A Fresh Set of Crayons

20150829_200434When I’m teaching on a regular basis (this month that’s almost daily) I like to keep my evening lap work simple. Right now I’m working my way through about 30 pounds of crayons, donated by an after school program, sorting them by color and quality while my husband and I binge watch The X-files. I’ve been known to squeal like a child on Christmas when I find a never used crayon in my stash, setting it aside until I’ve found enough like it to make a set.

Last night, my husband looked over at me (post-squeal) and said, “You’re always working. No one appreciates what you do.” Note: he says this out of love and admiration. He knows these are not totally selfless tasks and that I am only happy when I’m working. But I know he questions my dedication (or sanity) when he sees me sorting through this tub one crayon at a time.

I’ll admit, all 30 pounds of these discarded crayons could probably have been used as-is. The crayons still color, still have their paper wrappings, with most still long enough to last for quite a while. But we all know the thrill that comes with a fresh box of crayons versus digging through a bin of used and broken crayons to find a certain color. Plus, at least once a year you can buy a box of 24 crayons for a quarter, making crayons something easily discarded, without much thought.

20150903_131838So, in addition to sorting the crayons, I do my best to make them appealing. Broken ones are chopped up and melted into crayon blocks. I use a brownie square baking mold – fill each square with broken crayons, bake at 275-degrees for 15 minutes; let cool completely before removing.

The obviously used, but still useful crayons I save for when I’m doing a one-time workshop or event and don’t want to waste money on new materials or worry about any of my materials not making it home with me.

And the ones that make me squeal with delight? They get a little extra love.

Did you know that a pencil eraser will remove most of the scuff marks from a crayon wrapper? Really what it’s removing is a layer of the paper, but look at the difference it makes. On the left is before I used the eraser; on the right is after.

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20150829_22243520150829_221525_001Now, put that pretty thing in a plastic bag with a few of its friends and you’d be hard pressed to distinguish this set from one fresh from the store.

And here’s the reasoning behind my concierge level treatment of each crayon: until creative reuse is more fully embraced, cosmetic tweaks like this help reluctant reusers see the value in something they might otherwise discard. I’m also know that lots of repurposed supplies are donated to families who can’t afford to buy new school supplies, and every child – especially those who only get new crayons once a year – deserves the thrill that comes with a fresh set!

P.S.  The day after I wrote this post, I came across The Crayon Initiative – a much larger scale project aimed at keeping crayons out of the landfill and in the hands of children. So cool!

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