The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
October 25, 2010

Plastic-Free Fall Decorating Ideas

Do you enjoy decorating your home for the holidays?  I’m kind of a scrooge when it comes to anything holidayish.  It seems Michael and I find ourselves in denial from October through the end of the year.  But I realize we are in the minority.  My friend Lisa Sharp, who blogs at Retro Housewife Goes Green, loves to decorate  — without plastic. In this guest post, she takes you around her house to share her own decorations and reveals the hidden plastics you might not think to watch out for.

What’s your favorite plastic-free holiday idea?


A walk down the fall decor aisle at the store and you see plastic, plastic and more plastic.

autumn decorating ideas

So can you have your home beautifully decorated for fall without all the plastic? Yes you can, here are some great plastic-free decorations to get you started.

Decorating with nature is a great way to avoid plastic. Look for local pumpkins, mums, gourds, freshly fallen leaves, acorns, pine cones, and anything else you can find. These things can be used to make center pieces, decorate the front of your house and more. A quick Google search can help you find inspiration for these items. You can even get your kids involved with helping find the items you will use.

autumn decorating ideas

If you aren’t much for DYI a great place to find plastic-free fall decorations is Etsy.com.  Just be sure you request the seller doesn’t use plastic when mailing the items to you. Most are very willing to help you with this request.

Some things to look for are pumpkins that are made from cotton fabric or are knit using wool or other natural fiber. Also make sure the pumpkins are filled with cotton, not poly-fill. Felted pumpkins and acorns are also a cute plastic free option. Make sure the felt is wool not polyester and not felted around plastic.

autumn decorating ideas

Wooden signs can be great for your front door or even on  your walls. The options for these are unlimited. Many Etsy sellers will even make custom signs so you can be sure to get the color and style you want.

autumn decorating ideas

Wooden blocks and letters make nice decorations and are easy to use even for those who aren’t so great at decorating. Just make sure the designs are made using paper or paint and not vinyl lettering. You can even just buy unfinished wood blocks, scrapbook paper and a water based glue and make your own.

autumn decorating ideas

Putka pods are a neat fall decoration as well. These little pods look like mini pumpkins and are totally natural. Just make sure they aren’t scented and ask the seller not to package them in plastic. These can be used in a nice bowl as a center piece with other things like mini fabric pumpkins and cinnamon sticks, or just place them in a nice mason jar with a pretty bow.  If you want to get more DYI with them, you can carefully thread them and make a garland.

autumn decorating ideas

The options for plastic-free fall decorations are endless, and you can easily have a plastic-free, beautifully decorated home this fall.

31 comments
Betsy (Eco-novice)
Betsy (Eco-novice)

Great post, Lisa! I love the idea of decorating for ANY holiday with seasonal objects from nature. And, of course, Etsy always is a fab resource for handmade plastic-free decor.

Rosa
Rosa

I actually just spent the afternoon making bat garland with my son and another mom & preschooler - I had bat & skull diecut paper pieces from the store, so we traced those onto cardboard and then traced & cut out with the kids and let them glue glitter onto them. Hole-punched them and hung them up. The store pack had a piece of thinnish string w/metallic outsides; I used black thread for the homemade pieces but it tangled too easily, I think yarn would have been better.

Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green
Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green

Steven: I'm sure we all would hate to see all the plastic that happens before we buy something. Great idea about the yarn! Tree Hugging Momma: Wow those are a lot of great ideas!!!

Tree Huggin Momma
Tree Huggin Momma

So many options when Fall Decorating. Instead of the small "hay bales" you find this time of year at the craft store, contact an actual farmer in your area for a real bale of hay or straw - I got straw bales for $5/bale and split them into 3 smaller bales (for decorating) and tied with jute twine. Pumpkins, gourds and squash from local farmers (check out your local farm market) or your own garden make nice additions. Indian Corn and Corn Stalks (also form local farmers) TP Bats are a great reuse of Toilet Paper and Paper Towel Tubes (if you have access to them), and if you use environmental friendly paint and paper you can compost them when all is said and done. Waxed Leaves. Real leaves and acorns as the peak of color are a great addition to any table. You can wax them so they last longer. Use clear parafin or use a mix of 1 part white glue (I like homemade glue) to 2 parts water. Dip them hang them to dry (using your line and clothespins) and then string them together with yarn or jute twine. Add some pinecones, and acorns for a little special touch. So many more options out there, that can be a great project with the kids as well as a decoration. Make a scarecrow out of out grown and wore out clothing. Use old broom handles or scrap wood or piping for the posts.

