[DIY] Make wrapping paper that grows food

More than 100 million trees are destroyed each year to make 'junk' mail and about 44% of that mail doesn't even get opened.

In Australia, 240,000 tonnes of paper is used annually to create junk mail. The water needed to produce a year's worth of catalogues could fill 8,640 Olympic-sized swimming pools!

We've written before about how you can opt out of receiving junk mail. But, if you haven't gotten around to it yet or you have a whole heap piled up for recycling then this Instructables DIY is a great way to use it up!

Shared originally by DebH57 and republished here under a creative commons ShareAlike licence.

How To Make Seed Paper That Grows

A quick note on preparing the paper: You need to remove anything from the paper that isn't made of paper. Look for glue, staples, sticky tape, and plastic windows. Also, any paper that is shiny has probably had a gloss of some sort applied, this paper shouldn't be used.


Appropriate junk mail that that you have shred or cut into thin strips
An old wooden picture frame or make a frame to your desired size
Fine Window or Door Screen Material
A Staple Gun or Heavy Duty Tacks
Old Terry Cloth Towels
White Towels (not terry cloth 2 per sheet of paper)
Baking Sheets
Cooling Racks like you would use for cookies
Bricks or something to add weight
A Blender
A Rolling Pin
A Plastic Container, larger than your frame
A Pitcher
Waxed Paper
Any kind of small flat flower or vegetable seeds, I used tomato seeds for this project.

Make Your Frame

Staple or tack screening material to Frame. Place in plastic container and set inside the plastic tub.

Shred and Mix Your Paper

Fill blender with shredded paper until it's about 2/3 full. Add enough water to cover paper and fill blender almost full.

Run blender on high speed until mixture is thick and pulpy looking almost like wet cement.

Pour Your Paper

Pour the mixture over the screen material in the frame, make a second batch and repeat. Spread mixture out as evenly as possible.

Lift and Drain the Frame

Lift frame out of the water and set over the plastic container allowing the mixture to drip freely.

I like to lay a piece of waxed paper over the mixture and help press the water out with a hand above and below the screen material to speed the process.

Press the Paper

When the dripping stops lay the frame on a large towel folded several layers thick. Apply a new piece of waxed paper over it and use an implement to press and smooth the paper mixture out evenly. Flip the towel over or refold to a dryer side and continue pressing as much water as possible out.

I used a tool from my kitchen for smoothing fondant and an ironing motion to complete this step.

The more you work the paper mixture the smoother it will become.

Flip the Paper

Lay a white, smooth textured, non-terry cloth type towel on top of your frame.

Flip the frame over onto the white towel. Remove the frame. If you have expressed out enough water the paper mixture should drop right out of the frame. If it does not, flip it back over, get a fresh thick towel and repeat the pressing process.

The thickness of the paper mixture will depend on how many times you poured mixture into the pan. I did it twice here and mine is about 1/4 inch thick so far in an 11x14 frame.

Add Seeds

Decide what kind of seeds you want to use and sprinkle them over the paper, you could do something cute like choosing .all the ingredients for a nice salad or a favourite meal!

Apply waxed paper over the top and repeat the pressing process to embed the seeds into the paper.

Press the Paper

Cover the paper with another clean white, non-terry cloth towel and lay a piece of non-waxed cardboard on top of the towel.

Slide a baking sheet, firm board, etc., between the lower white towel and the large terry cloth towel, lift your paper off and set on a flat surface. Lay a piece of cardboard on top.

Weight the whole thing down with anything heavy that will cover the entire piece of paper to extract more water. I used bricks, but a hospital pail filled with sand, rocks or water works equally well.

Roll the Paper Thin

Remove the weights and cardboard. Make layers with: a single thickness of Terry Towel, a white non Terry Towel on top, spread longer than your paper, your paper and waxed paper on top.

Working lengthwise only take your rolling pin (I used a weighted marble rolling pin) and from the center out roll your paper from the center to the far end. Do not use a back and forth motion.

Repeat the process for the other half until the paper is the desired thickness.

Dry the Paper

Slide a cooling rack or anything else with a firm surface you have to use between the Terry Cloth and White Towel. Set another rack on top and flip the paper. Remove the white towel on top then set your paper in an airy place to dry out completely. The rack beneath allows air flow to both sides. Turn the paper after 4  6 hours of drying time.

If you choose to put it outside, check your weather forecast to make sure it is going to be a nice sunny day that is not humid, forecasting rain or where birds will come to eat the seeds. (Ha, I speak from experience) You can place an aluminum pie tin with a rock in it next to your paper to discourage the birds.

Note: If you are going to be using your paper to make cut outs like an ornament you want it to be thicker than standard paper.

It's Ready to Use

You are now ready to design and use your paper. Cut it into the desired sizes or make shapes, punch a hole and add some ribbon, string or twine for hanging.

If you are giving it as a gift such as a note card, (I do not recommend greeting cards as they tend to get crumbly on the folds) be sure to include a note to let the recipient know what kind of seeds are in the paper and that they only need to tear it in large pieces and put it in the ground or a pretty pot as the paper creates its own compost and will disintegrate. Include other useful information such as if it needs a sunny or shady location, etc.

If they won't be using it right away the paper should be stored in the refrigerator until planted.

Pre-sprouting your paper is as simple as re-wetting the paper, putting it in a plastic zip lock baggie and storing them in either a dark place like a shoe box or in direct sunlight until you see sprouts, depending on what the seeds are and then planting them.

Banner Image: Shutterstock

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