Coffee sleeves, those corrugated cardboard rings that protect your hands from the heat of a fresh cup of joe, are useful even once your coffee is gone (or has gone cold). With their sturdy cardboard and classic shape, coffee sleeves can easily be transformed into jewelry, party streamers, baskets or even musical instruments. Save your coffee sleeves, and you'll save money and help save the environment.
The coffee sleeves naturally lend themselves to be bracelets. Depending on the size of your arms, they might also work as arm bands higher on your upper arm. If you're a huge coffee aficionado, you could wear the plain cardboard sleeves unadorned, letting the world know that you love your Starbucks. If you prefer, use the cardboard sleeve as a base for any decorations. You could use fabrics like felt, velvet or ribbon, or you could paste colorful magazine pages or cut-out words from magazines. You can also wrap the cardboard in plain paper and ask people to coat it with their own messages to you.
Coffee sleeves could also work as headbands. To create these, open up the coffee sleeve and attach (via staple or tape) a single piece of elastic to each end, so that you've expanded the size of the sleeve. Slip it on your head, with the elastic part tucked under your hair, behind your neck.
Coffee sleeves can also make festive streamers, like sturdier versions of the construction paper ones you had at your childhood birthday parties. To make the streamers a decent length, you'll need at least a dozen coffee sleeves. Open each one up and link the sleeves together, re-sealing the loop with a staple or clear tape. If you are decorating for a coffee-themed party, leave the Starbucks (or other coffee shop) logo showing. Otherwise, you can decorate the sleeves with glitter, stickers, sequins or any other lightweight item. When the streamers are done, string them over an entranceway or across the room.
Jewelry and streamers are nice to look at, but if you want to actually use the coffee sleeves in a new function, they make cute baskets or mini maracas. For either of these creations, you'll need an additional piece of cardboard. Trace the smaller end of the coffee sleeve on the cardboard, and cut out this circle. You can simply use the bottom of a cardboard cup, but it would need to be a larger cup than the one on which you used the sleeve. Once you have a coffee sleeve and your cardboard circle, use glue or tape to attach the circle to the coffee sleeve. You now have a little cup or basket that can hold desk items like paper clips, rubber bands or coins. To make a maraca, you'll need to first make two of these baskets. Then fill one of the baskets 2/3 of the way with dry rice, beans, or any other small and plentiful item that could make noise. Place the second basket upside down on top of the first one, so that the wide sides are touching each other. Use glue to secure the two halves, or place several rubber bands or pieces of tape around the entire creation.
The possibilities really are numerous. The Internet boasts several bloggers who collect coffee sleeves, and morph them into Christmas decorations (http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/448666/craft_ideas_for_how_to_recycle_starbucks.html?cat=7) or even mini notepads. (See tutorial here: http://dearbarbz.vox.com/library/post/craft-tutorial-reusablerecycled-coffee-sleeve-mini-notepads.html). If you are diligent, you can collect sleeves of various patterns and simply make a colorful collage. Maybe your local Starbucks will even hang it in the store.
Alexandra Perloe has been writing professionally for seven years, and has been published in the Boston Globe, the Sentinel and Enterprise (Fitchburg, Massachusetts), the Jewish Exponent (Philadelphia) and the Jewish Advocate (Boston). She was also the deputy editor of the Justice, the student newspaper of Brandeis University, from which she graduated summa cum laude with highest honors in psychology, and Spanish language and literature.