Waste not, want not

GAZETTEER Vol. 4 May 2020

Hi Trailblazers! This week we are going to think about some stuff. Specifically, why do we have so much stuff in our lives? And why does so much of it end up in the trash? Watch the Story of Stuff to learn more!

You’ve heard of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, now let’s see how we can put that into practice in our own homes! 



Over, 5,000 years ago Egyptians started using an early form of paper called papyrus! To make it, you had to start by soaking the stems of a papyrus plant, from which papyrus gets its name, until they started to decompose. From there you’d layer them on top of each other and mash them together! Once your mashed papyrus page was dry, it’d be ready to use. 

Making paper today isn’t really that much different! Let’s try it.

Papyrus, Egypt, c. 1550-1069 BC


Did you know that when you recycle paper, they use a very similar process to make new paper? Watch this video to see how it works!
  • What you need to make your own paper:
    • Scrap pieces of paper that are old or used already (you can use newspapers, cardboard, non-styrofoam egg cartons, or anything that is not glossy!) 
    • A food processor or a blender 
    • Parchment paper 
    • A rolling pin 
    • Water

Follow the instructions here to make your very own paper! Don’t have a screen? Try this version, using parchment paper!  



African artist El Anatsui (Ghana) has used fibre and old bottle caps to make this stunning wall hanging. Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.

You can make all sorts of things by reusing trash. Johnson Zuze, an artist from Zimbabwe, makes art from things he’s collected out of landfills and from nature. Watch how he does it here! Blackfoot artist Jay Laber creates incredible art that represents his culture out of junk as well! See some of them here


The terrible Octo-cat made out of an old sweater and cardboard rolls.

Dig through the recycling to find things to make a sculpture!  Will you make an animal? A monster? A robot? Something abstract? You can use your paper from the last activity to draw some of your ideas! You can use anything that you’d like, but try to include something made out of hard plastic, something made out of aluminum and something made out of fibre.



Check out this all-natural comb cleaner from an Eastern Cree community in Nemiscau, Rupert River, Quebec, it’s made out of the tail of a porcupine! Indigenous communities have strong values that discourage waste, and this is an example of using all of the parts of an animal to create useful and reusable items. Learn more about Indigenous inventions that were made from things found in nature here

Comb Cleaner, Quebec, c. 1964


Running low on soap and want to know how to get more out of what’s left? Well we can make our own squishy ball of soap! 

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup corn flour 
  • 4 tablespoons of liquid soap (dish soap works!) 
  • Something to mix it with
  • 4 teaspoons of cooking oil 
  • A few Drops of food colouring, if you have some! Whatever colour you like! 

Step 1: Mix the corn flour and liquid soap together. Stir it really, really well! 

Step 2: Add the cooking oil and mix it all up again. It should all be starting to blend together now!

Step 3: Add the food colouring. 3-4 drops should be enough! Give the mixture a stir to get the colour incorporated.

Step 4: Squish it with your hands to give it any shape you like! 

Now you have your own squishy ball of soap! You can break off a small piece to use whenever you wash your hands, or use the whole thing! 


Show us what you’ve done to help reduce, reuse and recycle this week! Take a picture of your efforts and ask an adult to share it on social media. You can tag us @ROMToronto and use the hashtag #ROMTrailblazers

Thanks for being an eco-warrior! We’ll be back with another dispatch activity next week.

Savhanna and Nadijah

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