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 holiday-ish.  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  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 polyfill. 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 DIY 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.

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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.


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

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

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… Read more »


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.


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, 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,… Read more »

Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green

Sarah “Angry Butterfly” Schumm: That is awesome! I want to try that sometime.

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

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… Read more »


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… Read more »


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… Read more »


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.

Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green

Lots of great ideas being shared on here!

And Lily that is awesome, I’m off to look at your site!

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

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… Read more »


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!!!


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


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!


All done! The URL is I hope you enjoy it!!!


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

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… Read more »


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… Read more »


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… Read more »

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

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!


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!… Read more »