Sustainable Gifts

Stick and wool Christmas tree decorations by Rebecca Neal

Communities and Wildlife Officer Rebecca Neal brings ideas for sustainable presents by handcrafting gifts and upcycling

Having always enjoyed creating my own gifts it's now a tradition to hand-make a Christmas craft for friends. Gifts like this are more personal, certainly cheaper and involve less packaging - and an enjoyable way to spend a winter evening. Using collected, upcycled or natural materials, but even if creativity fails in this regard, something small, postable and made with love is preferable to an impersonal token with a big carbon footprint.

Handcrafted gifts can be given for any occasion and I'm always looking for ideas for things to make with families at events, so do share any with me Becca Badger on Facebook. On next year's list are paper beads.

If you are not into making your own buy wildlife-related gifts from our online shop, or come to our visitors centre at the Nene Wetlands, and support the Wildlife Trust BCN in the process, or consider a gift membership. There are some other ideas on a more sustainable Christmas on our website.

Examples of things made over the years:

  • Twig tree decorations: sustainably harvested hazel, willow and elder twigs (these are straight and smooth) lashed into a triangle and wound with left-over wool

  • Twig stars: sustainably harvested dogwood twigs lashed into a star shape using left-over wool
  • Map stars: origami stars made with out-of-date maps
  • Wands: sustainably harvested hazel, whittled with a personal design
  • Elderflower cordial: made in the spring, stored in the fridge, then decanted into small sterilised bottles
  • Home-made sloe gin: made in the autumn and then decanted into (larger!) sterilised bottles
  • Tree cookies: thin slices of sustainably-harvested branches, to make discs of 5-10cm diameter, and decorated with permanent pens or a pyrography pen. You can drill a hole and hang as a tree decoration using ribbon or wool
  • Walnuts: collected in autumn and then wrapped in a piece of cloth and tied with a ribbon or wool
  • Lavender bags: the seed heads were collected in the summer and dried, and then the seeds were harvested and wrapped in a piece of cloth which was tied with a ribbon or piece of wool
  • Seed packets: collected from bee-attracting flowers from my own yard, and put in a small paper envelope with a label with instructions on how to plant them.
  • Elder beads: sustainably harvested elder, cut into pieces, hollowed-out and strung with bells, and then scented with a Christmassy essential oil
  • Decoupage doves: a simple dove shape cut from upcycled card, covered in pretty tissue paper pieces using PVA glue, and then given wings using concertinaed upcycled paper
  • Decoupage stag:  shapes of a stag’s legs, body and antlers cut from upcycled card, covered in pretty tissue-paper pieces with PVA glue, and then slotted together using strategically cut slits to make a 3D  free-standing animal
  • Magnets: laminated photos of a living lawnmower (cows doing conservation grazing) stuck to a magnet, as a token for money donated to a fund-raiser
  • Clay leaves: air-drying clay imprinted with a real leaf, painted and strung with a ribbon
  • Gifts of time: a collection of promises written on cards and given in a glass jar
  • Activity ideas: a collection of ideas of outdoor challenges written on cards and given in a glass jar
  • Christmas lamp: a matt-laminated piece of A4 paper with Christmas designs made from cut paper, fixed into a tube with Velcro and lit using a small string of lights.
  • Cookie-cutter clay tree decoration: made with air-drying clay and painted to look like a real native wildlife

Hand-made gifts appreciated from others

  • Crocheted bauble: this lives all year round on my windowsill
  • Bunting: made with upcycled shirts
  • Salt-dough tree decoration: this also lives in my window all year round
  • Bees wax wraps: made using cotton and wax pellets
Christmas craft photo by Rebecca Neal

Christmas craft photo by Rebecca Neal