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Upcycling Office Paper Into Notepads

Recycling is great, but let's raid the office recycle bin for paper you can turn into notepads!  You can spend a lot of time and money making creative notepads, but let's start simple.  All you will need is paper, scissors or a paper cutter, a bottle of Elmer's glue, cardboard or scrap wood, and either clamps or a weight.

First, you need paper!  Look for paper that has printing on only one side, and isn't crumpled, stained, or torn.  Even if your qualifications are super picky, you will still end up with a pretty good handful of paper!  

If you don't work out of a traditional office (I don't), stop by anywhere that offers copy services.  I guarantee there will be a fat recycle bin nearby, ready for the picking.  (I always ask permission before I dive in.)

Next, cut it into notepad size.  I like to cut an 8.5 x 11 sheet into quarters.  

If you really get into making notepads as a hobby, there is a bewildering array of paper cutters for sale to the scrapbook market.  For now, just cut the paper using scissors, or the paper cutter at your office (should your office be so equipped).  

Square up the edge to be glued, and sandwich your notepad-to-be between two sheets of cardboard or scrap wood.  This way your paper won't get dented by the clamps or weight while the glue dries.

Once everything is squared up, pin your sandwich together.  You can either use clamps if you have some, or weight it down with whatever you have handy.  A cement brick, a stack of books, a two liter bottle of soda, a gallon of water, a big rock - whatever works for you!  

Now that your notepad has been properly secured, slather the top edge in Elmer's glue.  Be sure to apply enough at the top and bottom edges (I often have the first and last sheet fall off when I'm lazy about this step).    Let it dry for a little while, then add a second coat.

The pros use something called "padding compound," which you can purchase in bulk if you want to make this A Thing.  But trust me, Elmer's glue works just fine!  

Let the glue dry properly, at least 24 hours.  Then impress your friends!  These make great gifts for eco-minded friends and family, and they're great ways to start a conversation about thrift and green living.

"Why should I make my own notepads?  I buy notepads made of recycled paper!"

Don't get me wrong, it's always best to buy paper products with as much recycled content as possible!  But it's always better to upcycle than to recycle.

The recycling process always includes some loss and waste, and often involves the use of toxic chemicals.  In the case of recycling paper, the chopped-up post-consumer paper fibers are often bleached with toxic chlorine so that the finished product is white paper (not gray).  And many notepads are packaged for sale in the ultimate useless, wasteful, non-recyclable, petroleum product: plastic wrap.

And don't forget to take into account the carbon footprint for all three legs of the paper's journey!  It has to be transported from your office to the recycling facility, processed at the recycling facility (which takes a considerable amount of electricity), then shipped back to the stores as a finished product.

Creative Commons-licensed image courtesy of Flickr user LadyDucayne