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Upcycled Gifts for Greener Holiday Giving

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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?

Upcycled tote made from burlap coffee sack.

Related: Giving Experiences Instead of Gifts

Burlap Bags

Know someone with just loves coffee? Sasaki Bags crafts these totes from upcycled coffee sacks right here on Hawaii Island. Or choose a clutch or key fob made from an upcycled kimono. See more here.

Nancy Drew book turned into a purse for upcycled gifts


Yes, I’m well beyond my Nancy Drew years but I’m smitten with this bag 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.

Necklace from an upcycled Skyy Vodka bottle.


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

vinyl record album cut into skyline shape


The wall clocks from VinylShopUS are made from vintage vinyl. The vinyl clock art features pop culture figures, geographical locations, and—appropriately—musical themes. See more here. 

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.

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

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

    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. 🙂

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