The Best DIY Paper Projects

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Last week we covered five craft projects using plastics around your home. But after our editor did her own trash audit, we found that paper is a huge part of the average household waste stream.

While 87 percent (approximately 268 million) 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.

Cardboard Chair

Last year, Earth911 attempted 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 learn a lot.

Earth911 staffer Jennifer Berry strikes a pose on our completed cardboard chair challenge.

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 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 grab a margarita. Ole!

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 a hard fix no matter how many experts you have on hand. In the end, learning to accept the flaws may be the biggest challenge of all. Read more: Reuse Challenge: The Cardboard Chair

Tetra Pak Coin Purse

Tetra Pak or similar cartons are found all over the kitchen, 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 ingredient for craft projects. Our favorite find was a small coin purse from Esprit Cabane.

Carton packaging is a sturdy material that is sure to hold up in even the most unorganized of purses. Photo: Esprit Cabane

What you’ll need: colorful Tetra Pak packaging (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.

Magazine Bowl

The intricacy speaks for itself. This project is time-consuming, but the outcome is gorgeous, to say the least. It’s the perfect talking piece for any coffee table.

Originally posted on A Little Hut by Patricia Zapata, the good thing about this project is that you’ll need minimal materials. However, you will need an abundance of patience. We also suggest taking a look at the original post’s photos for a visual step-by-step representation.

While it may look like a ton of paper, this magazine bowl project will require about half of just one issue. Photo: Patricia Zapata, A Little Hut

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 step that is about a half-inch thick. This will be the same step you will repeat for each layer.

Step #2: Add each strip to your foundation piece by keeping the folded edge outside and the open side toward the inside. When your base is wide enough (about 5 inches across), start to build “up” by placing each strip about one-eighth of an inch above 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 fast.

Step #4: Build the strips up and out to your desired height.

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.

While this shipping envelope project requires some sewing, it's pretty quick and easy, saving both time and money. Photo: Team EcoEtsy

We love this particular project from Team EcoEtsy because it uses both materials to make a useful product that we all have to buy at some point – shipping envelopes.

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 your product 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 product 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 product is heavier).

Step #4: Place the product in the envelope, fold the top flap over and stitch or use packaging tape to close.

Read more

Fun Crafts With Used Plastic
8 Ways to Reuse Your Jeans
8 Ways and Whys to Reuse Plastic
8 Ways to Reuse Your T-shirt

  • MTorelli

    For the magazine page bowl, I think I need either diagrams or pictures of the early stages to see how this folded pages are glued together to make the bowl.

  • Cread

    These are the best projects ever and I think you need a cardboard couch.

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  • Bailey

    Very cool! I love the chair but what if you sit on it and it falls apart? I love this website and thank you for making it because who ever comes on here i hope learns that how importent the earth is!

  • Sugar Bear

    For the envelope… just use staples.

  • Dave

    That magazine bowl is really cool. I’ll have to try it with some Elmer’s Ultimate Glue.