Amber
Amber

We have a Waldorf-inspired nature table, which is a lovely way to have a plastic-free seasonal display. We have some wooden figurines and books, as well as kids' crafts and stuff we gather from outside. And as it's Halloween week right now, you can't go wrong with a jack-o-lantern. Although it's best to steer clear of paraffin candles.

Steven
Steven

I happen to work at the large art chain pictured in the top. Be glad you don't see the double bagging, sealed boxes inside of pallet wraps with extra tape on top that the seasonal assortment comes in for those stores (not for the normal things, only seasonal, different warehouses). Felt is also something that you can make from leftover yarn, you can google different sets of instructions for how to do it. :)

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Claire, I think it tastes better. I bake the chunks it in the oven under foil and then the skin falls off easily because of the steam. Just make sure it's cooked all the way through. You can put it in the food processor if you want it to be smoother, but I kind of like mine to have more texture.

claire
claire

Beth, do they taste the same/better/worse as store bought/canned pumpkin pie? my sister read the ingredients on the can and realized it was butternut squash and not actually pumpkin and is now telling everyone she knows. even my grandmother's pumpkin pie recipe says "pumpkin (squash is better/butternut is best)." I'm looking forward to trying real pumpkin pie. forgot about Indian corn! I've always loved the colorful kernels. you can use that for food as well (as long as it's not sprayed with any kind of coating), you can grind the kernels and make cornmeal or corn flour (since after all, it started as a food preservation method).

green girl in wisconsin
green girl in wisconsin

I'm a huge fan of natural decorating--gourds, pumpkins, branches and leaves. And with 3 boys I only have metal and cloth and wood decorative accents, mostly handcrafted because I don't want my digs to look mass-produced.

Sarah "Angry Butterfly" Schumm
Sarah "Angry Butterfly" Schumm

I saw on Martha Stewart years ago to do floral arrangements in mini pumpkins, You do kind of have to be a bit of a crafty person to pull this off, but it looks fantastic, and the flowers last as long or longer than they do in a vase. You cut off the top and hollow it out just like you were making a Jack-O-Lantern and then put in the water and arrange the flowers. You can use the pumpkin flesh just like floral foam! I also love to decorate with apples, Indian corn, and shafts of wheat. So much more elegant than plastic!

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi Claire. I make pumpkin pie from real pumpkins. The irony is that at Thanksgiving time, real pumpkins are no where to be found around here -- only canned pumpkin. So it's important to keep some pumpkins from October uncarved so they're still good a month later.

claire
claire

Rob, I was just saying that if you carve your pumpkins on halloween, they'd probably still be ok to cook the next day (as long as you don't mind the candle char). you can roast the seeds (yum!), the inner stringy part is basically inedible, and you can cook the scraps that you cut off as well. note that pumpkin pie isn't typically made with pumpkin, but butternut squash. my sister is planning on making a real pumpkin pie soon, so we'll see how it comes out. she read that if you steam/boil it, the skin peels right off. keep your pumpkins cold to keep them from rotting, our porch has glass windows and gets very warm during the day so they mold very quickly. someone mentioned to me that jack-o-lanterns were traditionally turnips in Ireland so now I'm intrigued and want to carve a turnip.

