By Elizah Leigh on October 26, 2011

Old books can do much more than collect dust. Behold, the reuse possibilities!

The simple definition of a book is this: hundreds of pages of printed text bound between a front and back cover. But, depending on who you ask, you’ll get a vastly different interpretation of what feelings it can evoke.

For some, if they were forced to live out their days on a deserted island, a book would still be the very last thing that they’d cling onto for their sanity, perhaps due to challenges they may have had while in school. Sometimes dreaded, brain-confounding subjects make us so numb that we associate books (in general) with things that make us go blah.

Mention the word “book” to a dyed-in-the-wool bibliophile, however, and it’s a different story all together. In fact, you can often see their eyes dancing while they describe how and why their latest bookstore acquisition is as sublime as it is positively addictive. You’ll often find that these are the type of people who habitually tote 20 pounds of books along with them in order to read what they want precisely when the whim strikes. Plus, they’re partial to handmade book covers, clip-on lights and other seemingly must-have accessories that make the experience just a bit more… cushy.

reusing old books

Wherever you personally fall in the book fan club spectrum, as the years go by, the texts somehow always add up. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, printed materials — even those regarded as classic pieces of literature — always end up becoming dust collectors.

Fortunately, it’s increasingly becoming commonplace to donate unwanted tomes to charitable organizations, libraries, schools and Craigslist devotees. Some are even lucky enough to live near used bookstores that happily purchase old titles for pennies on the dollar, but that doesn’t change the fact that untold amounts of them are often pulped by manufacturers or simply thrown away.

A print-on-demand system would be far more environmentally friendly, but that’s just not the way that our culture is hardwired — at least not yet. And while online book swapping and donation communities such as BookCrossing, BookMooch and PaperBackSwap certainly offer unwanted texts a temporary stay of execution, it’s anyone’s guess what their ultimate fate ends up being.

You, however, have come this far, which means that you’re jonesin’ for a way to breathe new life into those old books cluttering up your home. That’s fantastic! With the following roundup of phoenix-like book ideas, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy. That is, until you finally decide to replenish your collection with the latest, greatest hot-off-the-press titles!

What should I do with the piles of old books cluttering my house?

How ‘bout making some nifty literary accessories like this:

Protective e-reader cover or perennially practical bookmark?

How ‘bout turning old book covers into new...

Blank, unlined notepads or vintage journals? (These ecological scratch pads aren’t too shabby, either!)

How ‘bout crafting some unexpectedly cerebral works of art like...

Hungarian designer Flóra Vági’s lacy book “jewelry” cuffs or Rosie Miller’s sculptural décor accents?

How ‘bout feathering your nest with some bookish furniture pieces like this:

End table, office desk, bookshelf or easy chair?

How ‘bout sprucing up your décor with...

The Entre Lineas collection of old books carefully folded into handmade paper lights?

How ‘bout kicking your DIY skills into overdrive by making...

An entire book-covered WALL? Or, if your book collection is totally out of control, a full-blown octagonal-shaped structure just like Matej Kren’s!

About the author

Elizah Leigh is an eco-inspired wordsmith capable of captivating readers in just the right manner to facilitate subliminal greenlightenment. If it hasn’t yet happened to you, dear reader, don’t worry... it soon will. She believes that walking on the green side of life isn’t so much about random actions like recycling household materials and eschewing bottled water as it really should be about committing to long-term lifestyle changes that naturally become effortless the more frequently they are practiced — and believe it or not, if you’re looking at the world through green-colored glasses, it’s never a chore.

Working as an eco-journalist for a number of online venues, including Ecorazzi, WebEcoist, WebUrbanist and Causecast, this self-confessed eager greenie and knowledge hound has become deeply entrenched in the world of green living and makes a conscious effort at all times to practice exactly what she preaches. Elizah feels that no one is an "expert" in this field as long as they continue to keep an open mind by acquiring new eco-feathers in their cap — something that she aspires to do with each new article that she authors.

Extremely passionate about greening perspectives as well as lifestyles one carefully selected word at a time, this eco-writer feels privileged to add the 1-800-RECYCLING audience to her increasingly expanding network of green-minded readers. When she’s not tweeting her ever-lovin’ greenie heart out or adding new eco-themed articles to her portfolio, she can be found frolicking outside or shooting the breeze with her menagerie of impossibly needy geriatric felines.

As for what Elizah hopes to bring to 1-800-RECYCLING? Believe it or not, she is convinced that we are all capable of carving out individual and collective legacies in which caring enough about what we do while we walk this earth ensures that future generations enjoy the same basic privileges that we currently do. Can collections of carefully crafted environmentally themed words help facilitate this lofty plan for eco-friendly ah-ha! inspiration? Stranger things have been done to honor Mother Nature. For now, that’s her eager greenie goal, and she’s definitely sticking to it.


Learn more about Elizah Leigh

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