We all want to do right by our wallets and the Earth this holiday season, but there are other factors that come into play as well; namely, time (another holiday party?) and skill (is a homemade coupon for a free foot massage considered “crafty”?).

Luckily, these five DIY gifts are as simple and straightforward as they come, and they’re good for the planet, too. With a few exceptions (sewing, for one), the only skills required for these projects are the ability to think creatively, the desire to make something one-of-a-kind for your friend or loved one, and the vision to see throwaway items lying around your house as wonderful, reusable supplies for the perfect handmade gift.

We’ve made it easy, too, by suggesting the ideal recipients for these gifts — although who’s to say your boyfriend wouldn’t love a handmade soy candle? — so all you have to do is go treasure hunting around your house, read the instructions, and start creating. For your niece who loves playing dress up or “borrowing” your jewelry, it’s a simple cardboard jewelry box with a personal touch. Grab an old shoebox out of your closet or recycling bin, some fabric remnants or wrapping paper, a few tools, and you’re halfway there.  

Reuse fabric (from old pillowcases or curtains or an old T-shirt), buttons, and ribbon to create an easy-to-spot luggage tag for your itinerant brother. Or make your own soap by hand milling plain bars of soap and adding a special touch — a scent, a color, or an additive like colloidal oatmeal. The end result is a rustic handmade soap that cleans as beautifully as it looks. Give it to your mother — she’ll have a unique soap for guests at her holiday party, and yet another reason to brag on her kid.

If you’re really thinking green and want to create a natural gift that is safe for the environment, try making your own soy candle or making your own perfume — simple, easy-to-make gifts with big wow factor. More important, they are better for the planet than their alternatives (such as petroleum-based paraffin candles or synthetic fragrances). And once again, you get to reuse: a vintage coffee cup for the soy candle, or an old vanilla extract bottle for your perfume. A scented soy candle will be an attractive and sweet-smelling addition to your friend’s well-appointed apartment, and a bottle of homemade perfume, while small, is a romantic gift for your girlfriend or wife that will speak volumes.

Now let’s get making.

READY TO GET STARTED? Cardboard jewelry box >