What happens to restaurant crayons? This dad found out and decided to do something about it.

Ever wonder what happens to the crayons they give kids in restaurants?

You know the ones I'm talking about. They're the crayons that sometimes come with a placemat bearing the likeness of a chain restaurant's mascot.

But what happens to those crayons after the meal ends and the family hops back into their car? In a lot of places, they just get tossed out. That's right — straight into the trash! Seems a bit wasteful, doesn't it?


Restaurant crayons' purpose are presumably to serve as an offering to the culinary gods in order to stave off pre-meal temper tantrums. Photo via iStock.

Bryan Ware had an idea for all those discarded crayons. What if they could find a second life?

In 2011, while Bryan and his family were celebrating his 40th birthday at a local restaurant, his sons were busy doing what kids do: coloring. That's when he wondered aloud, "I wonder what happens to these crayons after we leave if we don't take them."

Photo from The Crayon Initiative.

He asked the server and learned that the crayons — even ones that were barely or not even used — got thrown away. Here's how his website describes what happened then:

"Bryan was shocked and saddened to find out that any crayons put on the table, whether slightly used or not even touched, had to be thrown away and eventually ended up in the landfill. Bryan took those crayons with him that night. He was convinced that the life of restaurant crayons didn't have to end there. It became his personal challenge to find a creative way to recirculate the endless supply of free materials and bring the Arts to children everywhere."

Fast forward a couple of years, and Ware's personal challenge came to life as The Crayon Initiative.

The wax used to make crayons is (generally) not biodegradable. That is, it'll be around for — well — longer than any of us.

The Crayon Initiative website estimates that somewhere between 45,000 and 75,000 pounds of broken crayons wind up in landfills in the U.S. each year. So they work to divert crayons that would otherwise be headed to a landfill, recycling them for use in children's hospitals instead.

Photo from The Crayon Initiative.

The Crayon Initiative collects unwanted crayons and melts them down, turning them into fresh crayons.

They start by melting crayons into hot wax. The wax is strained and poured into custom molds.

GIF from The Crayon Initiative YouTube page.

What do you end up with? Fresh new crayons ready for fun.

These crayons are a bit larger than what you'd find in a standard pack of Crayolas and for good reason. With the help of an occupational therapist, The Crayon Initiative decided to mold their repurposed crayons thicker than average, making them easier to grip for younger kids and those with special needs. They're also more triangle-like rather than circular.

Photo from The Crayon Initiative.

Since 2013, The Crayon Initiative has helped deliver more than 2,000 boxes of crayons to hospitals across California.

This month, Ware plans to make his first Crayon-Initiative-specific trip out of state when he delivers crayons to a hospital in New York. With the help of some volunteers, The Crayon Initiative aims to donate 10,000 packs by the end of the year!

Photo from The Crayon Initiative.

The project keeps growing, too, bringing joy to kids with every new pack.

Photo from The Crayon Initiative.

Interested in helping out? The Crayon Initiative has a list of ways you can volunteer and donate on their website.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.