claire
claire

Reenie, I was thinking about lights as well, since I love my orange icicle lights, but the only thing I can think of is candles (since that's what we had before electricity, right?). candle lanterns on a string may not be the safest thing in the world, the more enclosed the better, obviously, and tea lights are safer since they don't tip. but I'll mention candle holders again, more specifically candelabras, they throw a soft light and have a great spooky ambiance. candle chandeliers would look great too. these only work for windows though, since they would probably get blown out outside. if you have white christmas lights maybe you could find some glass light covers (something like this-- not sure if these are actually made for mini lights though: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=400088050107), and if you really wanted them you could buy plastic ones secondhand (like these super-weird ones: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=360307848035). you could always find a glass blower and ask them to make some for you. I'm always thinking about the electrical wire problem, and the only non-plastic wire insulation materials I can come up with are silicone (which attracts lint like crazy and is also technically a non-biodegradable polymer, if not an oil-based one) and woven glass "fabric." I read about a dress made of glass fabric, so in my head it makes sense to use it as a flexible wire insulator, I just don't know how well it would work in practice. you can apparently get both of these things but they seem to be very specialized. wires used to be insulated with rubber but it starts to melt after a while (just like rubber bands) and will grow mold given the right conditions (which is impossible to clean :P). wikipedia says paper is a good wire insulator but that just seems like a fire hazard to me (they use it around light bulbs though). anyway, I'm done theorizing for the night. happy decorating!

Rob
Rob

You know, I did buy three of those Plastic Styrofoam pumpkins (the kind you can sculpt into Jack O' Lanterns) years ago, but in my defense I do not cut a perfectly good food source for decoration, and I reuse them year after year.

The Uncrafty Crafter
The Uncrafty Crafter

apparently i can't type... i meant "the want too" not "the want not too" , it's been a long day :-)

The Uncraft Crafter
The Uncraft Crafter

Hello there! I wanted to tell you that i found your blog about a week ago and have been almost non-stop reading it! I am amazed by what you have created here, the way that you live you life is absolutely inspiring! In just the few days i've been reading your blog i have been making strides to lesson my plastic consumption. I ordered a moon cup (spread the word to a few family members who also had never heard of it), when i went grocery shopping i was so much more aware of the things i am buying... it's amazing what a little conscious thought can do! i have always been interested in reusing items... i'm a dumpster diver from way back (LOL) but there were just a lot of things i was completely unaware of.... those bird pictures really got me. I drink scads of soda and all those lids... *sigh* I'm a single mom and i thought a really good way to help might be starting a drive in my local area for secondchancetoys.org, i don't know if it'll be anytime soon but i have the want not to make a serious impact and it's truly because of the awareness your site has given me! I guess basically i just wanted to say thank you for setting an example for others to learn and emulate! Keep up the amazing work!

Lily
Lily

Aw. Thanks Amanda! I would also like to thank anyone who commented me! I would especially like to thank Beth for getting me out there and giving me followers!!!

Reenie
Reenie

There's some good ideas here, thanks. Is there any alternative to those plastic string lightts that have pumpkins on them?

Amanda
Amanda

Lily - Awesome job!!! I'm 22, and sometimes I feel like I'm too young to really make a difference - and you're half my age :) ! Keep it up... I look forward to reading more from you!

Lily
Lily

Dear Beth, I really admire you. I am just an eleven year old in rural Michigan trying to minimize my plastic with the help of my mom. I was wondering if you would mind if I started a blog called "Fake Plastic Guppy"? I would post about myl ife trying to eliminate plastic!!!

Carmen Melton
Carmen Melton

Even if you only make one small handmade decoration at a time (paper pumkin, bat, leaf or ghost - some of our favorites), over the years they add up. Combined with all the acorns, pinecones & seed pods the kids love to collect (baked in the oven on lowest setting for about an hour to kill off any tiny bug infestations:) and the decorating is done! Also, just rearranging or finding new combinations of the same decor can keep you out of that rut; sometimes we string up our leaves from the ceiling, sometimes we stick them on windows. And whatever paper decor you're ready to retire can be cut up and made into collages for greeting cards! I rarely throw away paper, it just becomes art:) Also, making it a social event with a few friends or relatives makes for a fun and meaningful tradition, and even more worth finding the time for.

