ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Reuse Envelopes (And Be a Little Greener)

Updated on February 13, 2014

Think Before You Toss that Envelope

How many envelopes do you think you toss in the recycling bin, on a regular basis? (And please don't say, "none, they all go in the trash!") You can reuse, recycle, and use up, those envelopes instead.

By reusing the envelopes you get in the mail, in place of using other paper sources, you'll decrease the overall amount of paper that ends up in the recycling bin. Remember, although the mission is to recycle rather than fill a landfill, there is no nobility in having the fullest recycling bin in the neighborhood, either. We want to reduce ALL our waste, trash and recycling, alike.

Let's make sure you get every last bit of goodness out of those envelopes so that if they do end up in the recycling bin, they will have lived a full and useful life!

How many envelopes would you guess come into your house with the daily mail delivery (on average)?

See results
c. bossypants
c. bossypants

An Envelope is Perfect as a Shopping List

Use the back of the envelope to write out your shopping list and slip your coupons inside the envelope.

Hey, if Abraham Lincoln could put the Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope, you can put your grocery list on one. (And, who knows? Maybe someday it will end up in the Museum of You!)

c. bossypants
c. bossypants

Envelope Corners Make Quick Page Markers

Cut the corner off one of the closed ends of the envelope. You can slip this corner over the corner of the page in the book you're reading to hold your place.

This is an especially useful way to use colored envelopes (and printed advertising envelopes), as the color will stand out against the white pages, when the book is closed.

You can also use these page markers to mark recipes in cookbooks, or to tab research items, reducing your dependence on Post It adhesive notes or page flags.

Note: When using colored envelopes (especially near other valuable paper) be sure to test the paper for colorfastness. Some envelope dyes will run when wet, and you don't want to damage your cookbooks, or resource books.

What do you do with used envelopes?

See results
c. bossypants
c. bossypants

Envelopes Are the Foundation for a Bookmark Craft

For fancier page holders, cut along the edge of the envelope, with the postage stamp at the top, to make a bookmark. Use as is, or mount onto a piece of contrasting colored paper (from another envelope, of course).

You can dress these up even more by pulling a piece of ribbon through a hole punched in the top, just like the fancy bookstore bookmarks. Clever crafters will also use rubber stamps, other punches ... maybe round the corners - heck you could even laminate your masterpiece to preserve it for all time, and give it as a gift!

Oh, and if your friendly correspondent uses fancy return address labels with a pretty picture next to their address, you can cut the strip down from there, so the picture is at the top, in place of the postage stamp.

If you really get into the bookmark thing to the point where you have more bookmarks than you could ever use, consider donating them to your local library. They may be able to sell them in a fundraiser, or even give them away to their patrons.

c. bossypants
c. bossypants

Envelopes Can Become Decorative Paper

Look closely at the picture to the right. Can you guess how that patterned paper began its humble life? (Okay that would be a tougher question if we weren't talking about envelopes, wouldn't it?) Did you ever think of safety envelopes as decorative paper? And you thought nothing good came in a bill envelope! Well get out those colored pencils and markers and start creating one of a kind paper for craft projects, right now!

Note: It's quite likely that the envelopes you're using are not acid free. If using these project ideas with photographs, use copies of your photos, not the originals, which may be damaged by the acid over time.

c. bossypants
c. bossypants

Envelopes Make Great Packing Material

Raise your hand if you hate those Styrofoam peanuts. I thought so.

When you've squeezed all you can out of your envelopes, run the leftovers through your paper shredder and use the contents of the shredder bin as packing material. If it's really pretty, you can even use it as gift box stuffing.

You needn't be logged in as a Squidoo member to comment.

What Do You Do with Your Envelopes? - Please leave a comment, even if you don't recycle!

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      What a wonderful idea. I love smart concepts for reuse and repurposing.

    • SoyCandleLover profile image

      BW Duerr 2 years ago from Henrietta, New York

      I was looking for other reusing ideas beyond the grocery list / coupon carrier. Awesome ideas for bookmarks. I never would have thought of the decorated paper angle. Love it!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      You bring up a good point here to be cautious about using copies of pictures that you care about for envelope crafts, I'd have never thought of the acid problem. Good ideas for cutting down on waste and reusing and repurposing those envelopes...and having some fun!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 4 years ago from Central Florida

      You sure have lots of great ideas here to use up all those envelopes. Great job.

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 4 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Mixed media artists can reuse them in their artwork as well. I love it when part of the address or postage shines through the background of a painting. :)

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 4 years ago

      I don't like using paper for packing as it adds a lot of weight, but I like your grocery list idea and some of the others.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 4 years ago from Land of Aloha

      I used to send them straight to the recycling bin, but after reading this page, I'll be saving a good portion of them for shopping days and coupons. :)

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 4 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I've used the decorative inside paper as scrapbook paper like you mention. I love the corner idea to mark pages. Genius!

    • profile image

      poutine 4 years ago

      My mom always used the old envelope for keeping her grocey list and also for us kids to use as we practiced your math skills.