By Mary Heyl
This Sunday marks 48 years since Earth Day was first celebrated in the United States. Now is a great time to commit to living a greener life through recycling, carpooling and using fewer chemicals in and around your home. You can also take advantage of this time to make some great memories with your family by repurposing everyday household items and giving them new life, instead of throwing them away!
Everyone knows the importance of recycling paper, especially large quantities like newspaper, but what exactly happens to paper once it’s dropped off at the recycling center? Making your own paper is a great teaching opportunity to show your family a simplified version of what happens at a paper mill and how even the most minute paper scraps can be given new life!
To get started, gather some scraps of paper of paper from around the house. Junk mail, newspaper, wrapping paper and tissue paper are all recyclable! Tear the paper into very small pieces and place ½ cup into a blender. Add 2 cups of hot water and beat the paper and water in the blender to make pulp. To achieve a crisper texture, add 2 teaspoons of instant starch (this step is optional). Blend everything until the mixture is the consistency of split pea soup. Meanwhile, prepare the blotting area for the paper to dry. Place a small stack of newspapers on the counter. Place a layer of old towels or shirts (2 or 3 pieces), cut to at least a 9×13” rectangle, on top of the newspaper. Have two more old pieces of towel ready nearby.
Pour the mixture into a flat dish or pan (about 9×13”). Slide a piece of screen (available the hardware store) into the bottom of the pan and move it around until it is evenly covered with pulp. Lift the screen out of the pan and hold it level; allow to drain as much as possible. Put the screen, pulp-side up, on the towel-covered newspapers. Lay the two layers of towel or fabric on top of the screen. Add another layer of newspapers on top of this.
Use a large jar or rolling pin to roll over the covered screen to squeeze out the rest of the water. Remove the top layer of newspaper and carefully flip the screen and the remaining layers of towel and newspaper over. Allow to dry for at least 24 hours. Be sure to compost any remaining pulp, as it could clog the drain! Enjoy your homemade paper and use it for making cards, scrapbooking, writing notes, and more. Experiment with each batch, adding glitter, colored thread, food coloring and confetti!
What better way to embrace Earth Day than to start your own garden? Although recent weather has not been very conducive to prepping the soil outdoors, you can start your own seedlings inside using egg shells. Instead of tossing them in the trash, save a half dozen egg shells to start your seeds—they’re biodegradable and can be planted directly into the soil when the time is right. Additionally, the cracked egg shells supply nutrients to the growing seedlings and surrounding soil.
Maintain the integrity of the shells by slicing the narrow end of the egg with a knife and carefully pouring the egg out. Rinse the egg shells carefully and place them back in the carton. Chip away any rough edges and even out the shape of the opening. Poke a small hole in the base of each eggshell using a large needle or an awl to create drainage for your mini planters. Spray the eggshells with water and spoon in the potting soil evenly.
Plant the seeds according to the packet directions. Spritz the eggshells with water and place the carton in a well-lit area indoors. Enjoy watching your seedlings grown until they’re big enough and the weather is warm enough to transfer them outdoors.