Eco-Friendly Lei

May is the month of lei! Here in Hawaiʻi, making and giving lei is common practice. Lei are garlands made from a series of objects strung together to be worn. Many are made with fresh flowers and foliage, while others are made of ribbon or yarn. Lei can be made from a variety of materials, including recycled ones! By using recycled materials, you will be giving new life to old items, keeping them out of our storm drains, landfills, and oceans. In this blog, you will learn how to make two types of natural lei and two types of recycled lei—all of which are eco-friendly. The recycled leis can also last for a long time, so they are great to display as a reminder of milestone in your life or a fun event!


Pick your favorite pua (flower), preferably one with thick petals and a strong, tubular stem. Some popular lei-making flowers in the islands include plumeria, puakenikeni, tuberose and stephanotis. Gather a large bunch of flowers; amounts will differ based on the size of your flowers and your lei. Cut a small portion off the stem from the bottom of each flower. Using a lei needle attached to some string, start stringing your flowers. Once you’ve reached your desired length, tie the two ends into a knot.

Ti Leaf

Collect a batch of ti leaves and prepare them by placing them in the freezer overnight. The next day, they should be soft enough to twist. “Debone” your leaf by separating the leaves from the spine with your hands or scissors. Tie two leaves together and start twisting them individually. Then, twist the two strands together in the opposite direction. As you reach the end of one leaf, add a new leaf by twisting another onto the end, and repeat until you reach your desired length.

Recycled Paper

Using paper from old newspapers or magazines, cut out 12-15 rectangles, making each one the size and shape of a dollar bill. Create flowers by folding each accordion style, then connect the two halves from the top section and the two from the bottom. Secure these in place with glue or a stapler. String the paper flowerson a piece of yarn or thread, then tie the ends in a knot!

Recycled Fabric

Using fabric from old t-shirts or bed sheets, create long strips about three inches wide. Fold each one in half along the longer side, and sew along the open edge. Flip your strips inside out and string them on a piece of yarn, one by one, scrunching them down as you go. Once you’ve reached your desired length and thickness, tie the ends of your string together in a knot.

Source: Flower Leis