claire
claire

but what about the candy? I made these great foam bats for my house a few years ago but I used plastic foam and plastic fishing line to hang them. I always thought they would be a great craft project to make and sell around halloween, now I wonder if I could make them with black cellulose foam and cotton string or twine. maybe even a thick black paperboard if they're for indoor use (I originally made them out of black construction paper to decorate my room). they're sort of like mobiles, they flutter in the wind and it looks like they're flying around your house, I tack them up to the roof overhang and hang them on the outdoor lights. I like using black iron candle holders (I find these in thrift stores all the time, but if you're buying new ones look for cast iron, powder coating is polymer-based) with orange, white or black candles, but you have to keep them attended and it can get pretty warm. now I just need to get some beeswax candles, but I'm still using up the ones I got a few years ago, since I only burn them for a few hours once a year. I like to dress stuffed animals in costumes (my favorite is the vampire husky), and I'm sure wooden arched black cat silhouettes are easy enough to come by. I've hung black scraps of fabric from the ceiling, and I have black streamer paper that I've reused many times. if you're crafty I bet you could crochet spiderweb curtains, or just a plain spider web (here are some cool patterns: http://www.crochetpatterncentral.com/directory/halloween.php). a real fall wreath would be a great decoration and a fun thing to make, with some fall foliage and some red berries or fall-color flowers. we have an enclosed porch that I like to decorate wildly (which is probably what I should be doing now!). I love halloween and I pretty much buy any (tasteful) secondhand halloween decorations or anything spooky that I find. I'll keep babbling all day about halloween deco's so I'll stop now! those putka pods are really cool by the way.

Darris
Darris

BOO on plastic! I'm not much into the holiday decorating thing but I do pile up all of the beautiful fall squashes on my table and counter for fall color. I also pick up brightly colored leaves and sprinkle them around the squash until they loose their vibrancy. Putting various size uncarved pumpkins on the front porch and then roasting them for eating after Halloween is a tradition. We've slacked on our creativity and our appreciation of nature . . . take your selves and your kids out for a fall walk and see what you can come up with out of nature . . . and think of the fun you'll have!

Susanna eve
Susanna eve

And don't forget to keep all your decorations and and reuse them next year. I do have some plastic Halloween decorations but they are at least 5 years old. Construction paper is great too. We have some paper pumpkins that are 10 years old. We have fabric ghosts that are very old too. It is great fun to unpack holiday stuff each year and rediscover what we have:)

Kellie @ Greenhab
Kellie @ Greenhab

We do similar decorating - pumpkins, gourds, a few wooden decorations. This year we also made bats from black construction paper and put them up on the wall. The kids *loved* it!

Tracey
Tracey

Aaaah!!! My daughter's daycare has those dreaded plastic bag pumpkins and a giant plastic blow up pumpkin plugged into a blower 24/7. What ever happened to decorating with *gasp* carved pumpkins? Or plain pumpkins and gourds? And wicker cornucopia? Baskets of produce, grasses and hello kitties? - okay that's my house! My friends are hosting a Pumpkin Carving Extravaganza. They will be making squash inspired foods a few days later with recovered pumpkins, too! "There is nothing more disturbing than seeing carved pumpkins rotting on the side of the road or sticking out of the top of municipal compost bins! So, watch for Tuesday November 2nd invitation to Day of the Dead: Pumpkin Reclamation and save your squash from curbside death! ie) Bring a pumpkin to carve, snacks and drinks and we will share a big pot of squash soup :) Costumes still mandatory!" That will be more fun than shopping for disposable decorations!

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi Fake Plastic Guppy! I love that name. It's very cute. I hope you'll let me know when you've created your blog. I'd love to see what you are doing to eliminate plastic from your life. And by the way, I already borrowed "Fake Plastic" from the Radiohead song "Fake Plastic Trees." I think it's a great idea to spread the "fake plastic" message.

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  1. A Greener Halloween | Retro Housewife Goes Green says:

    [...] You can also check out my guest post on My Plastic-Free Life, Plastic-Free Fall Decorating Ideas. [...]