Do you have newspapers piled high in a box or bin somewhere in your house or garage that you'd like to get rid of? Here's a tip: instead of sending it off to recycling, shred it and use it as mulch in your garden or around your flowers and shrubs. You'll want to then top it off with grass clippings, hay, chipped tree mulch, or something similar (otherwise, the newspaper will just blow away and look like hell), but you'll gain lots of benefits from using shredded newspaper as an underblanket. I've used grass clippings--shown in the picture--to cover up the newspaper.
[Note to self: Next time, pick a wind-less day for mulching. The shredded newspaper won't blow all over the yard and I won't get grass clippings in my mouth.]
Using shredded newspaper not only gives you a use for those newspapers that might instead clutter up the landfill, but it also works as compost for the soil, helps retain moisture around your plants, and prevents weeds from taking over. Newspapers are safe for mulching since the newspaper industry has switched over to soy-based inks.
Shredded newspaper mulch doesn't stop all weeds; let me be clear about that. But it significantly reduces the number of them that will sneak through, particularly if you lay the mulch down thickly. If you want extra weed protection without chemicals, tear up some food-grade or corrugated cardboard and lay that down first, then the shredded newspaper, and finally, whatever you've chosen as your topside mulch. Ultimately, the cardboard and newspaper will all break down and become part of the soil that the little beasties feed on; additionally, you won't have the leachate that you would get if you lay down plastic. (Plastic is bad, very bad, and should never be used around food.)