Last Updated on December 1, 2021
An estimated 350 million magazines are printed in the U.S. every year. Of those 350 million, experts argue that only 20% are recycled. (Yes, they are recyclable!) Shocking? Absolutely. Avoidable? Definitely. Thankfully there are so many ways to reuse, upcycle, and repurpose old magazines.
But first, I have a confession to make… I love magazines… I still remember my grandmother buying me a subscription to Seventeen magazine when I was a freshman in high school. Every month, I’d run into my room with the new issue and pore through the fashion recommendations, the embarrassing stories, and all the pictures. I’d cut out the pictures to make mood boards or what I like to call analog-pinterest.
Now, I consume most of my content digitally, but I still love magazines. I don’t do it often, but as a treat, I still love to pick up a recipe magazine and flip through it. Justin and I used to do this as a date night. We’d flip through together – pick out a new plant-based recipe to try and then make it because sometimes it’s just nice to do something together without a screen. And, thankfully there are a lot of fun ways to reuse (ala analog pinterest) or you can always donate magazines, but more on that in a bit.
There are a few ways to repurpose old magazines before recycling them. From upcycled holiday decorations and wrappings to DIY bookmarks and dishes, the different ways to reuse old issues or even donate magazines are easier than you might think. Don’t be afraid to get crafty – the zero waste lifestyle is all about taking something old and making it new again without harming the environment.
If you’ve let your magazines pile up, instead of dumping all your old periodicals into the recycle bin, try your hand at repurposing those monthly mags. I know what you’re thinking—collages made from perfume ads and haute couture campaigns can read a little tacky unless you’re an early aught teen. But believe me, there are some cute and eco-friendly ways you can repurpose old magazines. Promise.
You should absolutely recycle old subscriptions that are no longer serving a purpose in your home, but there are so many unique things you can do before dumping a pile of magazines into the recycle bin.
The idea of upcycling isn’t new to the zero waste community; after all “reuse” is second in the reduce, reuse, recycle hierarchy. And, it’s one way you can contribute to a sustainable lifestyle. Check out these chic and crafty ways you can take something old and make it new again.
Instead of going out and spending a ton of money on Christmas wrapping paper — that will just get thrown out anyway— why not use the pages from your old magazines instead?
Part of the fun of giving a gift is wrapping it up. By taking the time to wrap a small present in recycled pages from your friend’s or parent’s favorite read, you’ll be adding an extra layer of personalization that won’t go unnoticed.
For bigger bagged gifts, you can use magazine pages instead of tissue paper! Especially if your gift comes in a plain brown bag— the glossy pages from your favorite monthly read will add a touch of color and a pop of personality!
Step 1: Crack the spine back in the opposite direction of the fold.
Step 2: Fold the top right corner of the cover down along the side. This will make a triangle shape.
Step 3: Take your crisply folded paper. Then fold it back toward the binding once again to make a nice skinny triangle.
Step 4: You’ll have a strip at the bottom of the triangle leftover that you can fold back into the triangle, hiding it.
Step 5: Repeat until every page is folded into a triangle, making a beautiful upcycled Christmas tree!
add an embellishment
Ever looked at a gift and thought, “What this thing needs is a bow,” but you haven’t wanted to make an extra trip to the store? Now you can whip up your own bow in minutes by just following these simple steps:
Step 1: Cut a page lengthwise into 9 strips roughly ¾” wide.
Step 2: Cut 1” off of 3 strips. Then 2” off of 2 strips.
Step 3: Cut the last strip so it’s 3.5” long.
Step 4: Twist each strip so it forms a loop at both ends. Staple in the middle.
Step 5: The shortest strip you’ll glue into a circle.
Step 6: Layer the 3 longest pieces you’ve looped on top of each other. Make sure they’re spaced evenly, then secure with hot glue.
Step 7: Repeat with the rest of your pieces and stick the circle in the center!
If you’re looking for more holiday craft inspiration, and you have a few cereal boxes lying around you have to check out these amazing paper ornaments.
Decoupage is one of the quickest and easiest ways to make DIY decorative crafts at home.
Chances are you have almost everything you need in your kitchen junk drawer! You’ll need:
- Mod Podge
- Old magazines
Creating unique and funky vases, bowls, wall decals, or dresser drawers just got a whole lot easier— and eco friendly!
This is a great activity if you have little ones in the house. An easy application of origami, this how-to is a great gift idea or rainy-day craft.
Rip out a few of your favorite pages and create a bookmark that reflects the theme of the book it’s going to live in. Choose gardening issues for plant and garden books or cooking zines for marking your favorite recipes in an heirloom cookbook.
repurposed butterfly chain
This is a great way to add a little bit of whimsy to your zero waste lifestyle. Just cut magazine pages into almond shapes and fold accordion style. Pinch in the middle and tie them all together using twine. These would be great for a nursery or even as party decor!
zine stack stool
Still don’t know what to do with old magazines that are piling up? Transform that pile into a DIY stool that is both functional and decorative. All you need is a wooden base, two thrifted belts, a cushion, and—of course— a stack of your favorite leftover issues.
What a cool and unique way to turn your monthly reads into a piece of art! And art with a function is always desirable in an eco-friendly household.
Step 1: Stack your magazines together on your wooden base. You don’t even need legs for this.
Step 2: Top with a cushion that has the same measurements as your zines.
Step 3: Loop the belts around the base and buckle on top of the cushion tight.
Give your living room some extra seating and a dash of fancy with this eccentric design choice. Plus, you can switch your reading material out every season!
where can I donate magazines?
Many organizations will repurpose old magazines for their own DIY projects and crafts. Here are a few places that typically accept these kinds of donations:
- Local library
- Nursing homes
- Military troops
- Women and family shelters
- Doctor and dentist offices
- Preschools and daycares
can I put magazines in the recycle bin?
Yes, as long as you take the plastic off first! Check beauty and fashion issues for perfume and skincare samples, and be sure to pull those out as well.
is decoupage toxic?
Carpenter’s glue is durable, non-toxic, and biodegradable. Another eco-friendly option is Elmer’s glue, and it can be purchased almost anywhere.
But, did you know it’s SUPER easy to make your own glue using just three kitchen ingredients?
- 2 tablespoons corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- ½ cup cornstarch
- ¾ cup cold water
Boil your water, syrup, and vinegar. Slowly add in the cornstarch and cold water. Whisk together, allow to cool, and then store in a mason jar! Food coloring can be added but isn’t necessary.