Valentine’s Day: A holiday full of love, generosity, secret admirers, friends and tons of waste. From cards to candy boxes, just about every cheap valentine is pre-packaged and will very soon make its way to the trash. If you are one of the thousands who don’t hold on to their Dora and SpongeBob valentines past Feb. 15, this recipe for recycled valentines applies to you. Give the gift of sustainability or just enjoy a fun activity with friends by making your own paper.
-1-inch strips of recycled white and colored paper (check mail rooms, computer lab recycling bins or bins next to copy machines for tons of used paper)
-Wire coat hanger and nylon stockings (to make homemade screen)
-Large plastic basin (big enough to completely submerge screen)
-Liquid starch (optional)
1. To make your homemade screen, bend a wire coat hanger into a square by pulling the long end away from the hook and then straightening out the sides. Stretch the nylon stockings over the coat hanger frame and tie them in a knot to keep it tight. Voila!
2. Fill a blender with paper strips until about halfway full. Pour warm water until full and blend until you don’t see flakes of paper anymore. Be sure to add colors that will blend well together.
3. Pour three blender loads of pulp into the basin and dilute the mixture by adding water. Your mixture should be roughly the consistency of oatmeal.
4. Optional: add two teaspoons of liquid starch to the pulp. This will stiffen your paper and reduce pens from bleeding and soaking into it.
5. Submerge your coat hanger screen into the basin to scoop a thin layer of pulp onto it. Gently shake off excess and let it drip dry before placing it on a T-shirt.
6. Flatten and dry the pulp with a dry sponge or cloth by gently pressing out excess water. Allow the damp pulp to sit for three to five minutes.
7. Once the pulp is flattened, carefully flip the screen over and detach paper pulp from the screen by pressing the backside of the screen and peeling the sheet of pulp off. This part takes practice and depends on the consistency of your paper, how dry it is, and how fast you peel.
8. Repeat the steps above and place sheets between inside-out T-shirts stacked on top of each other. Press excess water out one last time, then separate and allow the sheets to dry on a flat surface overnight.
9. Decorate and enjoy your homemade recycled valentines!
– Heather Jones