Contact CNR


College of Natural Resources
phone: (208) 885-8981
toll free: 88-88-UIDAHO
fax: (208) 885-5534

875 Perimeter Drive MS 1142
Moscow, ID 83844-1142
Wood, plastics and pine cones can be used to make new materials.

Recipe For a Clock


Pine cones – finely ground
Milk jugs
Shredded paper
Rubbermaid storage container – preferably cracked


Melt milk jugs and storage container. Mix in shredded paper and pine cones.  Press in a heat press. Add clock dial and battery.  Hang on wall.

Learning how to make new materials out of old materials is the focus of CNR’s Introduction to Renewable Materials course.  This year’s students got to bring their creativity into play as well.  While in the past students made speaker boxes and birdhouses, the current class was given free rein.

“This year I didn’t tell them what to do,” said Tom Gorman, Professor of Renewable Materials and CNR Associate Dean, “I just said ‘do whatever you want to do’.”

Given just six weeks to produce something that was functional and valuable, the students created clocks, chess boards and a skate board.

“One of our main goals was to figure out a way to reduce landfills, because landfills are filling up” said sophomore Todd Lindstrom. “It takes plastic a long time to degrade.”

Lindstrom’s team made a chessboard out of different kinds of plastic and paper. Their product is waterproof and unbendable. Lindstrom said it is strong enough to be used for tiling a bathroom, yet it can be recycled at the end of its life. “I think in the future we are going to shift toward this kind of thing,” he added.

“It really is viable,” said Gorman. “It really is feasible to do stuff like this out of recycled materials.” Gorman said that he sees no reason why products such as those produced by his students couldn’t be on the market some day.

The remaining two teams made a chess board that is sturdy and aesthetically pleasing enough to be used as a serving tray when flipped over, and a skate board that contains recycled red Solo cups among other materials.

As part of the course students were also asked to complete a life cycle assessment of their product.  They had to consider the source of their raw materials, how much energy went into producing it, and what could be done with it at the end of its life.  Students pointed out that all of their products can be broken down, reshredded and reprocessed into something new.

“Everything is finite on this planet, so we need to find out how to recycle it?” commented Biomaterials and BioProducts Professor Armando McDonald, adding that the point of recycling is not just about recovering waste materials. Rather, it’s about rethinking how we use resources, because simply throwing things away is a very expensive solution.