Green with Envy: DIY Gifting with BurdaStyle’s Alison Kelly

DIY gifts have not always had the best reputation – think of that holiday sweater your grandmother knit especially for you, the one with the snowflakes and ornaments you cringe just thinking about. But these days DIY has gotten a style makeover: standards have risen and it turns out we are all quite capable of making some pretty lovely things with our own two hands. Being a fashion designer and DIY-er myself, I appreciate something that has been created with love and care, so I am not afraid to admit I actually make many gifts myself.

Society is so often geared towards spending and mass consumerism, it is difficult to rethink how to live without consuming so much. But many of us have decided we want to spend less, reduce our carbon footprint and become more “green.” You don’t have to drastically change your lifestyle overnight, but taking small steps, like recycling materials into useful objects, will start you off on the right foot. Sitting down and working on a project is not only calming and balancing, it offers the satisfaction of creating something beautiful (or delicious) for someone who will also appreciate it. As we’re in the midst of the holiday season it’s time to get inspired! Here are some of my favorite DIY gift ideas this year:

Garlic in Burlap: My friend Pablo has a farm in Virginia and he brought me a huge box of garlic he grew. We got to talking about how beneficial garlic is for one’s health (it’s known to kill viruses, bacteria and fungi) and what a nice gift it would make for someone who is ill – and of course for someone who loves to cook. I’m placing two bulbs in an eco-friendly burlap sack for gifts. You could also fill a sack with dried herbs like lavender, which has a calming and anti-depressant effect. Take it a step further and screen-print an image of the contents on the bag.

Recycled Lace Necklace: If you have a vintage lace tablecloth no longer in use or some lacy clothing you have been meaning to throw away, turn it instead into a lovely necklace or earrings. Cut an interesting shape out of the lace and attach it with jump rings to an old necklace chain you’d like to revamp. (Photo: Whiteowl on

Dark Chocolate Turtles: Have you heard dark chocolate is good for you? It has flavonoids and antioxidants which are known to fight free radicals – and it’s delicious. Whatever the hype, I know indulging here and there puts a spring in my step and a smile on my face, so spread the love and sweetness. (Photo and recipe can be found on Vegetarian with Benefits)

Mulled Red Wine: If you are hosting or attending a holiday party, mulled red wine tends to be a big hit. Warm, soothing and a bit spicy it’s a drink sure to get anyone feeling festive. Get yourself a crock pot and some organic red wine and spices. (Photo and recipe at

Recycled Newspaper Wreath:
Approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper are thrown away every year in the U.S. (sob!) Do something about it and recycle some of your newspapers or magazines into a pretty wreath. If the finished look is too plain Jane for you, try accenting the paper with glitter or paint. (Photo and tutorial found on Living with Lindsey)

Put Glitter on It: This is a great trick for pumps in need of an upgrade – you may be tempted to gift these for yourself. Tape off the body of the shoe while keeping the heel exposed and spray heel with glitter spray paint. Voila! Instant style. (Find the glitter shoes tutorial on You can also have fun with glitter and candles, picture frames, or boxes. Use soft pastels mixed with metallics for a sophisticated elegance. (Glitter candles: Martha Stewart.)

Homespun Essential Oil Spray: I am a huge fan of aromatherapy and often spritz myself with lavender – I swear it lifts the mood while also calming and balancing. Find your favorite organic essential oil and scour a thrift shop for a pretty vintage perfume bottle. Clean out the bottle well and mix 1 ounce distilled water to 10 drops essential oil for a homespun spray that’s both eco-friendly and aromatherapeutic.

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