It takes a lot of resources to produce magazines. If I had more time, I would do some research and post all sorts of interesting stats here. But I don’t, so just take my word for it. There's a lot you can do with those resources before you toss your magazines in the recycling bin.
I used to be a magazine junky. Well, I still am, but I try not to use up so many resources to feed my habit. I let all my subscriptions run out because of the junk mail and plastic wrapping that came along with them. I no longer buy magazines automatically or based on the cover (no matter what miracles that cover promises). There have to be several articles I’m really interested in—with information I’ll actually use—before I plunk down my money. If there isn’t, I either pass it up, read it while waiting in line during the dreaded grocery shopping, or check it out from the library.
I belong to a not-so-secret magazine network. My mom and I share a lot of our magazines, and when we’re both done with them, she passes them on to a friend who, after she’s read them, gives them to her daughter, who passes them on to someone else, and so on.
I donate some to our library, where they’re sold on the Friends of the Library book sale table, or to the recreation center, where they’re sold to help pay for adaptive equipment for people with special needs. Other libraries we go to have boxes set up where you can leave your magazines and take others.
I leave them in places where people will be stuck for a while, like laundromats, hospitals, clinics, the car repair shop, and my kids’ music and dance schools. I used leave them in the laundry room of my apartment building or in the staff room at work, back when I lived in an apartment and had a real job.
You can use reuse magazines in other ways, too. Since it’s more efficient to run a full freezer than a partially empty one, use them to fill empty space. Or tear pages into strips to use as cushioning material for packages.
And, of course, I use them for crafts, including making envelopes and calendar journals. Child Two and I are planning to make our own magnetic poetry set from words cut from magazines and flyers and I’m collecting beat-up craft and knitting magazines for a big decoupage project. Both of my kids have done some great art projects at school with magazines, like paper weaving, color collages, and mosaics, and at home we’ve used magazines to make greeting cards and to turn shoeboxes into treasure boxes.
One summer, a little girl I babysat and I made an ABC book out of magazine pictures. (Oh, my. I’ve just realized that little girl is now 34 years old.) I stapled together blank pages, one for each letter, and we glued pictures that she liked onto the appropriate pages. This idea could be used to for all sorts of themes: colors, numbers, simple words, countries, foods, animals, etc.
There are tons of creative ideas for reusing magazines, from sophisticated art pieces to fun ways to spend an afternoon with your kids. I’ve posted some links on my Making Do blog.
We recycle magazines only when they’re tattered and falling apart. Along the way, we’ve shared them with others and had some creative fun—a much better use of resources (and money) than reading them once and throwing them away.