diy project: eco-friendly notebooks

this fun, eco-friendly project comes from meghan mcclain and jill thomas of potbelly sandwich works. meghan and jill got a green committee going at their office (fantastic!) and decided to celebrate their inaugural meeting today with a fun project. the girls created these lovely notebooks by reusing office paper found around the company and scraps of vintage wallpaper and chipboard for covers. so rather than letting paper (that’s been printed on one side) go to waste, they found a way to reuse it and create something new and beautiful. meghan and jill kindly shared their full project steps and materials with us so click here to view the full post and instructions, or just click “read more” below. thanks so much for meghan and jill for sharing- best of luck with your green committee!

Meghan and Jill’s DIY Recycled Paper Notebooks:

What You’ll Need:

1. Used 8.5 x 11 paper with one clean side. (Try keeping a box under your desk for a few weeks to store used paper…it stacks up fast!)
2. Cardstock, cardboard or whatever other rigid materials you may have laying around for the cover
3. Scrap wallpaper, wrapping paper or even newspaper to mount on the covers for decoration
4. Spray Mount (3M Super 77) or glue
5. Exacto knife
6. Binding materials: spiral or whatever you’ve got!
7. Ruler
8. Hole punch or binding machine

How to:

1. Fold your paper in half (french-fold) so the white/clean side is out and the printed side is hidden in the middle! (If you use 8.5×11 paper, your notebook size will be 5.5” x 8.5”). We found that about 40 sheets of paper made for a nice notebook thickness.

2. Trim your cover pieces to 5.625” x 8.625”. That extra 1/8” will help keep the paper from sticking out beyond the cover.
3. Spray Super 77 onto one side of both cover pieces. Then lay gluey side down onto non-printed side of your wallpaper or wrapping paper. Make sure they are really stuck on there!
4. Use your ruler and exacto knife to trim out the cover pieces so the wallpaper is flush with the edges.
5. Punch holes! You want to bind along the non-folded edge of the paper, so be sure to punch the holes on the correct side. If you don’t have access to a handy-dandy office binding machine, you can use a hand hole-punch and just punch a hole at the top and bottom.
6. Bind ‘em up! Again, you can always do this by hand, whether with spiral binding materials, or even some ribbon, string or other materials you have laying around.
7. Enjoy!

  1. kara says:

    This is so great! I’ve done the exact same thing with my one-sided office paper, but these look much more neat and professional, will try the same next time.

  2. Rikkianne says:

    AWESOME! I am saving this one for sure :)

  3. Libby says:

    Best stocking-stuffer idea ever!

  4. I have been wanting to make my own notebooks for awhile now and I just love the idea of reusing paper and then folding it in half. Genius!

  5. Renee says:

    I’ve made a ton of stuff with recycled paper, but could never figure out how to work with the paper that had printing on one side. Folding it is so simple and genius!

  6. Jennifer says:

    These are so cute! I always have loads of paper scattered around my office. I think these would be fun to make with pretty fashion magazine ads for the covers.

  7. Melissa says:

    Does anyone know where I can find spirals like that?

  8. Oh my goodness! Those are so great and eco-chic! I am totally going to do this! :) Thanks!

  9. Kim Wike says:

    these are so easy and very pretty!
    my friend and designer Pam Dover has a post on her blog creating something similar using recycled paper grocery bags and discarded paper; check it out:

  10. Kim Wike says:

    unless you have a machine to do the binding for you, if you want to spiral i would recommend going to your local print shop to get it bound – usually really cheap too.

  11. Sarah Lee says:

    Love this! Will do today!

  12. Jill says:

    If you dont have a binding machine, we also suggest using a holepunch and ribbon, string, or any other creative material and method to bind the edge!

  13. Jules says:

    Love it!!!

  14. lana says:

    I just found this site via an etsy link ~ I’ve bookmarked it and will be back often! Great articles!

  15. Tiffany says:

    I am doing this pronto. Brilliant!

