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DIY: Notebooks Made with Waste Paper

I have a little stationary problem. I adore elegant writing paper and I can't resist cheeky note cards, but my biggest weakness is notebooks. I know this addiction means cutting down trees, but I can't help myself. So in an effort to green my vice I began to look for notebooks with unbleached or recycled paper. Then I came across a notebook made with waste paper, no recycling required.

Many companies and designers have taken on the challenge of reusing or repurposing paper waste—from recycled paper notebooks, to waste bins, to insulation. But this DIY notebook project from NaturallySavvy.com is simple and easy on the pocketbook.

Start by gathering "gently used" paper: 8.5" x 11" paper that has been used on one side and is blank on the other, making the blank side perfect for note taking. Where do you find lots of gently used paper suitable for a notebook? The best source is a recycling box beside a photocopier or printer, since the paper is generally in great condition—there are no folds, no handwriting indentations, and the page thickness is consistent.

You can save your own waste paper from printing documents at home or work, or if you print on both sides of each sheet of paper (good for you!), raid recycling bins in public spaces, such as libraries. But the one-stop-shop for this project is printing and copy centers.

My favorite place to make these notebooks is at university or college campus copy centers. They have tons of waste copy paper, particularly around at the beginning and end of the semester, and you can't beat their binding prices. Campus copy centers also have great material if you're looking to be entertained by your notebook (a definite bonus in my books). My first notebook included copies of physics lecture notes, complex math equations, fax invoices and music sheets—fascinating stuff and great for a quick read now and then.

Wherever you choose to get the paper, ask before you take! There's nothing worse than doing the legwork only to find the paper is confidential or private property, or that taking it is considered theft.

Once you have the okay, simply grab a stack of paper and sort it into a neat pile with the blank sides face up. Make the notebook as thick or thin as you like; 150 pages is a nice size if you're not sure. Once you have the stack of paper sorted, simply have it bound at a copy center (easy to do if you're already there).

Coil binding should only set you back a few dollars, but the price will vary depending on the cover you choose. A basic cardstock is the most economical option and is usually available in a variety of colors. Antique finishes and other specialty stocks cost a little more, but can have a big impact - just remember some specialty papers have coatings that can be rough on the environment. You can also personalize the front and back cover by printing the card stock with text or images. Think monograms, company logos, pictures, graphic prints...the options for this eco-chic notebook are truly endless.

Cara Smusiak writes on behalf of NaturallySavvy.com about how to live a more natural, organic and green lifestyle.