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When the holiday season rolls around, Katherine DeGroot digs out the glue gun, buys craft items in bulk and forages for additional supplies in her refrigerator, pantry and backyard.

She then makes her own holiday decor, some of which her family gives as gifts.

"We use whatever I have around the house, or even outside," said DeGroot, who has created glow and shimmer in her Stillwater house by making stars out of brown paper lunch bags, potpourri with fruits and spices and candles from beeswax and reused jelly jars.

The Instagrammer also shares her latest projects as part of a growing social media community of DIY decor enthusiasts swapping ideas while keeping sustainability in mind.

While the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, they can also be the most wasteful. According to one Stanford University study, Americans throw out an estimated 25% more trash during the holidays than at any other time of the year.

To help reduce a household's carbon footprint during this time and keep items out of landfills, the University of Minnesota's Office of Sustainability has created a holiday guide covering tips on sustainable decorating as well as gift-giving and food practices.

Carley Rice, university sustainability coordinator, said breaking old holiday habits can be difficult. The key is baby steps.

"We don't want to overwhelm anyone. Start small and make changes that make sense to you and your family right now," she said.

For starters, try making your own holiday decorations using sustainable materials and supplies that can be purchased in bulk. Going DIY can be more economical, especially at a time when cash-strapped households are fighting inflation.

Want to start making a dent toward a more cost-conscious, sustainable holiday? Here are tips from the university as well as how-tos on making paper snowflakes, dried fruit garlands, candles and potpourri from Instagrammers DeGroot (@katherinelouisedegroot) and Emma O'Connor (@emmaelizabethoconnor).

Paper bag snowflakes

Katherine DeGroot buys inexpensive brown paper lunch bags (100 for under $10) to create DIY snowflakes. "I love these snowflakes because they're festive into the new year," DeGroot added. "They're great for gifting, as well."

Makes 1

Supplies: 8 brown paper lunch bags, scissors, hot glue gun. Optional: stapler, string and hole puncher.

To assemble: Glue eight bags together by placing the first bag on a flat surface. Make sure the bag's opening is on top and the smooth surface side of the bag without the crease faces upward. Draw an upside-down T with the glue onto the bag. Stack one of the unglued bags on top, facing the same way as the first bag. Repeat gluing and stacking each of the remaining bags. When you get to the last bag, stack but do not glue the top.

To design: Take scissors and create a snowflake design by cutting edges of stacked bags. Creative liberties can be taken here. When finished, open the snowflake by joining the two end pieces together, which will form a circle. Glue end pieces together. Staple for an extra secure snowflake.

Use for holiday décor on mantels, tabletops, walls or windows. If hanging the snowflakes, pull a string through an existing hole or use a hole puncher.

Beeswax jelly jar candles

DeGroot especially loves this candle-making project because it's a family activity. And while they like to make a batch during this time of year for that golden holiday glow, the effort pays off far beyond. "I love these beeswax candles because they can be used all year-round," said DeGroot, adding that she prefers beeswax over other candle bases because it burns cleaner.

Makes 4-5 small/medium candles in jelly-sized jars

Supplies: 2-pound bag of beeswax pellets or ends of beeswax candles; 4-5 wicks; double boiler or two pots; and 4 to 5 small- to medium-sized heat-resistant, fireproof containers, such as jelly or Mason jars. Optional: Popsicle sticks for centering the wick and essential oils for scents.

To prepare: Using a double boiler, pour candle wax into the top pot and place on the stovetop. Heat on medium/high until all of the wax is melted, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. If using, add drops of essential oils according to taste and stir into wax.

Meanwhile, place one wick vertically in the center of the jar. Your wick should be a few inches taller than your vessel. As an option, you can use two Popsicle sticks to keep the wick in place.

To assemble: Carefully pour melted wax into jars, about 14 inch from the top. If using Popsicle sticks, remove them after the wax and jars have cooled. Set aside until candles are ready to use once the wax has hardened, 1 to 2 hours.

Stovetop winter potpourri

One of the reasons DeGroot likes to make this as a gift is that the ingredients are versatile. In this batch, she uses cranberries, oranges, cinnamon sticks and star anise. However, cloves, fresh rosemary, lemons, apples or vanilla beans also are suitable. Any way you slice it, this modern spin on potpourri imbues the spirit of the holidays.

Makes 4 gift bags

Supplies: Generous bundle of evergreen clippings (use the trimmings from your tree or snip some from your backyard); a 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries, 4 oranges; 8 cinnamon sticks, star anise (about 12 stars); 4 paper sandwich bags.

To assemble: Place evergreen clippings into paper bags in amount according to preference. In each bag, add about 1 1/2 cups cranberries, 1 orange, 2 cinnamon sticks and three star anise.

To use: Write directions for use by your recipient: Put items in a small pot, add just enough water to cover the ingredients, bring to a simmer and enjoy the aroma!

Dried fruit garland

Emma O'Connor's go-to DIY decor item adds vibrancy and color to her St. Paul home during the holidays. It's also a family project. "I have always admired using natural resources to decorate seasonally and bringing the outside in. This is also a fun and easy craft to do with little helping hands," O'Connor said.

Makes 12 feet of garland

Supplies: 4 oranges or grapefruit; 8 ounces fresh cranberries; dishcloth; parchment paper; baking sheets and baking rack; kitchen twine or string; sewing needle.

To prepare: Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Slice oranges and grapefruit into 1/8- to 1/4-inch round slices. Pat dry with a dishcloth and arrange slices on parchment-lined baking sheets.

To dry fruit: Bake for 3 to 4 hours or until dry, flipping halfway through. Let slices cool on a baking rack.

To finish: Use kitchen twine or string and a sewing needle to thread through dried fruits and fresh cranberries.

Have a favorite home DIY project, holidays or otherwise, you want to share? We want to hear from you! Just send a few snapshots, along with a brief description to

Tips for a more sustainable holiday

Purchase your Christmas tree from a local tree farm. Tree lots provide environmental benefits — from absorbing carbon and emitting fresh oxygen to improving soil quality and offering wildlife habitat. "They are generally small-scale, family-owned businesses and generally run in a way that is inherently sustainable," said University of Minnesota sustainability coordinator Carley Rice. Then after the holidays, these trees can be broken down for firewood, compost and more.

If you have an artificial tree, hang onto it for as long as possible — at least 10 years to have the same carbon footprint as a real tree, according to the university.

Swap traditional string lights for LEDs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, doing so could result in 80% less energy use. Take it a step further and opt for solar-powered LEDs. Or decorate with fewer lights, go light-free by using candles and/or reflective ornaments to create sparkle while saving on energy costs.

Use natural decorations when introducing new holiday decor. With the right techniques, biodegradable dried fruits, flowers and other foraged items can be kept around as decor for years.

If buying new decorations, quality is important. Consider craft markets. Or, find hidden treasures at thrift and secondhand stores. "It's a way to give things a second life and to keep things out of the waste stream," Rice said. "And if they're older they might even be of better quality."

Or, like with Rice and her family, a favorite sustainable practice is one that also spreads joy from one generation to the next. "I love hand-me-downs from my parents and my grandmother," Rice said. "It keeps those family heirlooms alive."