Tinsel alternatives: plastic-free Christmas decorations

pom pom tinsel in red white and green with soft focus fairy lights in the background
Make some eco-friendly tree decorations like this festive pom pom garland. (Photo: Charlotte Pattinson/WTML)

As the festive season arrives, it’s time to decorate! But, as we become more aware of the need to reduce our use of plastics, what does that mean for lots of our favourite Christmas tree decorations?

Tinsel adds a great pop of light and colour, but it’s usually made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). This can take up to 1,000 years to break down which is terrible for the environment. So, instead of buying tinsel for your tree why not make your own decorations which are kinder to the planet?

We have a few ideas to get you started, all of them simple show-stoppers!

Tissue paper tinsel

Blue tissue paper tinsel on a christmas tree
Tissue paper tinsel looks just like the real thing! (Photo: Rachel Hoskins/WTML)

Fold a thick strip of tissue paper in half lengthways and use scissors to cut a fringe as thick or thin as you like. Unfold the strip for fantastic plastic free tinsel!

Why not layer several strips together for thicker or multi-coloured tinsel?

Pine cone robin bauble

Pine cone robin craft
Transform a pine cone into a cheeky robn red breast. (Photo: Charlotte Pattinson/WTML)

Hands up if you love robins. Us too! You can make this fun bauble with a pine cone and some scraps of felt. Cut out a red circle for the robin's breast, a yellow triangle for its beak, and some small black and white circles for eyes. Stick them to the pine cone with strong glue. Then loop some string around it and hang it on your Christmas tree.

Pine cone garland

a pine cone garland with the pine cones painted red, white and green, and strung up on candy striped wool.
We chose traditional colours for our pine cone garland. (Photo: Charlotte Pattinson/WTML)

You'll need plenty of pine cones for this craft. Look out for them on a winter walk and collect a few to take home. Inside, the warm, dry air will open them up. Remember to gently tap the cones over some newspaper to let any bugs escape before you paint them.

Paint the pine cones with your favourite colours and let them dry. Then attach them to ribbon or string and drape the garland around your Christmas tree or along a shelf.

Pom pom tinsel

You might have seen pom pom garlands in the shops, but it's more fun to make your own! Choose some wool in bright, festive colours and get a pair of scissors ready.

You'll need plenty of wool to start – look for natural wool, not synthetic. Loop it over three fingers and keep going until you have a nice thick bunch of looped wool. (Don't wrap it too tight or it will be harder to get off.)

Carefully remove the loop from your fingers and place it on a flat surface. Cut a small length of wool and tie it around the middle of the loop – your loop should now look a bit like a bow. Make sure the knot is nice and tight and cut off the excess. Finally, cut each side of the bow and fluff up your pom pom.

Make as many as you like and tie them to some ribbon and voila – you have your own colourful pom pom tinsel!

Mini tree bunting

Mini bunting hung up on a light wood wall. Each triangle is a different Christmas pattern.
What pattern will you draw on your Christmas bunting? (Photo: Charlotte Pattinson/WTML)

This cute decoration is perfect for kids of all ages. Start by cutting out diamond shapes in paper or card. Fold them in half, place some string inside and glue the paper down to make triangluar bunting. Leave it to dry – we used paperclips to help hold them in place.

Once dry, let your imagination run wild! You can draw festive designs and patterns, paint them, or stick stickers on them. We went for these fabulously cheesy Christmas jumpers!

Small changes make a big difference

Reducing the amount of plastic we use is a great way to help our environment and introducing kids to these ideas will help instil great values about protecting our planet.

You can continue the learning with Woodland Trust family membership from £5 per month. Your kids will get exciting activity packs through the post every season, helping them connect to the natural world. They include lots more ideas for how to help wildlife and the environment, as well as ideas for how you and your family can enjoy the outdoors together. And the best bit? Your donation will help protect the UK's native woods and trees for wildlife and people.