Going camping this summer? Consider preparing some zero waste fire starters for your campfire by turning a few household waste products into something you can burn. I saw this idea on Pinterest and then got some details from this post by Chica and Jo. I realize some of you are awesome, vegan, true zero waste folks who have no egg cartons or dryer lint or metal cans at home, but you can probably get some from neighbors without much difficulty. So here’s how to do it:
Step 1: gather your supplies:
- a cardboard egg carton
- some lint from your dryer’s lint trap. Cotton balls are another option. Or lint trimmed from fuzzy sweaters and blankets?
- the grossest, most broken crayons you can find
- a metal can to melt them in
- a saucepan with water
Finding gross, old crayons was not as easy as I thought it would be. In fact, I didn’t find any at home that were really bad enough to warrant being melted. My son just doesn’t use his enough. But we get these little packets of impossibly thin crayons at restaurants sometimes, and someone once gave him a box of off-brand ones with boring colors as a gift. So I selected some to burn. But if I do this again, I will ask around at pre-schools, restaurants, and maybe on some Mommy listservs. I also ended up using a few candle stubs, and that worked well, too.
Step 2: melt crayons
I think you should remove the paper wrappers first, but if you try doing this without removing them first, let me know. To remove the wrappers you can freeze the crayons first so the wrappers will slide off, or to slit them with a paper cutter (ideas from Chica and Jo). Put the crayons into a metal can and put that into a saucepan that has an inch or so of water in it. Bring the water to boil and the crayons will start to melt. You can probably turn the heat down or off once the water comes to a boil.
Step 3: stuff egg cartons with dryer lint
This part isn’t too difficult. Even kids can do it:
Step 4: pour the crayon wax over the dryer lint
Use tongs or take the metal can out of the water to let it cool enough for you to handle. Unfortunately I’m not sure how you can recycle the metal can after pouring the wax out of it. I set mine aside for repeated use for this purpose. You could also try putting it in the freezer to make the wax hard and easier to break off before recycling.
Step 5: Cut up into individual fire starters
I used scissors to cut these up and then brought them on our camping trip in a re-used baggie.They worked really well! Starting fires is not something we do often, so it’s been a challenge on a few past camping trips. When hubby saw my bowl of dryer lint on our kitchen table, he was kind of grossed out and said, “Can’t we just use some newspaper as fire starter?” So I did a little experiment. The newspaper burned quickly and left a lot of ash behind that seemed to block the air flow in our little kindling pile. The egg carton filled with dryer lint and crayon, however, burned for several minutes and caught the kindling and a log on fire without blocking air flow.
If I can get my hands on enough old crayons and egg cartons, I’d like to make enough fire starters to give away to neighbors. My supply of dryer lint should be enough for many dozens, unfortunately.
So Happy Camping! I hope you get a chance to enjoy some outdoor time whether you make your own fire starters or not.