Archive for the ‘Paper’ Category

Repurposeful wrapping

I’ve posted on this idea before, but I wanted to bring it up one more time. Child artwork makes great wrapping paper. Not only does it help clear out your cabinet full of salvaged artwork, but it’s a money-saver (no need to buy a new roll for a special occasion), it’s unique and thoughtful, and of course, it’s a green solution for wrapping a package.

Photo by hoyasmeg.2104152944_27eb8892b1


Smaller packages work best when using artwork as wrapping paper. However, if you have several larger pieces that are color coordinated (from the last paint session where your child created 8 different masterpieces), you can easily tape pages together to wrap a larger gift.

Turn it into a project! Gather several pieces of large paper and spend an afternoon creating wrapping paper for the upcoming gift-giving season. You’ll be giving your kids a constructive activity while making cheap and one-of-a-kind wrapping paper.


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…doubles quite nicely as a drying rack.



And did you know, that an old table cloth work great as a drop cloth for kids’ painting projects? 


And when you’re done with said art project, be sure to keep all large pieces of artwork to use them later as wrapping paper for gifts. We did this recently for another child’s birthday party gift and the unique wrapping paper was a hit with kids and parents.


Happy art-making!

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I’m talking about newspaper, of course. There are quite a few things you can do with a newspaper after you’ve scanned the headlines. Here are a few of my favorite.




1. Keep the weeds at bay. Apparently, weeds can’t penetrate wet newspaper. The next time you have some planting to do, lay down sheets of newspaper around your plants and wet it thoroughly before applying a top layer of mulch.


2. Clean windows. Crumpled newspaper cleans glass better (and much cheaper) than paper towels. Save yourself even more money by making a homemade cleaning solution of vinegar and water. And no, ink will not rub off on the glass, but do be careful that it doesn’t run onto window frames or walls.


3. Birth day gift. Not a birthday gift — a birth day gift. Keep a local or national paper printed on the day of your child’s birth or for a friend or family member’s new baby. I have one fore each of my boys and I know they will enjoy reading through them when they’re older.


4. Reusable bag. If you have a few spare minutes and some patience, make a reusable or gift bag from a newspaper. Check out this cool tutorial for instructions.  


5. Odor eater. Newspapers absorb odors. Place a stack in a smelly shoe closet, your refrigerator or in a cooler to prevent stinky-cooler-syndrome.



Photo by Hamed Saber.

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I’m guessing there are at least one or two of you out there who still haven’t put together your child’s Easter goodies. Don’t fret — you still have time. Here are some ideas for Easter baskets that are inexpensive, environmentally friendly and perfect for last-minute planning.




Eco-friendly, last minute Easter baskets

The basket

If you don’t already, please reuse your child’s Easter basket from year to year. Just like a Christmas stocking, your child will appreciate the familiarity of his basket and look forward to seeing it filled on Easter morning.


If you’re in need of a basket this year, consider a few options:

  • ask a friend or neighbor if they have an extra basket lying around that isn’t being used; you can offer to return it, but they’ll probably just let you keep it
  • go “shopping” in your closets and attics for a basket you already own that’s collecting dust; even if it’s not in Easter colors, the goodies you put inside will make up for a dull looking basket
  • think outside the basket — a galvanized metal flower pot, a straw hat, a decorated milk jug or coffee can would all make for great Easter baskets
  • pop into a thrift store; I can’t tell you how many baskets I’ve seen in thrift stores and they’re almost always less than $1
  • if you purchase a basket new, spend a few extra dollars for a quality basket; the longer it lasts, the more use your children (and maybe their children) will get out of it


The “grass”

Personally, I can’t stand traditional plastic Easter grass. But opinions aside, it makes a mess, it’s harmful to landfills and it’s a choking hazard to small children and pets. Consider something different this year.


Shredded paper. To make it colorful, shred the comics section of the newspaper, colorful advertising circulars or colored-on pages of your child’s coloring book.

Clothing or cloth. If one of your gifts is a new t-shirt, beach towel or something made of cloth, use it to line the bottom of the basket.

Candy. Ok, so not the healthiest option, but a big bag of jelly beans would create a nice lining at the bottom of a basket. 

Nothing. This is my favorite. Let’s be honest, do kids really care about what lines their basket? Forget the filler altogether and just fill it with the good stuff.


