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These gifts are simple to make and thoughtful to give.

DIY holiday gifts for friends and family

There’s something extra special about holiday gift making. Giving something you’ve made yourself adds that extra touch. But giving something that can help friends and family reduce their impact goes one step further.

This year try some of our DIY gifts below to help those on your lists care for themselves and the planet.

Seasonal table wreath

DIY holiday table wreath with candles
The scent of fresh boughs brings a touch of wilderness indoors and helps drive off the blahs of winter. Now there’s evidence that exposure to evergreens is good for your health, too.

According to botanist and medical biochemist, Diana Beresford-Kroeger, taking a walk in an evergreen forest exposes our mind and body to aerosols that travel deep into our lungs where they are readily absorbed. The results include improved mental and physical wellbeing, which has long been known in Japanese culture where the practice of shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, is a popular health remedy.

Quick to make, this table wreath is also the perfect way to share some of those good vibes with your hostess. It’s easily put together using fresh evergreen branches, a decorative platter and natural beeswax candles. To make the boughs last longer, cut or purchase the same day you’ll be giving the wreath. Fresh boughs will last indoors for about two weeks.

You’ll need:

  • 5-10 small evergreen boughs
  • 3 natural beeswax candles
  • Natural red berries or fruit, such as rosehip, holly, or cotoneaster
  • 1 decorative platter
  • 1 wreath hoop slightly smaller than your platter
  • green floral wire
  1. Fasten boughs to wreath hoop (see main picture above) using floral wire to create a circular shape. Work backwards so that each new piece of greenery covers the previous wire until you end up back where you started.
  2. Place wreath on platter, arranging three candles in the center of the wreath.
  3. Tuck in red berries, holly accents, and/or pinecones. Voila!

Beeswax wraps

For anyone looking to reduce plastic in the home, these sturdy and reusable food wraps are the answer. Made from 100% organic cotton and pure beeswax, they require just a few simple ingredients. Use them to replace your wax paper and plastic wrap, or anywhere you need to secure food in clean, nearly airtight conditions. They even work well in packed lunches. Give as a bundle with a variety of useful sizes.

You’ll need:

  • 100% organic cotton fabric
  • 8 oz. raw beeswax (in block form)
  • parchment paper
  • cheese grater
  • iron
  1. Iron cotton fabric and cut to desired size(s). A good selection for using in the kitchen includes 8” x 8”, 10” x 10”, and 13” x 13”. If you have pinking shears available, use these to pink the edges.
  2. Grate beeswax onto a cutting board.
  3. Place one layer of parchment paper on a cookie sheet or other heatproof surface. Lay a pre-cut piece of cotton fabric on top. Sprinkle with beeswax, evenly distributing across the surface. Lay another piece of parchment paper on top and iron until all the beeswax has melted. Be sure to iron wax right to the edges.
  4. Peel off top piece of parchment to reveal fabric. If you’ve missed any areas, add more beeswax, cover again with parchment, and touch up with iron. When finished, remove parchment again and peel cotton wrap from bottom parchment layer. Hang to dry.

Fold 3 to 4 beeswax wraps in a bundle and give as a hostess gift or as a stocking stuffer. You can also buy pre-made beeswax wraps if you don’t have the tools or supplies to make them at home.

Related: Top Zero Waste Gift Ideas for Every Budget

Reusable lunch bag

Help your friend or family member ditch the plastic bags with this reusable lunch bag. If you can sew a straight line, you can make this bag. Adapted from a pattern for produce bags, this lunch bag has a handy loop closure that keeps everything tucked neatly inside.

how to make DIY beeswax food wraps

You’ll need:

  • 1 piece of 100% cotton fabric cut 10” x 14”
  • 1 piece matching fabric cut 4” x 20”
  • 1 piece matching fabric cut 4” x 6”
  1. Taking the largest piece of fabric, sew the short side closed and backstitch at both ends. Double fold the bag’s top and sew closed for a neat hem.
  2. Moving the side seam to the middle, press flat so it now sits in the center of your lunch bag. Sew across the bag’s bottom. Make box corners by flattening each corner perpendicular to your seam and sewing across each point. Trim excess fabric.
  3. Taking smaller pieces of fabric, press edges towards center and fold in half to hide raw edges. Stitch lengthwise along open edge to fasten closed. Attach as loops on opposite sides of the bag, running a seam around your bag’s top inside twice to fasten securely.
  4. Stock with reusable food wraps, bamboo cutlery travel set, and a stainless steel straw to further reduce the load of eating on the go.

Reusable bulk food bags

More than a decade ago my mother-in-law gave me a set of reusable bulk food bags as a gift, along with some other items. That set has probably seen more use than anything else I received that Christmas. Super practical and easy to wash, reusable bulk food bags help reduce single-use plastic and prevent food from rubbing up against BPA. They’re perfect for the person on your list who cares about their health and the health of the planet.

eco-friendly lunch bag

You’ll need:

  • ½ yard organic cotton muslin
  • White or cream cotton thread
  • Ribbon, twine, or cotton string for closing
  • Large safety pin

Press muslin fabric to remove wrinkles. Cut into three sizes of two pieces each:

  • 9” x 11”
  • 11” x 13”
  • 13” x 16”
  1. Laying right sides together, sew around sides and bottom seams, backstitching at beginning and end.
  2. Double roll top of bag and sew, hiding raw edge inside seam. Leave a 2” opening between the beginning and end of your stitching. Be sure to make a big enough channel to thread through your string or ribbon for cinching.
  3. Using a safety pin fastened to the end of your string or ribbon, feed through the channel at the top of your bag. Once through to the other side, cut and tie a knot at the each end to prevent the ribbon from disappearing through the hole. Leave enough string or ribbon so the bag can lay flat without eating your fastener.
  4. Repeat for different sized bags. Roll three together and give with other zero waste favorites.

Related: 5 Plastic Straw Alternatives to Use Right Now

Picnic lunch wrap

Who doesn’t love sitting down to lunch on pretty linens made just for you? This picnic wrap features bamboo cutlery and a DIY napkin. Give as a gift for anyone who eats lunch on the run, or bundle multiple wraps together for a family present.

DIY lunch wrap
DIY lunch wrap

You’ll need:

  • 2 pieces of fabric cut 20” x 14” (for placemat, front and back)
  • 2 pieces of fabric cut 6” x 6” (for pocket)
  • 1 piece fabric cut 12” x 12” (for napkin)
  • ½ yard ribbon
  • 1 set bamboo cutlery
  1. Hem entire perimeter of napkin by double folding fabric edges and stitching.
  2. Using pocket fabric, place right sides together and stitch around perimeter using a ¼ inch seam. Leave a 2” opening for turning. Once finished, clip corners, turn right side out and press. Topstitch around perimeter for a finished look.
  3. Pin pocket to placemat, about 3” from side and bottom. Fasten by stitching around sides and bottom.
  4. Fold ribbon in half and place lengthwise across right side of place mat. Leave ½ of ribbon overlapping left hand seam so you can catch this up when sewing place mat fabrics together.
  5. Place right sides of placemat fabric together (sandwiching ribbon in between) and sew around perimeter, leaving a 2” hole for turning. Clip corners, turn right side out, and press. Top stitch entire place mat, stock with bamboo cutlery, napkin, and roll up to complete.

Homemade gifts made easy

Whether you take joy in making something by hand or simply want to give from the heart, taking time to make sure your gifts are sustainable will help reduce the impacts of the holiday season.

More sustainable giving ideas:

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