Saving crayons from the landfill to bring smiles to those who need one

It's hard to believe that once upon a time, children weren't welcome in a lot of restaurants. When you wanted to dine out, you had to organize a sitter. If you ignored this convention and brought the little tykes, not only were there no booster seats to accommodate them, you'd probably receive a few glares from fellow diners. But all of this changed thanks to the advent of the "family restaurant." Nowadays, the smallest guests are not only welcome to dine out, they're also well-catered to: from children's menus to high chairs, and even coloring books with crayons. 

The father of two young boys, entrepreneur and art enthusiast Bryan Ware would often take his family out to eat. The boys enjoyed doodling with the crayons provided and the family would sometimes take the free art supplies home with them. But Bryan wondered: what happened to those that don't get taken home? One day he asked his server and was surprised to learn that the crayons were thrown away — oftentimes after only one use! 

Bryan decided to do some research and discovered something unbelievable. Every year, 60 tons of crayons end up in the trash in the US alone. Hard to believe, but true!

Bryan had an idea. What if all of the crayons thrown away by restaurants could be recycled and given to kids who would appreciate and use them? He began visiting restaurants and speaking to managers. He asked them to save the discarded crayons so that he could pick them up and give them a second life. Pretty soon, restaurants started to sign up for the project. And so The Crayon Initiative was born.

After collecting used crayons from restaurants and schools, Bryan sorted them by color and melted them down in his own kitchen. He even invested in special crayon molds so that he could create new crayons from the melted ones.

The liquid wax solidifies in the molds. What a colorful job!

For each pressing, 96 new crayons are made. Bryan makes them a bit fatter than normal crayons so that they are easier for kids to hold.

And there they are: new crayons!

Bryan then sorts all the colors into boxes and delivers them to hospital children's wards.

It's really important for kids in hospital to have normal play experiences. It helps keep their spirits up, which is essential for healing.

"If these crayons give them an escape from that hospital room for 10 minutes, we did our job," Bryan said.

Sometimes it only takes a simple observation and the willingness to do something about it to make an impact. Think about how many children's lives have been cheered up by a little ingenuity. And the reduction in waste will help ensure these kids inherit a planet that's just a little greener too.

If you're interested in learning more about The Crayon Initiative and how you can get involved, visit their website here. Happy coloring!

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