Craft works with waste materials

how to reduce a carbon footprint

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When I was little, my mother was the queen of invention; she would turn old potatoes into paint-stamps, leftover jars into snow-globes, decaying leaves into collages. There was extraordinary in the ordinary – always a use, or a plan, that would make even the sorriest of yoghurt pots feel hopeful about their future. These days, such imagination is vital; transforming waste into art is one way in which we can show more love and consideration towards everyday items and combat the staggering number of materials entering landfill each year.

As the weather begins to turn, some eco-friendly crafting at home may be the just the antidote to those grizzly afternoons. Here are some of our favourite ideas to give your garbage a glow up!

Craft from house waste: cereal boxes, tin foil, cartons and glass jars

Tin foil picture frames

What you’ll need:

  • An old cereal box
  • Used tinfoil (preferably not covered in baked-bean juice)
  • A photograph of something lovely
  • String or ribbon (top tip: never buy new ribbon, keep a box filled with the ribbons from presents given to you, or cut the thin ribbons from inside of clothes such as dressing gowns!)
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Marker pen
  • Paints
  • Paintbrush
  • Waste materials (newspaper, magazine, sweet wrappers, greetings cards etc)

What to do:

  • Cut out the front and back panels of your cereal box
  • Place your picture on the plain side of one panel and draw a rectangle, square or circle around it
  • Draw another line around 5cm (or thicker if you prefer) from the first line, and then cut around both lines to make your frame
  • Draw around the outer edge of your frame on your second cardboard panel and cut out – this will be the back of your frame
  • Paint the back of your frame
  • Smooth out your tinfoil, and glue to the front of your frame so that it is completely covered in silver!
  • Decorate the front of your frame with cut-up pieces of waste materials
  • Stick your picture to the back of your frame, then stick your frame on top
  • Using a sturdy pair of scissors, create two holes at the top of your frame
  • Thread your ribbon or string through the holes, tie, and hang your swanky new photo frame somewhere where the sun can catch it



Plant-milk carton planters

As a self-confessed oat milk addict, I was shocked to discover that the cartons I had been merrily swinging into my recycling bin were not in fact being recycled. As it happens, most well-known brands of plant milk use Tetra Pak cartons, which many Local Authority home collections (or ‘kerbside’ collections) cannot recycle due to their mix of paper, plastic, and aluminium. Instead, there are pick-up points where you can take your cartons to be recycled properly. But, if you are consuming oat milk at a similar rate to me, it may come in handy to sprinkle a bit of upcycling magic onto those Tetra Paks…

What you’ll need:

  • An old plant-milk/juice carton
  • Scissors
  • Soil
  • Seeds (these planters look lovely on a windowsill, so herbs can be a great thing to grow)
  • Screwdriver/Craft knife
  • Paintbrush (optional)
  • Acrylic paints (optional)

What to do:

  • Wash your carton thoroughly and dry
  • Turn your carton lengthways, and using your craft knife, poke a few holes to get your scissors started. Then, using a pair of strong scissors, cut out one side of the carton (one for the adults)
  • If you fancy, use paints to customise your planter, and leave to dry
  • Using a screwdriver or craft knife, poke a few holes in the bottom of your planter for drainage (one for the adults)
  • Fill up with soil and sprinkle in your seeds according to their packet instructions!

TOP TIP: to keep your windowsill/surface safe from any draining water, pop the cut-out section of your carton or a plate underneath your planter

Glass Jars

Glass jars are brimming with possibility; they are the perfect introduction to upcycling craft. Wash out all the remnants of jam and use as storage pots for your children’s rooms (buttons, crayons, pencils), fill with fairy-lights for a comfy bedroom glow, or even use as a ‘happy jar’ and ask your child to write something lovely that happened every week onto a piece of card to pop into the jar. (The jars can be emptied every few months, and you and your child can look at/discuss all the happy memories they wrote about).

Glass jar snow globes

What you’ll need:

  • A large jar with lid
  • A small festive figurine (something lightweight)
  • Water
  • Waterproof super glue
  • Biodegradable glitter
  • Baby oil/Washable clear glue (optional)
  • Food colouring (optional)
  • Twine/ribbon (optional)

What to do:

  • Make sure your jar is super clean and dry
  • Using waterproof super glue, attach your figurine to the inside of your lid, and leave to dry for 24 hours
  • Fill your jar up around 2/3 (enough for your figurine to fit comfortably) with water
  • You can add a little baby oil/washable glue – this just makes the glitter fall more gracefully
  • Add a touch of biodegradable glitter
  • You can add a dash of food colouring if you fancy a colourful globe!
  • Screw your lid back on (if you fancy, tie ribbon/twine around the lid) and shake!