The goods

When this time of year comes around, I can’t help but notice the over-abundance of cheapo plastic toys that line the shelves. And parents fall into the trap (I’ve been guilty of this too) of thinking more is better. Fill that basket up with as much candy and junk as it will fit! Instead, purchase just a few quality items (and yes, candy too) for your child’s basket. Again, the items will last longer and can be passed on to another child when they’re no longer of interest to yours.


As for candy, think about packaging when you purchase. I love a bag of mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups as much as the next person, but there is a lot of extra packaging waste as compared with a giant bag of jelly beans or Whoppers eggs.


Eggs: Plastic vs. Real

This is a tough one. To be honest, I’m not sure which one has a bigger environmental impact, but I have my guess. On the one hand, plastic eggs can be reused year after year, unless your dog chews one up or you inadvertently step on one (speaking from experience here). On the other hand, real eggs can be eaten (if they have only been out of the refrigerator for less than 2 hours) and they’re biodegradable. From a practical standpoint, both types of eggs require work. Real ones take time to decorate, plastic ones take time (and more money!) to fill them. If you plan to use plastic, here are a few economical ideas other than candy to fill them:

  • pennies — a big hit with younger kids
  • make coupons for getting out of a chore for a day or a special day with mom or dad
  • stickers — chances are your child already has oodles of stickers; grab a few from her collection to fill some of the eggs
  • dandelions or other treasures from nature (again, works well for younger kids)



Photo by daBinsi.

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This little trick for repurposing junk mail envelopes is so cool! (What does that say about my life when I get excited over envelopes? That’s a rhetorical question, folks.)


Ever since posting about making notepads from junk mail envelopes, I’ve been saving a stash of envelopes in my kitchen drawer. And since I haven’t actually taken the time to make more notepads, the stash has over-grown(remember the pitfalls of repurposing?). Yesterday I discovered another use for junk mail envelopes — make-your-own labels and stickers.


Repurpose an envelope flap into labels and stickers

1. Save unused junk mail envelopes (like the return envelopes sent with credit card offers, etc.).


2. When preparing your label or sticker, cut off the flap of an envelope.


3. Cut down the flap to the size you need for your label or sticker.


4. Write on or decorate the non-sticky side of your label.


5. Lick it & stick it!


So far, I thought of a few great uses for the envelope flap labels around my house: 016

  • file folder labels for your my office
  • date leftover food containers in my refrigerator (label will come off when container is washed)
  • re-mail a previously used envelope and use the flap labels to cover up the address and return address areas
  • make-your-own-stickers art project for the kiddies
  • make a “This Book Belongs To:_______” book plate
  • label my son’s sippy cup (great for his morning out/preschool program where the cups are not washed before being sent home)



Thanks to the creator behind Junk Mail Gems for this idea! She has an awesome step-by-step tutorial on her site for creating envelope flap labels.

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I’m assuming that those of you reading this blog already print on both sides of your computer paper at home, so I didn’t bother with a post on that tip. (If you don’t, please start — it just makes sense!) That being said, once both sides are printed and done being used, what do you do with used up paper?


At my house, in which a freelance editor and a masters’ student both reside, we accumulate a good amount of double-side printed paper. I keep a box in my office where I stockpile used up paper. Sure, I could just recycle it, but that’s so un-repurposeful.



8 ways to repurpose shredded paper

1. Compost it. Simple, easy and an excellent choice for documents with sensitive or financial information.


2. Packing material. Best only for paper that does not contain personal or financial information.


3. Kitty litter alternative. Cheaper, safer and better for your household environment. On the down side, you’ll probably have to change the box more often.


4. Animal bedding. For caged critters or, on a larger scale, farm animals.


5. Gift bag/gift basket liner. Nice alternative to store-bought tissue paper. Would also work well in place of Easter basket grass (I hate that stuff!). For a more colorful and decorative look, shred the newspaper comics section, colorful advertising circulars or repurpose your children’s artwork (I’m sure you can afford to sacrifice a few of the thousand pieces you’re saving).


6. Worm food. Perfect for your vermiculture project.


7. Make homemade paper. Here’s a cool tutorial.


8. Rainy day fun. Fill a kiddie pool or large box full of shredded paper and let your kids go to town. Yes, the result will be messy, but your kids will have a blast and you’ll get some extra time to check e-mail or put your feet up.


Photo by Joe Shlabotnik.

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Product Spotlight: Letterfu

This isn’t so much of a product, but an idea… and it’s F-R-E-E! Plus, it’s green, resourceful and just plain cool. So cool, in fact, that it may prompt you to take up old fashioned letter writing again.


