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Orange garlands are one of my favorite zero waste Christmas decorations. They’re beautiful, they smell amazing, they’re compostable, assuming you use plant-based twine and thread. (Also I’m from Florida, the land of crazy people, giant reptiles, and copious amounts of citrus, so there’s something nostalgic about them for me.) But just when I was patting myself on the back for my glorious guilt-free holiday decoration, my pain in the butt friend Nick jokingly said, “I can’t believe you murdered all that citrus just for a decoration!”
He was teasing with his characteristic dad jokes… but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. When I can’t stop thinking about something, that usually means I’m going to worry over it until I’ve found a solution.
If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know I spend a decent amount of time talking about ways to eliminate food waste. (Have I mentioned that eating is my favorite sport?) So while my orange garland was in fact beautiful, wasn’t it also a bit wasteful? Don’t get me wrong, you can totally leave it up year round as a botanical decoration, but most of us are dying to tear down our Christmas decorations by the time January hits. There’s just something so cathartic about it.
And while there are a million ways to enjoy dried oranges in the culinary realm (think candied oranges, teas, citrus zests), I had to ask myself:
Do you really want to make tea out of oranges that have been sitting out for a full month?
NO. THAT’S GROSS. Maybe it’s just because I recently found a dried worm in my loose tea mix (no, I’m not kidding and that is way too “organic” for my taste; I still meticulously pick through every batch of tea I make before it goes in the water), but I’m not about to consume any food that’s been sitting out for 30 days.
Fortunately, there are a number of other ways to upcycle your zero waste dried orange garland that don’t involve getting the stray piece of lint in your tea. Simply snip your orange slices free of your twine and pick your DIY of choice from the quick and easy upcycling options below!
4 Realistic Ways to Upcycle Your Zero Waste Dried Orange Garland (That Aren’t Food)
Make scented vinegar cleaner. Y’all know I love an infused vinegar cleaner. It’s such a fun way to get extra mileage out of food waste and/or things from the garden and you can totally use some of your dried orange slices in your next round of vinegar cleaner for a delightful citrus boost. The only catch? I probably wouldn’t use more than a handful, since the flesh of the orange slices will still have sugar in it and no one wants a sticky toilet. (Gross.) Toss some of your orange slices in with some rosemary or additional orange peels into your next round of DIY cleaner. You’ll find my guide to various scent combinations here.
Make a simmer pot. One of the best things about dried oranges is that they smell amazing long after they’ve been dried due to the amount of oil in the citrus peels. Though you may have noticed your garland smells more faintly now than when you first dried it, it will still make an amazing simmer pot to make your house smell warm and inviting without pumping a bunch of chemicals into your home. Did you know chemical air fresheners often contain toxic chemicals including endocrine disruptors? Throw your oranges into a pot with some water, vanilla extract, or some spices for a serious mood boost… Just don’t forget to set an alarm on your phone so you don’t burn your house down on accident. Looking for a full DIY and recipe recommendations? You’ll find my in-depth post here.
Make potpourri. Since you’ve already dried the oranges, this one will be a total snap and is another wonderful natural way to make your house smell lovely. Simply toss your orange slices with dried flowers, lavender, cinnamon sticks, anise, or cloves… or a mix as desired! Sprinkle with essential oils to add extra oomph. Never made it before? I also did a full DIY on homemade potpourri last year.
Make orange potpourri and THEN make a citrus bath salt soak. THIS IS SOME NEXT LEVEL UPCYCLING, Y’ALL. Elana is the mastermind behind Salvage & Stitch, my favorite eco-friendly DIY blog on the Internet, and last year she took my citrus potpourri post and converted the potpourri into bath salts. If that isn’t sheer genius, I don’t know what is. Don’t mind me if I take to nightly baths with a glass of wine. I’m saving the planet, I swear.
As I mentioned above, you can also just enjoy your zero waste orange garland year round, no upcycling required, or turn it into an indoor wreath, but I love the idea of taking a single use item and exploring its potential in other areas of the home!