Earth911 has covered craft projects using paper around your home for many years. During our recent home waste audit series, we found that paper is a huge part of the average household waste stream. It renewed our commitment to the thoughtful reuse of paper, so we’ve updated our best DIY paper projects to focus on creating items you can really use.
While 73 percent of Americans have access to curbside or drop-off paper recycling programs, we always love a good do-it-yourself adventure. Here are some of our favorite ideas using paper.
Editor’s note: This article contains affiliate links that help fund our Recycling Directory, the most comprehensive in North America.
Test your DIY skills with the ultimate in cardboard reuse: furniture. We designed and executed the most basic cardboard chair, and while even a simple design was hard work, it proved to be worthwhile as we learned a lot. Instructables has step-by-step instructions for one style of cardboard chair as well as suggestions for four other styles of DIY cardboard chairs. And SofasandSectionals has five-step instructions for a different style of chair you can make from cardboard.
What you’ll need: cardboard, box cutter, straight edge, wood glue, decoration materials (markers, stickers, etc.), string
Step #1: Gather the cardboard. You won’t need a ton, but you will need some larger pieces, such as four 24″ x 18″ rectangles to make your side frames.
Step #2: Cut the various pieces needed. We used 17 in total. Note: If you want to decorate your pieces, do it now before they are assembled. It’s much easier to draw on a flat surface than a completed chair.
Step #3: Assemble the pieces, using the wood glue as necessary. We also used string to help hold the pieces tightly together while they dried. We recommend at least two hours for drying time, if not more. Overnight is best — if you can wait that is.
Step #4: Sit back, relax, and enjoy your hard work.
Taking more time, having sharper box cutters, and maybe more experienced builders would have corrected some of our issues. However, working with the cardboard itself was a bit of a struggle, which is hard to rectify no matter how many experts you have on hand. In the end, learning to accept the flaws may be the biggest challenge of all.
Tetra Pak Coin Purse
You may have Tetra Pak or similar cartons in your kitchen, holding food products ranging from juice boxes to soup. While this packaging is made from paper, the coated lining that makes it waterproof often makes it hard to recycle as well. But the great part about this material is that it makes for a sturdy material for craft projects. Our favorite find was a small coin purse from Esprit Cabane. There is a detailed instruction guide for this project at Instructables.
What you’ll need: A colorful Tetra Pak package (don’t worry about text or branding as the folding will make it unreadable), box cutter, staples or tape, self-adhesive Velcro, decoration materials (buttons, beads, etc.)
Step #1: Rinse out the carton, unfold corners, and flatten to dry.
Step #2: Cut off the top and bottom portions of carton using a box cutter.
Step #3: Fold the carton in half and cut off one-third of one of “half sides” to make the flap.
Step #4: Refold the carton into three sections. Staple or tape the inside edges to make the pockets.
Step #5: Add two pieces of self-adhesive Velcro to close the purse. Remember to allow for coin thickness. For an individual touch, adorn with a bead or button.
The intricacy of this project speaks for itself. This project is time-consuming, but we think the outcome is gorgeous. It’s the perfect talking piece for any coffee table.
Originally posted on A Little Hut by Patricia Zapata, this project requires minimal materials. However, you will need an abundance of patience. We suggest you take a look at the photos and instructions for a visual step-by-step representation.
What you’ll need: one magazine (you probably won’t use more than half of it), glue gun
Step #1: Tear out individual pages from the magazine. Don’t worry about making them perfect. Fold each page lengthwise in half. Then, fold each piece in half about four times until you have a strip that is about a half-inch thick. Repeat this step for each layer.
Step #2: Add each strip to your foundation piece by keeping the folded edge outside of the circle and the open side toward the inside. When your base is wide enough (about 5 inches across), start to build the bowl by placing each strip about one-eighth of an inch higher than the previous row.
Step #3: Glue down each strip of paper, leaving a small piece unglued so you can tuck it into the strip under it. Note: Place each strip as quickly and efficiently as possible as the glue dries really quickly.
Step #4: Build the strips up and out to make the bowl as big as you desire.
Shopping Bag Shipping Envelope
As much as we vow to bring our reusable bags to the grocery store, sometimes we just forget when making those last-minute stops. It’s safe to say that most of us have both paper and plastic bags stuffed under the sink or in the pantry. The original instructions were on a EcoEtsy page that’s no longer live.
What you’ll need: one brown paper bag, one plastic bag (used as a moisture barrier but is not always needed), sewing machine or needle and thread (sewing will make this more durable during transport), packaging tape, permanent glue (if sewing isn’t an option)
Step #1: Neatly wrap the item you want to ship in the plastic bag — no need for tape — it’ll stay neatly wrapped in your finished envelope.
Step #2: Cut the paper bag on its seam and lay flat, then place your item on top and start folding. Make the envelope big enough for a little wiggle room plus about a half-inch on each side for stitching. Cut away the excess paper and fold the left and right sides closed.
Step #3: Run a line of machine stitching down each side or stitch by hand. For those completely opposed to sewing, it may be possible to use heavy-duty permanent glue. But we haven’t tested this option, so keep that in mind when shipping (especially if the item you are shipping is heavy).
Step #4: Place the item in the envelope, fold the top flap over, and stitch or use packaging tape to close.
Editor’s note: Originally published on February 22, 2010, this article was updated in October 2018.