Cardboard is everywhere. This is never more apparent than as a homesteader trying to eliminate waste. Every time you buy a boxed or bulk order, it’s encased in cardboard. Order something delivered? A cardboard box inside a bigger, sturdier cardboard box. If you’ve moved recently, you’re drowning in cardboard or you may have just rediscovered your aging box-hoard from the last move. If you, like many homesteaders, are wondering what on earth to do with all that extra cardboard, we have some ideas. Other than crafting into playhouses and Halloween costumes, here are some actually useful things you can do with extra cardboard:
1. Burn It for Heat
Cardboard burns hot and, if you remove the plastic tape, it’s reasonably clean. It usually burns as a thick-but-light white smoke with very little odor. Cardboard, thick or rolled, is actually excellent for starting logs because it burns hot and lasts for several minutes.
2. DIY Storage Cubes & Totes
Did you know that those cloth storage cubes that are so popular are just wrapped-cardboard? You can use your handicraft skills to construct perfectly sized cardboard storage cubes, then upholster them in fabric for attractive DIY storage. Attach an old belt, and suddenly it’s a tote.
3. Nesting Roosts
Chickens love cardboard. They can nest in it, climb on it, and peck at it. Cardboard is a perfectly good roost or toy construction material for your homestead chickens. Just keep cardboard items inside the henhouse and out of the rain.
4. DIY Device Stands
Ever wish you had a device stand of the perfect height or angle? Cardboard is surprisingly good for that. Use the old paper slot-construction trick to build yourself stands for laptops, phones, and tablets of any height, shape, or angle that works best for you.
5. Any-Size Picture Frame
Most people keep their photos in digital form these days, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of things to frame. You can use the cardboard-upholstery trick again to make some fantastic handmade picture-frames. Even better, you can hand-size your cardboard frames to fit any flat item you want to frame in the house.
6. Light Shielding
Need to keep light from escaping or entering a room? This happens either as a result of gardening or a family member who needs absolute darkness to sleep. Tacking cardboard over windows is a great way to block almost 100% of the light. Especially when combined with curtains to hide the cardboard from sight.
7. Trays, Organizers, and Pencil Cups
Cardboard also makes great organization containers. You can build shallow trays, open or with sections, to help organize open surfaces. Use compartments or dividers of cardboard to keep drawers and shelves organized. Or use rolls or wrapped-cardboard for a handy pencil cup. Wrapping your cardboard in cloth, contact-paper, or painting it can turn these DIY organizers into decor.
8. Kitty Scratching Post
Cat-owning homesteaders know that keeping your cat’s claws sharp is important for pest control. Your cat needs a scratching post, and they tend to go through them. Cut a large piece of cardboard into a stack of identical pices with a hole in the center so that it forms a wall of cut-cardboard edge. Place the stack over a base-and-pole construction and secure. An easily replaceable scratching post.
9. Gift Tags
Giving is done from the heart, and often decorating a gift is as fun as choosing it. But no need to splurge on little extras like gift tags. Cut the cardboard into tag-shapes, paint or paper, and write the names of loved ones for that special touch.
10. Paper Lanterns
Our last great use for cardboard is to enhance electric lights. Make a cardboard geometric shape around a lamp for cool shadows on the wall or a night-light. Or build a cardboard lantern-frame with colored paper between and place over a soft-glow lightbulb for a paper lantern. Cardboard can turn flashlights, nightlights, and lamp bulbs into a world of cut-out fun or shaded elegance, depending on your style and the mood of the night.
Cardboard can stack up and seem like a nuisance in your zero-waste lifestyle, but it’s really an asset. There are so many surprisingly useful things you can do with extra cardboard. And if you don’t need a chicken roost or organizers, then make a play-fort, a robot-costume, or a stairs-sled for your kids like usual and it will be cardboard-well-spent.