Posts tagged "stationery"

What can I reuse or recycle to be an eco-friendly pen-pal?

Mary has asked a fun question:

I have a bit of a dilemma. I’m from Minnesota USA, and I have a pen pal in California. We love sending “snail mail” to each other in this day of somewhat impersonal emails/Facebook. While it’s very fun, I’ve recently been thinking about the waste. I keep the cards she sends me, but is there a way to purchase/make more eco friendly cards and envelopes? Thanks!

I’ve been thinking about going back to snail mail for keeping in contact with some people recently (to cut down my computer time) so this is a very well timed question!

You certainly can buy cards and envelopes made by upcycling old paper – old packaging, old maps, old books – all sorts of stuff. If you search for “recycled envelopes” on Etsy, you’ll see the range of stuff available (including ones from friend of Recycle This, SwirlyArts.) You could make your own if you’re that way inclined too.

Look around your home/office to see what you can reuse as writing paper – on my desk in front of me right now, I could use the white-side of some pretty-designed security envelopes, a brown paper bag or if I was feeling more delicate than I generally am, an old sewing pattern. I’d probably cut them neatly with a guillotine or straight scissors, but scrapbookers/papercrafters with the tools on hand could jazz them up with wavy scissors or punch designs. One pre-cut idea might be to use old blurry photos – the type that aren’t suitable for the photo album but look pleasantly abstract by themselves.

Another idea might be to use cards that will serve a different purpose once they arrive with your message – the most obvious idea is picking ones that are so pretty that they can be framed as art, either individually or if you fancy something bigger & bolder and a fun ongoing project, you could make your own large scale design (perhaps by decorating/upcycling card/cardboard packaging) and chop it into card size pieces for gradual reassembly at the other end. More practically, you could find/make a design for recipe cards or dividers for a seed box (or anything your penpal might use for a hobby) – print it on one side of your card/paper and write your message on the back.

A finally suggestion/question from me: it is, of course, better to Reduce than reuse or recycle – would it be possible to make a secure reusable envelope/pouch that could be sent back and forth? If it can be made from existing materials all the better – any ideas?

Any other suggestions for Mary?

How can I reuse or recycle plastic shipping/mailing bags?

Kayci has emailed:

First off, I absolutely love your website and all the nifty and creative ideas your community finds.

Now for a confession: I am a bookworm. I typically go through 100+ novels a year without breaking a sweat. In an effort to try and green up my hobbies I’ve stopped going to the used bookstore as often, as it is a twenty mile drive, and when I do go I always buy in bulk. I’ve also switched from Amazon to They’re consistently cheaper, and they reward you for buying used books out of the same location.

My problem? Amazon always uses boxes, even if it was three or four of them per order. My new website sends my books in one large plastic bag (picture enclosed) that is numberless as far as recycling is concerned. The bags in question (I’ve amassed six so far) are 12×16 inches and have some minor holes from the shipping process. The texture of the bag isn’t conducive to making it into plarn, as it stretches out very easily. Any other ideas?

Hi fellow bookworm :)

The first thing you should do is email thriftbooks and explain your problem – they might not take action and change to cardboard (or similar) straightaway but the more people who complain about it, the more likely they are to change at some point — so join that chorus.

If they’re in good condition, and have been opened neatly with scissors, they can be reused for their original purpose – as a slightly smaller mailing sack next time you need to send something out. Unless you send a lot of things though, they may quickly mount up.

When we get those type of bags (and actually there is one on my desk right now that needs reusing!), we tend to use them as bin liners – obviously holey ones aren’t going to be good for small/wet rubbish but they’re fine in most circumstances.

That’s not terrible creative though – any other ideas?

How can I reuse or recycle whiteboard marker pens?

We’ve had an email from Julie asking:

Can I recycle whiteboard marker pens? What plastic are they?

I don’t know what plastic they are. I’ve spent about an hour this morning reading the “about our products” page of all the marker pen manufacturers I can think of but no one mentions that – and no one mentions that. (They do though tell you how many solar panels are on their factory, or how they print the name of the markers onto the marker barrel. You know, useful stuff like that). ANYWAY. I’ll shoot emails off to all those companies to see if anyone of them can help us out with some info.

Even if the barrel is a recyclable plastic, it probably won’t be a case of just throwing in them in a green bin – you’ll probably have to remove the writing core (the ink “tampon” – see the things I learn reading these pen websites!) as that’ll be different from the hard plastic of the barrel. You can apparently get refillable whiteboard markers – you either resoak the “tampon” inside with more ink or replace the whole ink bit with a new pre-soaked one. Needless to say, the time/mess/expense of doing that means that only the dedicated will do it – for the rest, it’s easier & cheaper to replace & throw away disposable ones, sigh.

Does anyone know any more about recycling them? Or has any “reducing” ideas – how to make them last longer, which brands to get/avoid, alternatives in the first place? And can they be reused for anything?

How can I reuse or recycle window envelopes?

We’ve talked about envelopes in general and special types of envelopes – liked padded ones and plastic mailing bags – but I wondered if there are any reuses that take advantage of the see-through bit of window envelopes.

Different places have different policies on whether or not they can be including in general paper recycling bins – some complain about the window, others about the window & glue. The only snail mail I send is either parcels or things that arrived with a pre-addressed/pre-paid envelope so I can’t really reuse them as envelopes. Instead, the blank parts from the backs of envelopes goes into my desk scrap paper pad. If it’s been printed on, it goes into the kindling pile for our stove – but either way, the window comes out.

So any reusing/recycling ideas for intact window envelopes, that take advantage of the window? Or any suggestions for reusing the window by itself?

(Btw, I’ve noticed that some window envelopes are now made from glassine – a largely transparent type of paper. Glassine is not accepted in all paper recycling collection bin and it takes its sweet sweet time to compost because it is water-resistant – best to leave it out of your bin if you want a quick turnover.)

How can I reuse or recycle little pencil stubs?

Over on the Suggest an Item page, Kate asked:

What can I do with old pencil stubs, the used ones that are too small to write with any more?

Stubs of old crayons are super easy to reuse – just melt a load down into a new, easy-to-hold shape and off you go – but I suspect pencils will be harder.

I vaguely remember being a kid and taping two together, end to end, to make a slightly longer, double-ended pencil – and it seems you can buy gizmos to help you do that now (although I’m pretty sure I just used tape).

I also know that Jane Eldershaw of JunkJewelry uses the ends of pencils in her work.

Any other reusing or recycling ideas?