If you’re a waste-not-want-not kind of DIYer, try making your own paper. Turn your junk mail into greeting cards! Moreover, since you can’t recycle most types of milk or juice cartons, you can keep them from ending up in landfills and instead surprise someone on his or her birthday. (See other things you think can but actually can’t recycle here: http://ecosalon.com/10-surprising-things-you-cant-recycle/#heading.)
If you are going to make paper out of milk cartons, a word of caution: most types are coated with some kind of plastic or wax. To get the paper soft enough, you’ll have to boil it, which will create a small degree of fumes. To this extent, I advise sticking to junk mail or paper scraps, but if you want to put your cartons to use, simply open a window near the kitchen and run a fan.
- Scrap paper
- Water in a pot to boil (if you're using cartons)
- Frame with netting. Use an old picture frame or:
- Four pairs of wooden chopsticks
- Super glue
- Netting, such as the one you get when you buy lemons
- Several towels
- X-acto knife
- Glue stick
1. Cut up your scrap paper into pieces roughly one cubic inch. Keep in mind this is not an exact art, but it helps the look of the final product if you stick with scraps of the same color group. If there are words on your paper, take care to remove words like calories, cholesterol, taxes, and other things people don't like to think about when they receive a card!
2. If you're working with normal paper and not cartons, put the paper into an electronic blender with lots of water and blend until pulpy. The time will vary depending on the weight of the paper itself.
3. If you're working with cartons, you'll have to boil it first. Fill a pot with water and add the scraps. Partially cover with a lid once at boil and lower the heat to a low, steady simmer. Remember to open a window. Once the paper is soft enough, blend it thoroughly. You may have to do this a few times.
4. Put all of the pulp into a basin with water enough to move the pulp liberally around.
5. For the wooden frame with netting, you have two option: you can use an old picture frame (plenty to be had at the thrift store) and stretch some netting across it, or go DIY all the way. Get four wooden chopsticks from an Asian cuisine restaurant. Break them apart as evenly as you can (hold them closer to the middle than at the bottom when breaking). Place netting such as from produce between the pair of chopsticks and super-glue together. Continue until you create a frame.
6. Slide frame into pulp basin and shake around until you have a decent layer of pulp. Move around the colored bits of paper as you wish them to appear in the final product. Press excess water out with your hand very gently, and do the same with a small paint roller or (if you're cheap like me) a plastic spoon you got with your Asian takeout. If you accidentally move around the pulp, you can always dip the spoon into your pulp basin and pour more in the netted frame to fill the gap.
7. Place the frame on a towel and use another towel to gently and use another towel to gently press more water out.
8. On a flat surface, prepare to remove the pulp from the frame by laying another (dry) towel on top of the frame and turning it upside down onto the flat surface. Dry overnight and most of the next day.
9. If you want to make a folded card, fold the paper in half before it's fully dry so it doesn't crack.
10. Once dry, place paper between heavy books to flatten.
11. To make a greeting card, take an X-acto knife and cut the width of a ribbon in the fold of the card. Slide ribbon through.
12. Cut enough ribbon to wrap vertically around the front flap of the card and glue in place.
Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she writes about education, online degrees, and what it takes to succeed as a student taking online programs remotely from home. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.