Junk mail is a major annoyance and all too often just thrown in the trash without a second thought—but at the expense of the planet. Every year over a million trees are used for junk mail we will never read and 44 percent of it is sent to a landfill unopened, according to the Forest Ethics Campaign. Here, some practical—and safe–ways for you to reuse your junk mail today!
Packing material You don’t have to add extra waste when shipping fragile items, just use shredded or crumbled sheets of junk mail. Sending boxes with junk mail as the packing material not only gets rid of the junk itself, but also reduces the need for environmentally harmful Styrofoam packing peanuts!
Firewood is a great way to heat your home in the cold months while reducing heating costs. Use junk mail as an easy fire starter or replace firewood completely by making paper bricks using something like the Lehmans Newspaper Brick Maker that compresses wet paper into bricks that can be dried and then burned like wood in your stove or fireplace ($29.95, lehmans.com). An important note: Junk mail with colored ink or glossy papers can emit dangerous chemicals when burned, so stick to matte pages with black and white text (learn more at nontoxicprint.com)
Funnels can be handy for re-stocking all sorts of things in your kitchen. Make one out of your unwanted junk mail and re-fill those salt and pepper shakers today or use it to get rid of those pesky summer fruit flies by placing the funnel at the top of a closed jar with a piece of rotten fruit inside (the bugs can get in but not back out!). Get directions for making a funnel at junkmailgems.com.
Animal bedding is needed for your bunnies, guinea pigs, hamsters, and other small pets. Shredded junk mail can be used as an easy cheap replacement for store bought bedding. Again, steer clear of junk mail that’s printed with colored ink or on glossy paper.
Garden mulch Use your junk mail to help your garden by shredding it and using it as mulch. Helpful hint: Use your garden hose to dampen the junk mail mulch so it doesn’t get blown around your yard or cover with a thin layer of purchased mulch to keep in place and improve the unsightly look of the paper. This is one more instance to steer clear of glossy or colored junk mail.
Homemade recycled paper can be a fun (but slightly messy) craft to make with your kids that can help you reduce, reuse, and recycle. Homemade paper can be used for family notes, wrapping paper, or even as a fun unique background for a school project! Find out how to use your junk mail to make paper at childrenoftheearth.org.
Collages and mosaics can inspire creativity and be fun for the whole family to make. Use your junk mail (especially old magazines) to cut out different images to make collages with your kids. Need some inspiration? Check out these beautiful mosaic junk mail portraits made by artist Sandhi Schimmel at schimmelart.com.
Paper hats Junk mail can be used to make fun paper crafts with your kids like hats that they can add to costumes. Find directions to make hats and other fun crafts with your junk mail at craftbits.com.