Letterfu is a site that provides free templates for folding a letter into an envelope. In other words, you can write your letter on the same piece of paper that you send it in! No glue, no envelopes and no cutting! It saves paper, it’s really cool, it’s free and sending a letter is a surefire way to brighten someone’s day. Letterfu offers template designs for Valentine’s Day, Christmas and just plain ole’ letters. Go check it out!

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If left untamed, art supplies (your children’s or your own) can take on a life of their own. Even if you have a designated cabinet or closet, they still seem to creep, crawl, scatter and sprawl all over the place. But, you can get organized and you can do it for FREE! Look no further than your own recycle bin to get started.


Clean up your art closet and find new tools using recyclables

Paint pots:

  • single-serve yogurt cups
  • jar lids
  • soda bottle cap
  • mini Play Doh containers
  • egg cartons

Paint brush water pots:

  • single-serve yogurt cups
  • large Play Doh containers
  • tin cans (be sure there are no sharp edges)

Paint brushes:

  • store wet brushes with an altered yogurt tub
  • store dry brushes in an old silverware tray

Markers, crayons, colored pencils:

Coloring books and magazines:

  • turn a cereal box into a book and magazine holder


  • for a paper tray, cut out the front and one end piece of a cereal box 
  • to make a storage tray system, cut off only one end of several cereal boxes and stack them


Bits and bobs (beads, googley eyes, etc.):

  • spice jars (please only use plastic spice jars for younger kids),
  • baby food jars or baby food plastic containers (again, only plastic for the kiddos)
  • old or unused tool box or tackle box

Finished artwork:

  • line dry artwork with a hung piece of string and binder clips
  • create a custom art clip rack
  • store completed artwork on a clip board
  • roll up finished art and store it in a cardboard tube (from paper towel or wrapping paper)

To protect surfaces:

  • an old shower curtain or curtain liner
  • a vinyl placemat
  • newspapers or grocery store circulars
  • an old t-shirt or men’s button down dress shirt works well as a smock


If you’re organizing for children, keep in mind not to over-organize. The fewer containers there are to put things away, the easier it is for them to clean up… and therefore, the more likely it is that they will clean up [hopefully].


Photo by kissyface.

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In many parts of the world right now, cold and flu season is in full swing. Unfortunately, that also means that the tissues (Kleenex) are flying. I would guess that as a family of four, we go through a box of tissues every few days during the winter. A whole lot of tissues = a whole lot of empty tissue boxes. To offset my family’s paper waste (tissues cannot be recycled)  and keep my good recycling karma, I reuse empty tissue boxes as mini trash cans.


Tissue box trash can

Where to use it: in a craft or sewing room, a child’s room, or any place where trash is in small amounts. Also perfect in the baby’s nursery as a receptacle for used wipes (cloth or disposable) when using cloth diapers. 

What do do when it’s full: empty and reuse it of course! If it has become wet, dirty or otherwise un-reusable, empty it and recycle it. If it’s full of paper-only material, you can throw the whole box and contents into your paper recycling bin.


Take this One Small Step one step further: Try using a hanky, even occasionally, to cut down on your tissue use. This may not be the ideal choice for everyone, but it’s worth a try! If you don’t have a hanky, you can cut down and repurpose a piece of flannel or other soft material. 


Photo by ladybugbkt.


Related Posts:

One Small Step

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One Small Step: Junk mail

I can think of so many reasons why I loathe junk mail–waste of time, waste of paper, just plain WASTE! But since Valentine’s Day is near and everyone is in that lovey dovey, I [heart] everything mode, I’m giving junk mail a second chance. With this idea for repurposing junk mail, you might just change your mind too.

Turning junk mail into notepads 

1. Save junk mail envelopes–both the outer envelopes and the reply envelopes. Once you have a decent sized stack (this should only take about 2 days!), line ’em up, right side up.

2. Fold your stack in half and cut along the crease. 


3. Take one side, line ’em up again, and cut off all edges of the envelope except for one– this will be where you put a staple in your notepad.


 4. Cut up a discarded/recycled food or cereal box for the bottom of your notepad. Slip a few sheets of envelope paper in the fold of the cardboard and put a staple in the top. Voila! Cute little notepads to stash in in your car, near the phone or by your bedside (for all those late-night brilliant ideas).



Take this One Small Step one step further: Did you know that the average person spends about 8 months of their life opening junk mail? There are steps you can take to significantly reduce the amount of junk mail you receive. Check out this great article to get started.

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