Making Sustainable Books

Ms. Shelby Dunning tries to focus on real-life applications in her Environmental Science classes. The year began with her classes exploring such topics as ecosystems, carrying capacity, bioms, carnivores vs. herbivores, and other topics pertaining to the environment. They then transitioned to environmental problems such as different forms of pollution. The focus in the second part of the year is on sustainability, where the students work on projects in which humans can positively impact the environment.

In March, Ms. Dunning sent an email to faculty and staff asking for donations of used paper. Ms. Dunning’s 12th Grade Science classes then, literally, ripped the paper to shreds. The ultimate goal was to upcycle the paper into books. In a multicultural crafting class in college, Ms. Dunning had studied the ancient art of Coptic book binding, which is a way of binding books without glue or staples. This style of book binding is attributed to early Christians living in Egypt some 2000 years ago. And it definitely captured her students’ attention and interest!

Each student was asked to create forty pieces of paper in the multi-week sustainability project, using the following process:

blend water and paper to create pulpStep One: Shred enormous piles of paper in all colors into small pieces. Place the shredded paper into a powerful blender, along with ample amounts of water, and blend, starting on a slow speed.

Step Two: Add several blenders full of the pulp to Two students fill deckle with pulpbasins of standing water, then evenly cover the deckle (which is a rectangular frame with mesh screen) with the pulp. If the mix is too thin, it will fall apart; too thick, and the final product becomes inflexible. Hold the deckle over the basin and allow the moisture to drain.

Two students place filled mold on couching clothStep Three: Place the mold on what is called a couching cloth that absorbs the moisture. Tamp the mold down with a sponge to force out excess water and smooth the paper pulp. Tip the flattened, wet pulp onto a clean cloth and allow it to dry.

About the Paper Creation:
samples of hand-crafted paperDifferent colors in the original paper creates pulp producing variety in the shades and patterns, depending on how the student mixes the pulp and adds it to the basins and the deckle.

Step Four: Iron the paper on both sides with a warm iron, then allow the pages to be student designs cover of bookflattened for a day or two within a book or compressed between two flat surfaces.

Step Five: Cut front and back covers to size and decorate the covers.

student trims pages to fit in bookStep Six: Trim the pages to size to match cover size. Use tape to reinforce the inside edge of the paper, then punch evenly-spaced holes through the covers and pages with an awl. Next, use a tapestry needle and waxed thread, to stitch the books so that the pages are exposed on all sides, and so the book will lie flat when opened.

paper for pulp creation
flattening paper
pages must be ironed
cleaning the deckle
sorting pages for the book
inspiration for cover design
embroidery floss must be waxed before use
trimming pages for book
Cover designs
care of the deckle
clean up after creation of paper
assorted book covers created by students
Almost finished
sample of books created by teacher

More photos of final books will be posted soon!