In fact, a session with my therapist and my budding interest in eco-friendly activities collided to lead me to plantable seed paper and new gardening knowledge.
What is a seeded paper to plant?
Plantable seed paper – also known as biodegradable eco-paper, sprouted seed paper, and tree-free paper – is generally derived from recycled or recycled materials, with the seeds submerged during the papermaking process. It requires soil, water, heat and sun, just like typical seeds. Once planted, the paper breaks down into the soil and the seeds begin to germinate.
Although plants grow and mature at different rates, you should usually see sprouts within a few weeks, but full blooms often take two to three months, depending on surrounding conditions.
Plantable seed paper is often touted as a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to many traditional paper products. “We take waste paper from local sources, such as envelope clippings and discarded business documents, and turn it into paper pulp,” said Heidi Reimer-Epp, co-founder and CEO of Botanical papers, a Canadian environmental paper company. The company incorporates seeds into waste paper, then forms the concoction into sheets. To ensure the paper has a high germination rate, the leaves are naturally dried to avoid pressure and heat, which can kill the seeds.
Bluecat papera treeless paper company based in India, offers options such as cotton, citronella, linen, and even elephant waste. bloomina Colorado-based company, offers a line of products made from 100% post-industrial recycled paper.
There is also a sentimental appeal to the product. “People love the idea that someone can plant their wedding invitation,” said Don Martin, owner and president of Bloomin.
Having grown up with only a few houseplants that my mother cared for, I was curious if the product was suitable for those who live in urban areas, especially those with no gardening experience. “I think it’s a very user-friendly, non-intimidating product,” Reimer-Epp said. “If you have a small patio or balcony, or a sunny spot, you can plant it indoors.”
Turning to seed paper products, Reimer-Epp believes people are driven by concerns about sustainability and the decline of our planet. “First and foremost, when you use this paper, you’re not using plastic or virgin paper that ends up in a landfill,” she said. “He’s a big pilot.”
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I asked gardening and plant science experts to comment on product claims about sustainability, including improved soil, wetlands, water quality and animal habitats. Experts were hesitant to refute such claims, and indeed, planting vegetation of any kind has the potential to improve the environment. But even if the touted benefits of plantable paper are a bit of a stretch, a recycled paper product that naturally decomposes is a net good.
“No, it’s not going to change the world,” said Melinda Myersgardening expert, author and host of the gardening course »How to grow anything.” But “if it’s 100% post-consumer recycled paper, that definitely means they’re not cutting down more trees to make the product.” Myers pointed out that getting a recycled greeting card or invitation that you can then plant is often nicer than having to throw it in the recycling bin or add it to the landfill.
There are other seed paper concerns that consumers should also keep in mind. “I want to know what the specific seeds are and I want to make sure they will be suitable for the growing conditions. Are they non-invasive and disease resistant? Myers said. Seeds that succeed in one area may not succeed in another.
You should also consider that non-native plant species can alter a habitat, with potentially devastating implications.
“You wouldn’t want to plant aggressive non-native seeds,” said Lori Imboden, horticulture educator at Michigan State University. “You want to know what you’re planting and what it means” for your location.
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And, of course, not all paper is plantable. Dyed and glossy cards generally cannot be decomposed into environmentally friendly paper pulp. Those wishing to recycle old greetings should instead turn to their recycling centers and perhaps reconsider such purchases in the future. (Paper designed with glitter and other non-recyclable materials usually goes into the landfill.)
As consumers turn to seed paper for items such as greeting cards, wedding invitations and memorial cards, it’s clear that the product also has an emotional component.
“The fact that there are perennial wildflower seeds that come back every year really creates that sentimental keepsake of anything that you want to commemorate,” Martin said of her line of seed paper cards and gifts.
When I found myself grappling with the death of my childhood dog, a pooch named Jack, I came across some seed paper to plant after my therapist suggested I write him a letter. “It can help you heal,” she said.
When my order arrived, I locked myself in my basement and wrote my letter to Jack. I told her how much I loved her, how lucky I was to have her in my life, and how sorry I was that I never got to say goodbye to her. I cried until I couldn’t see. Then I followed the instructions that came with the paper: soak overnight and cover with soil. May take eight to 12 weeks.
The instructions promised that the paper would grow wildflowers with proper care. I was skeptical – not of the product, but of my ability to successfully garden from scratch. My background and my lack of experience taunted me. Besides, was writing a letter to my long-lost dog really supposed to help anything? The suggestion seemed far too eccentric for my liking.
Purple wildflowers now grow in my garden where I buried my letter to Jack two years ago. When I see the flowers, I think of the dog with whom I shared my childhood and who followed me until adulthood. And I think of me, a woman who hasn’t mastered homemade basil but who has learned to grow something.
Christina Wyman is a writer and teacher in Michigan. His first novel, “Jawbreaker”, is forthcoming. Find her on Twitter: @CBWymanWriter.