Recycled Aluminum Can Ginkgo Leaf Earrings

My seventh grade English teacher, Mrs. Gunn, had a thing for ginkgo trees. And since Mrs. Gunn was the kind of teacher you couldn’t help but love, we all developed an affection for the old, stinky trees.

Recycled Ginkgo Leaf Earrings

Almost ten years later in college, my friend – a biology major – taught me more about ginkgos. Like how they’re living fossils (they may be 270 millions years old) and that single trees can live for thousands of years. Ginkgo trees all turn the same brilliant color yellow in the fall because they’re so ancient. While younger trees evolved so that their leaves have more pigments, ginkgos only contain a single yellow pigment that we see when the chlorophyll dies. Ginkos’ fan shape is prehistoric as well. Most plants have veins that diverge and come back together to form complex networks. Not ginkgos; two veins at the base of the leaf split into two over and over in a simple but effective process called “dichotomous venation.”

Recycled Ginkgo Leaf Earrings

With the trees coming to bloom and exams finally over, I spent the afternoon making ginkgo leaf earrings out of old cans I had stashed away during the year (despite my parents’ practice of hiding potential craft supplies (known to most people as “garbage”) in the bottom of the trash can, I still haven’t outgrown my habit of saving cereal boxes, beer cans, and toilet paper rolls for projects). These earrings were easy to make – we’re talking 20 minutes, max – and were perfect for today’s prematurely warm weather. If you’ve got a can waiting to be recycled, bust out your scissors and get down to work. And if not, I bet there’s something cold in your fridge just begging for you to drink it.


  • 1 beer or soda can, empty and washed
  • 2 hook earrings
  • 2 jump rings
  • Super glue
  • Template 


  • Scissors
  • A pen or permanent marker
  • A ballpoint pen that doesn’t work anymore
  • A pad of paper or magazine
  • Needle-nose pilers


Recycled Ginkgo Leaf Earrings

1. Take the aluminum can apart. I find that the easiest way to do this is with scissors. Start my carefully piercing a hole in the top, then cut around the can so that the top comes off. Cut a line along the can and do the same with the bottom of the can. You’ll end up with a sheet of aluminum to work with.

Recycled Ginkgo Leaf Earrings

2. Make two ginkgo leaves. Print out the template from the link above and cut it out. Paper will work fine, but I used some plastic sheeting I had laying around since I use this template a lot. Using the pen or marker, trace around the template. Use scissors to cut out each leaf.

Recycled Ginkgo Leaf Earrings

3. Create veins on the leaves. Ginkgo leaves are easy to draw because their veins all fan out from a central point. Using your pad of paper or magazine as a workspace, start by drawing veins with the pen that doesn’t work. Right away, the aluminum will start curling; you can fix this by turning the leaf over and drawing more veins on the other side of the aluminum. Continue drawing veins on both the “good” and “bad” sides of the leaf until you have a flat leaf that looks an awful lot like a ginkgo.

Recycled Ginkgo Leaf Earrings

4. Attach the leaf to the earring hook. Connect each earring to a jump ring using pliers. Next, thread the leaf’s stem through the jump ring, and fold over 3 or 4 times. Add a drop of super glue to give the fold a little extra strength.

Recycled Ginkgo Leaf Earrings



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