelled, where a friend used to live, or where you and a significant other first met. Cut a heart around the chosen place and then frame it. This simple gift is a perfect memento for anyone special in your life.

Bonus DIY Project: Turn an old necktie into a stylish smartphone holder


Jessica Zischke is an editorial intern at Sierra. She is currently studying environmental studies at Dartmouth College, where she also works as a staff writer for The Dartmouth newspaper.

Read More:

Give Green, Fight Waste, Make Change

Green Your Gift Wrap

Green Your Holiday Spread

User comments or postings reflect the opinions of the responsible contributor only, and do not reflect the viewpoint of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of any posting. The Sierra Club accepts no obligation to review every posting, but reserves the right (but not the obligation) to delete postings that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate.

Up to Top