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New Uses for Old Phone Books

Filed Under: kids, miscellaneous, art, staying green

Phone book fort

Even though it's easy to look up local phone numbers online, sometimes it's just as quick to check a dead-tree version of the phone book. It seems like I get a new version of my neighborhood Yellow Pages every month, so I guess a lot of people are still using them. Updated phone books are great to have on hand, but what do you do with the old ones?

Phone Book uses(click thumbnails to view gallery)

phonebook tripod sandbagphone book nurseryphone book fire pitphonebook stairsphonebook riser

In the last year, I've acquired enough to start a small landfill of my own, so here's what I do with the leftovers:


1) Whenever I get new books, I toss the old ones in the trunk or under the front seat of my car. When I'm out and about looking for the nearest frame shop, or some other obscure business I don't patronize very often, I just grab the Yellow Pages and find what I need.

2) Old phone books are great for spontaneous art projects with my kids. There are hundreds of pictures, logos and drawings they can cut out and glue onto construction paper.

3) I use the books to help my children learn to look up words and practice finding things from alphabetical lists. I give my youngest son easy words to look up (dog sitter, school supplies), while I challenge my older boys to find harder things like lava lamp repair, or the corporate phone number of the local grocery store chain.

4) Artist Robert Truscio came up with a way to turn old phone books into flip books. Though I haven't tried this yet, it's on my list of things to do.

5) Of course, the most popular use for old phone books is still as an impromptu booster seat for kids!

If you'd simply prefer to get rid of the darn things, check with your local waste collection service, because not all will collect them for recycling. If yours doesn't, the local phone company should be able to tell you the best way to discard them in your area.

  • Lynn the Liberal

    Here's a cool magic trick for kids or a sneaky way for adults to dupe friends out of money. Bet someone you can tear a phone book in half with your bare hands. Can't be done? Yes it can! Even a thick city directory with yellow pages is easy to rip if you BAKE it first. I read this back in the '80s in "Bananas" magazine when I was like 12, so I'm not sure what temperature to set the oven or how long to leave it in. Just experiment and keep an eye on the kitchen to make sure it doesn't burst into flames (unless you want to be the laughing stock of the fire department for years to come). It's probably wise to put it on foil that you don't reuse with food in case of toxic ink. Wonder if this makes phone books biodegrade any faster in landfills?

    Reply
  • Chica

    Try my idea for turning your unwanted phone book into a quirky pen organizer! Full photos and instructions here: http://www.chicaandjo.com/2009/02/24/recycle-phone-book-into-pen-organizer/

    Reply
  • Paul Cat

    When my students act up, I make them stay after school and copy a page of the book for about an hour.

    Reply
  • lyn

    I am a teacher of language... this could be used for any language or small children learning numbers. I give each student a page of the phone book, they have to do a scavenger hunt... I write in the target language a worksheet asking for... a number with both 4 and 9, 5 and 8, etc.., they pick a number and write it out in words, or write the name of a business that number ends in an even or odd number, etc. they have a lot of fun

    Reply
  • Dave

    I don't mind the new book every 3 months but why can't they number or letter them and on the new book tell you the numbers or letters on the old book to discard, I just throw the old books on the road

    Reply
  • scotty

    the pages are great for cleaning windows. the leave no lint or streaks.

    Reply
  • Toby Loewy

    As an art teacher, I used old phone books for papier mache. It's just newsprint just like the daily paper which is also used that way. We also used the paper for drawing upon when we had a model pose for us or set up a still life. We used felt tip markers. Much cheaper than buying newsprint.

    Reply
  • Kimberley

    I use the old phone books as an inexpensive toy for my parrots. They love to tear it apart. Keeps them busy for hours.

    Reply
  • TammyP.inK.C.

    Having 9 cats, it helps to have some of the litter boxes with shredded paper and, though they seem to prefer the cat litter, they will also use cat litter boxes with shredded paper in them instead. Well, the old phone books are great for making shredded paper for the cats to use! Recently I heard something about how cat litter is taking up a lot of landfill space and that some kinds of litter don't biodegrade so well; this helps some in that regard....

    Reply
  • Kim

    I use the pages of my old phone books to clean windows and mirrors. Works great!

    Reply
  • Michelle in NJ

    I use my old phone books under my hot pots and casseroles to protect my table. They are very thick and the heat does not penetrate down to the wood.

    Reply
  • G.

    I contacted my phone company and asked them to stop sending the %$^#@ things- Save a coupla trees!

    Reply
  • Dorothy-Jean

    My sister who lives in Iowa and my daughter who lives in Texas always seem to appreciate receiving my old telephone books for looking up someone's address, or to help in remembering a special shop.

    Reply
  • Kelly

    I have heard that some people who sit at desks, maybe like judges or something, can use them under the desk to help increase protection. Of course, I'm not saying they'll make your desk bullet proof, but I've heard that it could add some cushioned protection from something like, say, stray bullets shot into a courtroom or something. Not sure, just repeating what I've heard....

    Reply
  • Michele

    I keep an old phone book in my camper and out in my shed. It makes great fire starter for campfires, we have a pit in the back yard too. Keeps all the paper nice and tidy, no more newspapers scattered around.

    Reply
  • Eileen Diggle

    As a math teacher with too few resources..I reuse the sheets of plastic used on the overhead projector in class. The marker ink washes off easily under a faucet in the teachers' room. Then, I place each sheet between separate pages of the old phone book to dry them and keep them apart for their next use.

    Reply
  • Terri

    Old phone books are great when you are training a new pet and they make a mistake on the floor. Its thin enough to tell what you are picking up but thick enough to keep what you are picking up from soaking through until you get it to a trash container and it does not cost a thing unlike tissues, paper towels or toilet tissue.

    Reply
  • jo

    I take the old book roll it,c tape it with paking tape, and use them to keep my leather boots from bending. You can do the same with the Sunday paper.

    Reply
  • Geordy

    I !use them to defrost the freezer

    Reply
  • Mel

    Using Duct Tape, secure two of the big books together. Take measurements of this and add about 1/2 inch on all sides and cut out those measurements out of heavy fabric, or lined vinyl. Sew up the sides, leaving one of the big sides open and insert the books. Stuff the excess room inside with padding material or pillow and hand stitch the last opening, and Voile'! you have a cheap, portable booster seat.

    Reply
  • 37 Comments / 2 Pages

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