How to reuse paper


Paper can easily be tossed into your recycling bin, but consider the hierarchy of the “Three R’s:” reduce, reuse, recycle. If you find a way to reuse paper — whether it is office printer paper, paper bags or newspapers — you can give the material new life and lessen your contribution to the waste stream.

Paper accounts for about half of all recyclables collected in the United States by weight. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 43 million tons of paper and paperboard were recovered in 2013, which is a recycling rate of about 63 percent. 

Even paper recycling is fairly robust, the paper is so easy and useful to upcycle it seems a shame to send it right to the bin.

Whether you choose to collect leftover flyers from a recent event or have accumulated a stack of paper bags from grocery shopping, here are eight useful ways to reuse paper around the house.


Creating your own jewelry is one way to ensure that your look is unique. If you are making an effort to be more sustainable in your fashion choices, what better way than to make a necklace out of upcycled paper beads? You can easily make paper beads by following this tutorial from Spruce Crafts.


Carry your farmers market produce in a lightweight basket made from strips of paper. This DIY upcycled paper basket from Design*Sponge sews and glues the strips together is definitely for craftier homesteaders, but the finished product is both adorable and sustainable.


Save money on gardening supplies by transforming paper waste into mulch. Shred brown paper bags, printer paper or any other non-glossy paper and scatter it across the surface of your garden. The easy upcycled mulch that will help you block weeds and retain moisture in your soil. 


Looking for a spot to jot down your thoughts during the workday? Cut the paper into squares and secure the cut sheets with glue (or clip them with a binder clip) to make quick recycled notepads that will save you money on office supplies. Instructables shows you how.


If you want to take your upcycled notepad to the next level, turn it into a full-sized journal. You can even use it as a garden journal. Follow this DIY from Design*Sponge to make a recycled paper journal.


Instead of buying standard white envelopes, you can fold all sorts of used paper — magazines, bags, what have you — into personalized envelopes for your pen pals. The U.S. postal service will accept the envelopes as long as the envelope is a standard size, the contents and the outside of your envelope are flat and even, the envelope is not made out of a reflective material and the address on the envelope is legible. My Poppet Makes has a printable template and easy instructions you can use to make your own. 

Gift wrap

If you have stacks of old magazines lying around, save money (and paper) during the holiday season by upcycling the glossy pages into gift wrap. Snapguide shows you how to turn your outdated subscriptions into chic, unique wrapping paper. 

Pet cage liner

It’s the punchline of jokes, but also totally practical. You can reuse paper to line your pet’s cage as long as the paper is not printed with toxic ink (brown paper bags, newspapers and black and white printed office paper are usually fine).

Do you have a favorite way to reuse paper? Add it to the comments below.

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