Now, don't get us wrong. We're huge magazine fans. They're books for people with short attention spans: colorful, fresh and fun. But subscribe a weekly or two ... a few specialty magazines ... and before you know it, there are small stacks of dead trees pretty much everywhere you look.

And that's the problem: magazines represent a lot of resources. From paper stock to ink and transportation, a lot of energy and materials go into something most people read once before slipping under the sofa.

You could recycle them — but there's a better way.

The best thing you can do with old magazines is to give them a second life — or a third or a fourth. Every time you put a magazine into someone else's hands, you halve its people-to-production cost ratio. So rather than carrying bundles of magazines down to the paper recycling bin, take them somewhere they'll be enjoyed.

Some ideas for finding your magazines new homes:

  • Pass them along to friends and family. This is the simplest way of putting magazines back into circulation.
  • Host a monthly readers' exchange. Invite some people over for coffee — you can even advertise the event to broaden your circle. Everyone brings their used books and magazines, and goes home with something new.
  • Donate magazines to groups and organizations which will use them. Anyplace that has a waiting room will usually be grateful to receive fresh reading material — doctors' offices, hospitals and automobile service departments. Even better: arrange regular magazine deliveries to nursing homes and women's shelters.
Of course, cutting your magazine consumption down a bit is a good idea, too. Are certain magazines stacking up, unread? You'll usually find a Circulation Department phone number on the masthead. Cancel and use the refunded balance for something else. It's also worth checking to see if your favorite magazine's online version meets your needs.

Otherwise — enjoy. Paper is a renewable resource. Let's just use it wisely.

Copyright Lighter Footstep 2007

What to do with old magazines (it's not recycling)
There's no reason to feel green guilt over that big stack of magazines on the coffee table. Give them a second life by putting them in the hands of others.