Back to School Ideas 15 DIY School Supplies from Recycled Materials

Published on August 5th, 2015 | by Julie Finn

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15 DIY School Supplies from Recycled Materials

15 DIY School Supplies from Recycled Materials

If you’re sending a kid to school this year, you’re probably spending over $100 on school supplies for that kid.

That doesn’t count clothes. Or electronics. Or PE uniforms. Or locker pretties. Or even a backpack and lunch bag. That $100 is JUST school supplies.

And that number is from last year–the totals for this year haven’t even come out yet, but you can bet that school supplies are even more expensive this year.

Fortunately, you can bring that number down with a bit of crafty know-how and a few recycled materials.

Now, I know that you can’t DIY the five-subject notebooks or the boxes of #2 pencils that are on your list, but some of that stuff–think pencil cases, folders, even backpacks–you can totally make yourself, and everything that you can make will not only be that much cuter than the store-bought stuff, but it’ll also be that much less expensive.

So check out this list of 15 DIY school supplies from recycled materials, and see all the things that your kid could be bringing back to school this year!

1. backpack from old jeansA backpack can be a major back-to-school cost, and some of them are so flimsy that they won’t even last the year. This backpack made from old jeans is totally free for the making, and denim is so sturdy that you KNOW it’s going to last.

15 DIY School Supplies2. book coverRemember these from elementary school? They’re a cheap way to keep all your schoolbooks clean and tidy!

3. cereal box folder. This folder, made from a cereal box (the link that the post points to doesn’t seem to work, but the image of the completed folder is good enough to eyeball your measurements), can easily substitute for a store-bought folder. Frankly, it’ll also hold up better than the store-bought folders.

4. embossed folders. If you’re required to send the flimsy paper folders, you can at least personalize them in a unique way using cereal boxes.

5. fabric file foldersPaper file folders are cheap, but they also act cheap. Upcycle some old work shirts or a sundress, or use up some of your stash fabric, and make a set of fabric file folders that your kid can use forever.

6. food packaging pencil casesUpcycle cereal, cracker, or macaroni and cheese boxes, or any other of your favorite food packaging to make the cute pencil cases.

7. jeans leg locker caddyYour kid could even make this locker caddy himself–it’s that easy!

15 DIY School Supplies from Recycled Materials8. lunch bags. L.L. Bean doesn’t *have* to supply your lunch bag, unless you want it to. There are loads of cute, serviceable, easy to make lunch bag tutes out there in the world. Here’s a felted wool version that we love a lot.

9. magnetic containersLet your older kid go shopping at the international grocery for an interesting food to try, then upcycle the container that it came in into a unique magnetic container for her locker.

10. notepad. This requires a special kind of glue, but once you beg, borrow, or buy it, you can make your friends a family an unlimited supply of custom notepads using all kinds of upcycled papers. Make the bottom piece cardboard, glue a strip magnet across the top of it, and your kid has herself a perfectly handy scratchpad to keep in her locker!

11. paper bag journal. An older kid taking an art class, or who just likes to sketch while listening to lectures, can save the margins of her notebook by using a handmade blank journal, like this one made from paper bags. Substitute any upcycled papers that are good for sketching.

12. pencil and notebook folderUpcycle some stiff cardboard and grab some fabric from your stash to make this DIY version of a Trapper Keeper.

13. picture frame dry-erase boardIf your kid is going to use this in her locker, make sure to find her an old picture frame with a plexiglass front, NOT a glass one.

14. recycled pencil holder for lockersChoose a lightweight can for this project, so that you don’t have to go overboard on the magnets.

15. soda bottle pencil caseThis clear, roomy case would also be great for highlighters and markers.

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About the Author

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now. Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.



One Response to 15 DIY School Supplies from Recycled Materials

  1. Latoya Cuper says:

    Lovely ideas! I really liked the idea of folder, made from a cereal box. My girls are very enthusiastic about recycling and this post is a great reason to spend some more time creating and recycling together. Thank you for sharing!

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