Creative Uses for Brown Paper Bags

No matter how hard I try to avoid them, brown paper bags always seem to end up in my house.  From paper bag crafts to homemade book covers, learn to reuse paper bags instead of throwing them away. Here are a few creative uses for brown paper bags… because we all forget our reusable ones occasionally!

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Creative Ways to Reuse Paper Grocery Bags

Why You Should Upcycle Paper Bags

How many brown bags do you think humans go through in a year? *10 Billion* Yes, Americans use around 10 billion plastic bags each year, which is equal to cutting 14 million tree each year. That is crazy!  And no, switching to plastic is not the answer!  While I try hard to remember my reusable grocery bags every time I shop, I am not always successful.  

There are so many uses for brown bags that I would much rather bring THOSE home than take home plastic ones.  If you are looking for tips on how to reuse paper shopping bags, you are in luck.  Whether you want to try a few paper bag craft ideas or just find out where to donate paper shopping bags, you are in luck!  I have a few sustainable solutions for your paper bag collection!

Vector illustration of environmentally friendly paper shopping bag with paper handles and green recycle logo on the front

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Can I recycle brown paper bags?

If you absolutely have no use for paper grocery bags, at least try to recycle them.  Brown paper grocery bags can be recycled with other paper products.  You can also recycle the smaller variety that are used for lunches.  Sadly, if you toss your paper bags into the trash can, they will take a LONG TIME to decompose.  While paper is certainly biodegradable, it requires a fair amount of oxygen, which is in short supply in most landfills . 

Where can you recycle grocery bags?  Most national grocery retailers, such as Publix, Target, and Walmart, have a bag collection bin. The bins are usually at the front entrance of the store, labeled “bag recycling.” If you don’t have curbside recycling, this is a good alternative.  

A row of brown paper bags


Creative Uses for Brown Paper Bags

So, you want to reuse paper grocery bags instead of tossing them in the recycling?  Great plan!  Reusing things is one of my favorite green lifestyle tips!  Here are a few things you can do with extra paper bags:

Protect your books

With the start of school fast approaching, use them to make book covers for your children’s school books. You will protect them from exploding pens and that melted lip balm that leaks everywhere.

Make paper bag crafts

This was one of my favorite uses for brown paper bags when my kids were little. Whether they want to become a robot or a space alien, a paper bag can become a great costume! A few markers and some glitter and they are well on their way to an afternoon of fun!

Make them into place mats

 Cut the front and back panels off and let your children color on them while they wait for dinner to be served. This is a great solution to toddlers hanging on your leg while dinner is simmering on the stove.

Bananas in a paper Bag

Use them to ripen your produce

Place unripe peaches, bananas, or tomatoes in a paper bag and roll the top closed tightly. Wait a day or two and you will have perfectly ripe fruits and veggies.  How does a brown paper bag ripen fruit? With the fruit sealed inside the brown bag, a hormone known as ethylene is produced by the fruit and emitted as a gas. The bag traps the ethylene around the fruit while still allowing air to reach it. It is this gas that speeds up fruit ripening. 

 DIY Paper Bag Kites are a fun way to reuse paper grocery bags

Let your kids make a paper bag kite

Punch a hole in each corner of the open end of a bag. Tie a long piece of string into each hole, tie the ends together and glue some streamers onto the open end. Let them decorate with stickers, markers, glitter, etc. The open shape of the bag will trap the wind and make a perfect kite!

How to turn a paper grocery bag into a DIY kite:

You will need:

  • 2 paper grocery bags
  • 2 thin dowel rods  
  • glue stick, tape and scissors and string
  • markers or colored pencils to decorate your kite
  • ribbon or crepe paper streamers to make a ‘tail’ 


For the full directions on measurements, angles, etc if you want them, check out  Basically, you are going to make a cross out of your dowels and use the string to connect them together at the intersection.  Then, cut out a triangular shaped kite using both bags, gluing the two pieces together and letting them dry.  Then, decorate with ribbon for the tail and whatever design you want on it.  


gifts wrapped in brown paper bags with pine branches

Make your own wrapping paper

No need to buy birthday or holiday wrapping paper, just wrap your gift in a brown paper bag and give your child a set of markers. Have them draw a birthday cake or write Happy Birthday in colorful bubble letters. You can let you kids color on it in marker or design something simple and beautiful yourself using natural elements you find outside. You will be saving money AND going green!

Spring Gardening Tips and How to Compost

Turn brown paper bags into compost

If you have a compost bin, reuse paper bags as food for your plants!   Paper bags make good composting ingredients. … Make sure you shred the paper bag into smaller pieces before it’s mixed into the compost pile.

While it is certainly better for the environment to bring your reusable cloth bags to the store, we all forget them once in a while. Remember that there are SO many uses for brown paper bags other than just carrying groceries!  What is your favorite way to reuse paper grocery bags?

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