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Challenge: Be My Valentine

Seed Paper Valentines: Loving the Earth and Each Other

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The best thing about working for Faith in Place, an interfaith Earth care non-profit in Illinois, is sharing my quest for sustainability and health with my children. They get to watch and interact as I learn how to make better choices for my family—what we eat, what we drink, what we buy, what we throw away—through a lens of commitment to caring for the earth. This is most evident (sometimes to their great displeasure) on gift-giving occasions. Sure, it would be easy to buy store-bought licensed character valentines and candy, but where’s the love? Certainly not for our teeth, our bodies, or the earth. So we decided to go a different direction this year and make plantable seed paper Valentines.

We (loosely) followed this post from Crafting a Green World and gathered these materials:
• Ripped-up newspaper, junk mail, or colored construction paper (we chose red and pink)
• Water
• Wildflower seeds
• Heart-shaped mini aluminum pie tins, silicone molds, or a plain cookie sheet
• 1 large bowl
• Blender or food processor
• Scissors

We were able to rescue some old newspapers from our local library’s recycling bin to use for this project. I love the symbolism of turning bad news about the Illinois state budget crisis and local crime reports into something that will bring new life. The only items I needed to purchase were seeds, which we found very inexpensively at a local dollar store.

My children are 11, 7, and 3 and there was an opportunity for everyone to pitch in for this Valentine’s Day project. My youngest happily ripped paper. The two older girls used scissors to cut the ripped paper into very tiny pieces. After we had about 3 cups of newspaper shreds, we added enough water to thoroughly saturate the paper. Then we dumped the mixture into the food processor and pulsed until it reached an oatmeal-like consistency. We removed it from the food processor, squeezed out the excess water, and returned it to the bowl. We sprinkled the wildflower seeds on top and mixed them in with our hands.

Here’s where things got a bit…experimental. To have enough Valentines for each girl’s class and teachers I needed to make around 60 seed paper hearts. That’s a lot of hearts. So we tried a few different methods to see which would yield the most hearts per batch.

We took half of the batch and rolled them out onto a cookie sheet using our fingers, wax paper, and a toy rolling pin. After waiting 24 hours for it to dry, I flipped the paper over and waited another 12 hours. After it was fully dry, we attempted to cut out heart shapes. It…did not go well. The cutting process caused the heart shapes to crumble, so we cut the large sheet into smaller chunks to package and give away with a gift tag explaining what to do with the seed paper. This method yielded 25 tiny hearts chunks.

Using the silicon molds was infinitely easier but took longer to dry and only yielded 9 hearts at a time. I ended up making several more batches of pulp to get enough hearts for my daughter’s class. They were packaged in the same way.

I’m a perfectionist, so having to get creative when things didn’t quite turn out how I’d originally planned stretched me.

But that’s the way it goes in life when we’re trying to do good. Making seed paper hearts seemed like a good idea, but they took a lot more time and effort than buying store-bought goodies. But the time spent together the discussions had while shredding paper more than made up for the inconvenience.

This project helps illustrate for my girls that love for the Earth and love for one another aren’t always easy, but they’re always worth it.

How will you show love for the arth and her people this Valentine’s Day?

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