Deforestation, global warming, and air and water pollution are just a few of the impacts of paper bag production. Because of the amounts of energy and solid waste, plastic bags are usually recommended over paper. But neither option is eco-friendly, especially since Americans throw away nearly 100 billion plastic bags every year and only recycle 20 percent of all paper bags.
You've heard that bringing reusable bags to the store is the greenest way to shop, but how do you get the most out of the paper bags you already have? Here are some ways to reuse your paper bags before you recycle them.
Re-Use Paper Bags for Gift & Stationary
- Simply cut along the side seam of a brown paper bag to make a sheet of gift wrap; remove any wrinkles with a warm iron.
- If you want to put more creativity into the gift wrap, decorate the paper bag with paint, rubber stamps (read our article Reusing Wine Corks to make your own), or stickers.
- Shred a brown paper bag and use the strips inside gift bags as a tissue paper replacement.
- Cut up brown paper bags to make paper for writing letters, grocery lists, or phone messages. Embellish the paper by cutting the bag with decorative edge scissors.
- Let your kids cut up brown paper bags to make greeting cards they can decorate with markers, crayons, stamps, or paint.
Re-Use Paper Bags in the House
- To shake off the dust and debris from your dust mop while still indoors, tie a large paper bag over the head.
- To clean up candle wax stains from your tablecloth or carpet, simply spread out an opened paper bag and move a warm iron quickly back and forth over the spot. This will effectively soak up the grease and lift out any trace of the stain.
- Use opened paper bags as wastebasket or trashcan liners around the house.
- If you or someone in your house works nights and needs a dark place to sleep during the day, cover the bedroom windows with brown paper bags.
- Hosting a party or event at your house? Why not line your walkway or sidewalk with luminaries made from small paper bags, sand, and tea lights so guests can easily spot your house? Personalize them by cutting creative shapes, designs, or monograms into the sides.
Re-Use Paper Bags with Kids
- Use brown paper bags to cover your kids' schoolbooks. A quick online search will give you step-by-step instructions.
- Open paper bags, fill them with crumpled newspaper, and tape them closed to make paper blocks. Then have your kids paint or decorate them like bricks to build their forts with.
- Look online for detailed instructions on how to make paper bag puppets, masks, and hats.
- Use a hot glue gun to attach handles to paper bags, then paint on Halloween designs such as Jack O'Lanterns, and have your kids use them to collect their trick-or-treat candy.
Re-Use Paper Bags in the Kitchen
- Keep mushrooms and onions fresh by putting them in brown paper bags and storing them on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator.
- Alternately, brown paper bags can be used to ripen peaches, avocados, pears, or tomatoes because the paper retains the natural, fruit-ripening gases. Just be sure to leave them on the counter, as the cool temperature of the refrigerator will stunt the ripening process.
- Use a recycled paper towel over a collapsed paper bag to drain fried foods or cool baked goods on.
- Keep a paper bag open on the kitchen counter to easily collect the dry compost material you accumulate throughout the day.
- Similarly, you can peel and pare your produce over a paper bag so the peelings and remnants are already collected for composting.
- Roll down the top of a small paper bag, drop in a handful of popcorn kernels, place it in a low wattage microwave oven (make sure it doesn't touch the microwave walls), and in just a few minutes you'll have a tasty movie snack and no dirty dishes.
Re-Use Paper Bags in Your Vehicle
- To keep your steering wheel touchable during hot summer months, cut a 10-inch strip from the back seam of a paper bag and slip it over the wheel.
- To spare yourself the nuisance and inconvenience of scraping snow and ice off your windshield every morning, simply place a ripped paper bag under the wipers when you park your car. All you'll have to do is remove the bag in the morning and go.