  16. Colleen says:

    Great idea! Wouldn’t expect anything less from a dear friend. Love you, Megh!

  17. Kay says:

    I did something of the sort for my first university notebooks back in ’94. I don’t know if I was really thinking about the environment back then, but I thought why throw the paper away when I could reuse it. I hope more people keep in mind that it only takes a bit of creativity to make the old new again. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Kristan says:

    CUTE idea! Sadly, I took a bookbinding class and never thought to do this myself… My binding probably won’t look as nice as this, but I think these WOULD be good stocking stuffers, as someone suggested!

  19. Jen O says:

    p.s. also try using a sewing machine with a heavy jeans needle and quilting thread.
    Use the sewing machine’s longest stitches, sew about 1/2″ from the cut edge.
    Prep: You will need to score the cardboard about 1/4 ” from the sewing line so the cover opens along that fold (use a thinner cardboard for this method, and score before covering with paper or fabric)

  20. Laura says:

    Ooh lovely notebooks. I once tried this using old record covers found in charity shops and it works well too- they make good gifts for people!

  21. Elizabeth W says:

    with my used office paper i will cut it into 4ths and staple one corner (used side face down) and keep it on the desk by the phone for those quick jot-downs. i will deff try this D*S diy for my used materials at home!

  22. Kateri says:

    Lovely books! I have been doing this for a while and they are great gifts with great message. Reuse! However, might I suggest using wheat paste instead of super 77. A product with respiratory and nervous system warnings doesn’t exactly denote “eco-friendly” :/

  23. Robyn says:

    I so love this!! And what LOVELY wallpaper, too!!

  24. Nan says:

    This is a beautiful idea. I just got done making a little notebook from recycled paper to use in my car to write down business mileage. I tied the pages with leftover copper wire and threaded an old polymer clay bead on that.

  25. april says:

    what a lovely way to reuse paper and to give lovely wallpaper scraps (or other patterned paper) a new use. wonderful client gifts! it leaves lots of room for personalization & creativity. thanks for sharing the “how to.”

  26. This is a must do, I am always looking for ideas on how to reuse paper. Very creative

  27. Elizabeth says:

    I like using the cardboard from empty cereal boxes for the covers of little notebooks. One could always cover the boxes with a more design-friendly paper– or the boxes themselves might be a funky option. I love this project but am far more likely to have leftovers from food-packaging than such beautiful wallpaper!

  28. Clinton says:

    I would nix the spray mount and go for something PH-neutral. Gaylord’s (library supplier) has a good selection.

  29. Meghan says:


    The wheat paste is a great suggestion (and much friendlier)! We will definitely use that next time we make the books. (Then we won’t end up with Super 77 in our hair :)

  30. Kristan says:

    I just realized: you can also hole punch in a few places and then use metal binder rings ( ) instead of string or ribbon. This will allow easier page turning.

  31. Janet says:

    Just goes to show what awesome people work at Potbelly! I’m all about using this idea for Christmas this year!

  32. Robyn says:

    ok! I made one! I’m SO excited. I showed some of my friends and they loved it as well. I think I may make a bunch more!!

  33. Dawn says:

    I was experimenting with using old file folders for cover material (you know, the folders where the body of the folder is fine, but the tab has taken its last beating :-) They’re a little thin for fabric wrapping, but perfect for stamping or painting.

    I’m using a bunch of old red folders and leftover lime green pipecleaners to put together Christmas notepads for gifts.

  34. Mary says:

    I am getting ready to move this week and while cleaning off my desk I ran into a goldmine of printouts from this semester. After a few hours work I have four lovely notebooks for next semester’s notes! Thanks for the tip- and the excuse to stop cleaning for one afternoon.

  35. amy says:

    love it! we waste so much paper at work (and i’m at kinko’s all the time anyways) this is a great way to recycle!

  36. Laur says:

    Any idea of where to purchase plastic coils like in the picture?

  37. ketan says:

    its ccccccccccccoooooooooooLL!!!!!!


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