Can Fall Home Decor be Sustainable? (Yes!) - Small Legacies

Can Fall Home Decor be Sustainable? (Yes!)

A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Make the Switch to Eco-Friendly Decor This Fall

By Kendra Johnson and Valerie Short

What if, instead of using plastic colorful junk all around the house, we use decorations made from natural and recyclable products?

Lately I’ve been setting a lot of lofty goals for myself. I'm obsessed with this concept of leaving small Legacies: small but important lessons that have a lasting positive impact on the world. The truth is you can’t talk about making the world a better place for the next generation without acknowledging sustainability and environmental concerns. 

I used to be obsessed with decorating for holidays. Now that I have 3 kids, I just don’t have the time, or energy. And quite honestly, the last thing I want to do is bring yet another set of neon plastic things into my house.

Calling in the Experts

To assist me in this quest to be more “green” as I decorate this fall, I recruited the help of the fabulous Valerie Short. Valerie is a passionate animal rights activist and environmental enthusiast who resides in Denver, Colorado. She also happens to be my cousin. :)

A conversation about Reduce, Reuse Recycle…as it Pertains to Home Decor. 

The Question: How can we make small changes around the home that can have a lasting impact?

1: Reduce

Valerie: First, consider reducing the amount of newly-manufactured items that you buy. Ask yourself things like, "Do I really need or want this item? Would it be possible to find something similar at a thrift shop? Are there alternative versions of it that are made out of more environmentally-friendly materials?" 

2: Reuse

Valerie: Next, get creative and reuse things that you already own. You can always fix, paint, embroider, and repurpose items that have been collecting dust in your storage room. If you're tired of that worn out Fall wreath that you've been hanging on your door for years, give it some new life by adding a few pine cones and leaves that you (or your kids) can collect from your own backyard.

3. Recycle

Before tossing an item you no longer want into the trash, check in with your friends and family to see if they'd like to give it a new home. A fun new tradition could be to swap holiday decorations with friends and neighbors, giving each home a fun new seasonal look. If not, donate to your local thrift shop to keep items out of the landfill. This is a much more effective form of recycling, as the majority of manufactured materials are not possible to recycle in industrial facilities.

The Question: What if you are starting from scratch? 

Start By Simply Adding a Pop of Color

Valerie: Switching up your home's holiday vibe for each season can be achieved in subtle ways - adding a pop of orange to a vase with locally-grown or thrifted faux flowers, some freshly fallen leaves, and a bow of twine can go a long way. For the winter season that follows, simply swap those orange details out with similar items of your festive color of choice, some pine cones, and a few tree trimmings.

Using Natural Elements

Valerie: Finding natural items to decorate with gives a fresh, rustic feel to your design. In the Fall, you can visit a local pumpkin patch to collect pumpkins, gourds, and corn cobs to adorn your front steps and table centerpieces with. If you live in an area where the leaves change color, gather up a few handfuls to use as accents around the house. 

Valerie: These items are compostable and a better option than purchasing plastic versions that will never break down naturally. Once you're done with your pumpkins and leaves, see if your town has a local compost station to drop them off at. In the spring, you'll be able to return and collect some nutrient-rich compost to use in your garden!


Putting It Into Action With Kids

Window Stickers

I am so guilty here. I used to buy those plastic window decals for each holiday, and because they were so cheap, I’d just throw them away when the holiday was done. Those window decals I bought ten years ago are still sitting in a landfill somewhere. 

This year, it’s all about reusing and recycling! We used paper bags from the grocery store and cut them into leaf decorations for the window. Not only is this demonstrating reusing and now recyclable, it provided an amazing learning opportunity for my boys (and helps them practice the every-day skill of using scissors).

Here’s an article from Conserve-Energy-Future you can use to help learn whether or not your paper grocery bags are recyclable.


The plastic and foam pumpkins in the stores have become so beautiful. And they are cheap. BUT this year we are using REAL pumpkins and gourds as decor. To support local agriculture, I drove down the road to a local farmer who sells them on the side of the highway. 

Now, when I’m done I can let them decompose naturally on the side of our yard, OR we can use the pumpkins for pie and seasoned pumpkin seeds!

Making it Last

Yes, jack-o-lanterns are a fun tradition, but I’ve realized that while I personally love carving pumpkins, I do NOT love carving pumpkins with toddlers. So instead of cutting jack-o-lanturns, we are just using plain old pumpkins. And the best benefit? I can leave them up for 3 months! September, October and November. Fall, Halloween and Thanksgiving Decor is taken care of with one natural item that can be repurposed. 


How do you demonstrate sustainability for your kids? 

Valerie Short is a Colorado-based writer and community activist. Valerie has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Central Florida. Helping care for and rehabilitate rescue animals is something dear to Valerie's heart and she enjoys helping others learn how to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. 

Kendra Johnson is a certified elementary educator based in rural Wisconsin. As a parent and teacher, Kendra has a passion for teaching through engaging and varied techniques. Her background in theatre, educational technology and curriculum development have fueled her passion for teaching life skills to youth creatively.

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