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Reusing Newspapers

Updated on October 9, 2009

We all have that pile of newspapers in the corner, always sliding down and getting in the way. We want to take it to the recyclers, but haven't yet. I have a few tips to use that newspaper around the house, to save you money, time, and the environment!

1. Wash your windows. I had a friend in college who swore the ONLY way to get mirrors and glass sparkling clean and streak-free was water and newspapers. You don't need glass cleaner, unless they are very dirty.

2. Fold newspaper into pouches to start seedlings for your garden. You can staple the edges, or find an origami pattern that uses no fasteners. During planting time, just rip the bottom out, and plant in your garden. The newspaper will biodegrade, and your plants will be less stressed than if you yank them out of plastic containers.

3. Mulch. Newspapers make EXCELLENT mulch. I use very thick (10 sheets) layers around plants in the garden to keep out weeds, preserve precious water and keep tomatoes and melons off the mud. You can cover with compost if you want it to look better. Which brings me to:

4. Compost. I shred all sorts of papers and mix it in my compost. They break down great and I don't have to pay the garbage man to haul it away. Plus, who wants to dig through your garbage to look for information to steal when it's covered with rotted banana peels and manure!

5. Emergency. Keep a stack of newspaper in your car. You never know when you need an emergency "blanket" to sit on while you change a tire, something to cover the floors because your toddler found a mud puddle to play in in the park, something to wrap a particularly odious diaper in until you can find a garbage can, or a place to set plants that you happened to find 50% at an end-of-the-year sale and they wanted to come home with you.

6. Don't underestimate the entertainment value of a paper hat. Have a hat party where all your kids make their own newspaper hats in different ways. OK, I admit, I like paper hats.

Have you ever made a "tree" out of newspaper? I have gotten a lot of mileage out of this when my kids were small. Take 8-10 pieces of the same sized newspaper (one standard sized folded) Start rolling up from the small end. When you have 6 inches or so of paper left to roll, start the next piece. Keep rolling all the pieces into the roll the same way until you have a thick roll of newspaper. Tape the roll so it doesn't unroll. With scissors, cut down one side about half way and repeat all around the roll until one side has "hair". Hold the roll at the bottom and pull out the inside of the "hair" side. Pull, pull, pull and you will have a tree for kids to hit each other with. They love it!

7. Grease. Loosely fold a thick layer of newspaper into a "bowl" to pour grease from a pan so it doesn't run out the bottom of your garbage bag. The paper will absorb the grease while it cools down. Warning: Let the grease cool until it's just warm and still pourable, otherwise you will melt the plastic garbage bag. You can drain bacon, french fries or anything greasy. Then, since the grease is so flammable, start a campfire with it and toast marshmallows!

8. Insulation. We have a company here that makes house insulation from recycled newspapers. I think this is a cool idea, so this is usually where I donate my papers.

9. Pet beds. Instead of buying pet bedding at $10 a bag, why not shred newspaper? It is clean and the soiled bedding can be added to the compost. I'm not a rat or gerbil owner, though. Please let me know if this won't work. Worm beds. If you like to fish and object to paying $4 for a dozen night crawlers, get a big plastic tub, shred a bunch of newspaper and raise your own! There are many helpful articles that will help you get started. This would be a good business for an industrious child who wants to make an extra buck and likes the gross factor.

I wouldn't "paper train" a puppy on newspaper. I think it would teach the dog to "go" in the house which is not where I want. Besides, will he be tempted to lift his leg every time he sees a newspaper? Not good.

10. And finally, READ. Too many people are too busy to read. One of my favorite rituals is to read the Sunday paper from beginning to end in my pajamas. Not exactly recycling, but it's resetting my brain for the week.

11. Instead of buying lighter fluid, which I think you can taste in your food and can't possibly be healthy, buy a "chimney" type charcoal lighter. You stuff newspaper in the bottom and pour charcoal in the top. When you light the paper, the flame goes up the chimney and lights the briquettes. It takes longer than propane, but is satisfying in a I'm-cooking-over-a-campfire sort of way. If you are a true purist, buy the "natural" charcoal chunks instead of the briquettes.

I hope these tips helped. And, I'd love to hear from anyone who has great newspaper uses. I have a whole pile to use and I'm outta ideas.


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