Do you like recycling? Of course you do, you’re reading the Green News!

Do you like fire? Of course you do, you’re a human being!

Well, here’s a recycling project you can do with the kids which has a great end result: fire!

When starting a wood fire at a campground or in a fireplace, a piece of firestarter will light easily, and burn with a steady flame for a long time, obviating the need for paper tinder (which tends to smoke, releasing more pollutants into the air). This project explains how to take materials you have in your home and would otherwise throw away to make firestarter.


Step 1: Collect your materials. You’ll need a cardboard egg carton, old candle bits and dryer lint. The egg carton’s already in your recycling bin. You may need to make some effort remembering to collect the ends of old candles — scented candles, birthday candles, tea lights — all work fine. For the lint, I keep a small paper bag in the laundry room, and instead of tossing the dryer lint, I collect it in the bag, rubbing my hands fiendishly at the prospect of fire. Fire!

Step 2: Put a good bit of lint in each section of egg carton. How much? As much as you can fit. Stuff it in there! I also happened to have some sawdust that I sprinkled in. As long as it burns!

Dryer lint in an egg carton

Dryer lint in an egg carton


Step 3: Melt the old candles in a double boiler. There are other ways to melt wax, but a double boiler is a relatively safe one. (By the way, the wax might be hard to get out after the project is over, you may want to have a dedicated upper pot for this — I found a 4 piece double boiler at a yard sale for $3.)

Step 4: pour the melted wax onto the lint in the egg carton. Fun! The wax is hot, and may be unpleasant if you spill it, but it won’t kill your kids.

It's not beautiful but it will burn

It’s not beautiful but it will burn

Step 5: when the wax has cooled, break or cut up the carton so each filled egg section can be used as a firestarter.



Voila! Next time you need to start a fire, light one of your homemade firestarters and you’ll get a steady flame for at least 5 minutes, more than enough time to get a small log burning.

Thanks to Gina Purtell, director of the MassAudubon Allen’s Pond sanctuary for showing me how to do this.