Craft from food bin waste: potatoes, fruit rinds and coffee grounds

If you are lucky enough to live in a district with a food waste collection, then hopefully all your parsnip peels and banana skins are finding a new home (unless you keep them for other household magic – check out our newsletter for more tips & tricks). However, if you don’t, or if you fancy trying something new – there are surprising ways you can upcycle food waste…

(Old) Potato stamps

What you’ll need:

  • Sharp knife
  • A bunch of old and wonky potatoes
  • Acrylic paints
  • Paper
  • Tea towel
  • Scrap of paper/kitchen roll
  • Marker pen
  • Cookie cutters (optional)

What to do:

  • Cut your potato in half and blot any excess moisture with a tea towel
  • Use a marker pen to draw a shape on the potato surface. If using a cookier cutter, place on potato surface and draw around (try and not make too complicated – carving a broomstick-flying witch into a potato is tough)
  • Using the knife, cut around the shape so that your design is raised on the potato surface (this is one for the adults)
  • Dunk your potato stamp into some paint, dab off any excess onto a scrap of paper/kitchen roll and press onto your chosen card
  • Potato print away!
  • The potato can be washed after dunkage and used for another colour – no waste here!

TOP TIP: Potato printing onto card can also make quirky homemade wrapping paper for gifts

Lime/Lemon/Orange Scrub (for the older kids)

Oh, the luxury! Crafting with waste materials doesn’t mean you have to miss out on a bit of indulgence; a lovely self-care treat can be made using the bits & bobs hibernating in your cupboard. Lemons in particular are incredibly versatile; they are the multi-tasker of the citrus world – useful in household cleaning products, candles, infused oils – the list is endless! Next time a recipe calls for lemon juice – zest it first – and pop the lemon zest in a freezer bag or airtight box for your freezer. You can then just defrost and craft away when you fancy – but make sure not to leave it too long – or your lemon might lose its pizzazz. Also, if your lemons are waxed, run under some boiling water, and then use a vegetable brush and some cold water to scrub any waxiness off before freezing. (For some lemony goodness, and more ideas on how to utilise food waste – pop your name on our mailing list).

What you’ll need:

  • 200g granulated sugar
  • ½ – 1 cup of vegetable oil (coconut, sunflower, almond, olive are all great – add in less/more oil depending on your preference)
  • Lemon/orange/lime zest (as much/little as you like)
  • An old, clean jar

 Optional extra goodies:

  • Drops of essential oil (e.g. lavender, rosemary, peppermint)
  • Dried herbs
  • Dried flowers
  • Ground coffee beans (after you make a coffee in a filter machine or cafetiere etc, keep the leftover coffee for a deliciously cosy scrub. Just make sure the grounds are dry before using)

What to do:

  • Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, adding extra oil (or lemon/lime/orange juice) if it is too dry for you
  • (Customise if you fancy – throw in dried herbs, a few drops of essential oil etc)
  • Pour into your old jar and enjoy!

TOP TIP: These can make great little gifts too – adding a sweet ribbon to your jar or a customised label for a personal touch

Craft from the great outdoors: leaves, pinecones, and sticks

If you are anything like me, when you go to pay for something at a till and reach into your pocket, a clattering of shells may fall to the floor before your wallet appears. Always careful to leave plenty and be considerate in what I take – a forager’s rule – I love collecting oddly shaped pebbles, fallen acorns, lucky oakmoss. These are the treasures of nature in all her beautiful abundance, the gifts she scatters if we are careful enough to spot them. Fallen leaves, strewn sticks, festive pinecones – all of these can be (considerately) scavenged and transformed into some eye-catching artwork…

Hairy Self-portraits/Bearded Gnomes

What you’ll need:

  • Card
  • Glue
  • Leaves
  • Coloured pens/pencils/paints
  • Imagination

What to do for portraits:

  • Draw a self-portrait, or a portrait of someone else, leaving out that person’s hair
  • Using the leaves and glue, adorn your portrait with a funky hair do!

What to do for gnomes:

  • Draw the top half of a gnome (big triangle for a hat, a semi-circle peeping below the hat for the nose – you’re with me), leaving space for a big beard
  • Using the leaves and glue, customise your gnome’s facial hair
  • Create a whole family of gnomes!

TOP TIP: Fallen leaves can also be used for printing (like potato printing – dip your leaves in paint and go wild – as long as the leaves aren’t too dry or crunchy) – which also makes festive wrapping paper. Children can also draw around the leaves and colour them in – or, with a parent’s permission – leaves can be blue tacked to the window for a cosy, autumnal display

Pinecone garland

What you’ll need:

  • A bunch of pinecones
  • Twine/string
  • Some sturdy sticks
  • Paintbrush (optional)
  • White paint (optional)


What to do:

  • If you would like a snowy effect, use a paintbrush to paint a few of the pinecone prickles white, and add a few splashes to your chosen stick (to look like a dusting of snow)
  • Take a long piece of twine and attach to each end of your stick, creating a loop to hang the stick from
  • Attach twine to your pinecones and attach to the bottom of your stick, so that they dangle
  • Hang somewhere pretty!


TOP TIP: Once all of your crafting goodness has had a lovely long life, they can be dismantled and separated into their own recycling sections

These are just a few ideas to start crafting using waste materials with your little ones. As soon as you start to uncover the secret lives of usually mundane objects, things you may usually have discarded without a second thought become rich in possibility and potential. Rainy days at home will never be the same again!

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