Upcycled Gifts for Greener Holiday Giving

The holiday season — no matter what holiday you celebrate — has a tendency to bring out our consumeristic tendencies, doesn’t it? If you’re like me, you love treating the people in your life to a little something special. It’s a dilemma for those of us who are trying to cut down on our waste. But check this out. Creative artisans are transforming items like books, sweaters, and vinyl record albums into lovely upcycled gifts, handmade and utilizing materials that have moved beyond their usefulness.

Here’s how to wrap your gifts without creating a lot of waste.

cable knit pillow

Upcycled gifts for holiday giving

While I haven’t pulled the plug completely on holiday gift giving—gifts are wonderful, after all—but I try to be smart about gift giving, with gifts that are homemade or functional or perfect for the recipient. None of this buying for the sake of putting a package under the tree. I’m adding upcycled gifts to my list of smart holiday giving. Maybe you will, too?


Related: Giving Experiences Instead of Gifts

Nancy Drew book turned into a purse for upcycled gifts


Yes, I’m well beyond my Nancy Drew years but I’m smitten with these bags from RetroGrandma. She’s got others, too, to suit a variety of  literary tastes. Not a purse carrier? Choose a cover for your favorite electronic device or a hollow book safe. See more here.

journal made from sweetart packaging

These handmade notebooks are made with upcycled cardboard packaging from candy and snack boxes. See more here

plastic tube holding bamboo utensils

Ocean debris

Mattie Mae Larsen is doing amazing work here on the island, transforming plastic ocean debris and other plastics into functional bags, totes, utensil holders, and even jewelry. See more here.

attainable sustainable book cover
Attainable Sustainablethe lost art of self-reliant living

Embrace handcrafting and homesteading with DIY projects, recipes, and gardening tips!

👉 Click here to get started 👈

Necklace from an upcycled Skyy Vodka bottle.


ReVetro revamps glass bottles and turns them into bracelets, necklaces, cufflinks, and more. The necklace above is made from a Skyy Vodka bottle, for instance. See more here

vinyl record album cut into skyline shape


The wall clocks from Time Vault Treasures are made from vintage vinyl. The vinyl clock art features pop culture figures, geographical locations, and—appropriately—musical themes. 

Related: Greener Gift Wrapping Ideas

silver spoons pounded flat and stamped with vegetable names for plant markers


Your gardening friends will appreciate these sweet garden markers made by EveOfJoy from upcycled spoons. Other options for upcycled gifts from this creator include key fobs, curtain tie backs, hooks, and customized utensils. See more here. 

guitar straps made from seat belt

Seat belts

The creative folks in your life will appreciate these guitar straps made from upcycled seat belts, or these upcycled camera strapsSee more here

Upcycled silverware turned into beautiful keychains.

Related: Last Minute Handmade Gifts Ideas


KathrynRiechert salvages old utensils to create one-of-a-kind pieces. The key fob shown here would be a great stocking stuffer for your favorite person! See more here.

Sweaters and fabric

Recover Home features pillows made of recycled wool and cashmere. And who wouldn’t want to take one of these ugly teddies home??

Originally published in December 2014; this post has been updated.

Click to save or share!

About the author: Kris Bordessa is an award-winning National Geographic author and a certified Master Food Preserver. Read more about Kris and how she got started with this site here. If you want to send Kris a quick message, you can get in touch here.

1 comment… add one
  • Candi Dec 3, 2014 @ 7:02

    I love giving gifts too! For the past 7 years I’ve been giving handmade gifts. Some from the kitchen, some made from upcycled wood. Always appreciated & one of a kind. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *