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Sharing Zero Waste Eco-Friendly Tips, Inspiration and Success.

Is there really a natural alternative to smelly, messy firelighters? And how effective are they, really? In this article, we will explore how AICO natural firelighters compare to various DIY options and common chemical firelighters. We will also look at which are the best and worst to use when trying to start your wood burner, bio-burner, pizza oven, campfire, fire pit in your household or restaurant.

Natural firelighters - what are the common ingredients?

In short, the most common ingredients are either wax and wood, particularly timber or pine. Alternatively, some chemical free firelighters are made with vegetable and plant-based oils with wood. Vegetable oils do not tend to ignite instantaneously or last very long by comparison to natural firelighters with wax. AICO natural firelighters are made with a blend of beeswax and fully refined paraffin wax as well as pine shavings taken from renewable sources.

Wax - the paraffin paradox.

Fully refined paraffin wax generally means there is a maximum of 0.1% oil content in the wax. Oil-based products are contributing to the creation of a global mass of waste matter that is virtually indestructible and presents ever-increasing difficulties for disposal. Not to mention oil is a finite resource. Unrefined paraffin to my surprise can be found not only in a variety of natural firelighter brands but also in creams to combat itchy dry skin. Alongside the warning, highly flammable. AICO wanted to stand out amongst the crowd and engineered a blend that

Are Natural Firelighters really eco-friendly?

There are a number of ways in which this could be debated. But the following are questions you should be asking yourself when hunting for an eco-friendly alternative:

· Are the ingredients natural?

· Is the cost to the environment to produce, package, transport, and burn the firelighters low?

· Does combustion expose one to nasty unhealthy chemicals?

· Are the natural firelighters biodegradable? Do they rot away? Can they be incinerated?

Best DIY firelighters?

If you are looking for the cheapest and most accessible possible option provided you have pine trees nearby, I’d highly recommend pine cones and dry sticks. Like the AICO Natural firelighters, the pine resin is an instant firestarter as stated by Bare Grylls himself.

If you have a little more time on your hands and are interested in pre-preparing something useful for that camping trip, you can reuse the leftover wax from romantic (or practical) candles. Heating the leftover wax and pouring it into egg cartons with dry leaves and twigs (yes, preferably pine). Be sure not to use anything damp or wet as this will result in a lot of smoke and is less likely to ignite. That’s putting that reduce, reuse, recycle thinking into action.

Or, if like most people you have no time but you do want an eco-friendly firelighter to try AICO Natural firelighters, and if you’re not happy feel free to return the box free of charge.

Highly flammable liquids such as ethanol, petrol, or gasoline?

Proceed with caution! In fact, please avoid. You should never use a flammable liquid to ignite your fire. This can be extremely dangerous for you and anyone nearby. Not only does it increase the risk of potentials burns and uncontrollable flames, but you will also be inhaling harmful chemicals that won’t do you any favors.

Why should I avoid using newspaper, magazines, cardboard, and other packaging materials to light my fire?

In short - because in this modern-day many of these contain ink and plastic particles which result in a poorer quality flame and worse these particles stick to your chimney flue and glass doors of your wood burner - clearly not ideal in the long run!

The benefits of using AICO Natural Firelighters?

Ideally, you want a firelighter that is assembled with dry materials and does not use liquid chemicals or palm oil. AICO Natural firelighters are made and are available at various retailers across the Cotswolds in the United Kingdom. They have a low carbon footprint, utilises UK beeswax, wood providers that are FSC certified, even the printing company is UK based. What's more, is you only need 1 to light a household wood burner. They are fast to ignite even wet and one will stay alight anywhere between 8-11 minutes. This makes it an ideal option when entertaining in the garden or away camping to kick-start or restart any fire!

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Mother (Nature) knows best: Waste is Food.

Or at least, it should be.

What have we created, that so much of the stuff we produce as humans ends up...doing absolutely nothing but taking up space and polluting?

It was never ok, and now it has become impossible not to see the result of this completely unsustainable way of life.

So step by step, let’s make a change, and go back to the natural law of zero-waste. It’s a hard thing to go against the mainstream current, but if we are kind and patient with ourselves, we can break free of the buy-and-discard cycle.

I believe in little steps.

And fun.

So I’ll share my top hacks that are so easy I can’t believe I didn’t always do it...and the fact that there are so many cheap ways to make my own stuff makes me giggle. I hope you’ll enjoy trying them:

  1. Repurpose glass jars: always choose the pretty jar when you buy jam (or pickles, or whatever). I’m obsessed with Bonne-Maman jams as much as their jars. The label comes off so easily and I collect them for all kinds of storage, display, flowers...

  2. Reusable bags: seems crazy to me now to be handed a plastic bag at a grocery store. With COVID it’s been trickier because the supermarket would no longer allow customers to bring their own bags...but we figured out to put things back in the cart after paying, then transferring to our own reusable bags in the parking lot. I toss bags regularly in the washing machine. You could make your own, or...permission to buy super cute ones! Get a few and keep them in different places - purse, car, backpack, by the door…

  3. I love lemons! It’s not just that I make lemonade when given lemons...I use them for all sorts of cleaning around the house. The acid in lemon juice is antibacterial and antiseptic - my surface cleaner is a glass spray bottle filled with a mix of vinegar and lemon juice. (click here for a recipe and a bunch of other uses)

  4. Another favorite multi-use product is Tea-Tree Oil. This one costs a little more to buy but is very potent (and I mean it can be toxic, so no ingesting it or letting kids play with it!) A couple drops in a glass of water to soak and disinfect toothbrushes once a week; add a teaspoon or two to specially smelling laundry like pet beds (or gym clothes!); make your own hand-sanitiser.

5. Do you use a natural loofah? And don’t like throwing it out? Don’t! You can still use it to make your own exfoliating soap. Simply slice rounds of your old loofah, place them in soap molds. Melt soap by cutting it into cubes and microwaving for about 30 seconds. Mix well and pour directly over the cut up rounds of loofah. Let stand until set. You could even take this a step further and make your own soap! (More uses for loofah/luffa here)

6. Now for clothing. Getting rid of beloved jeans has got to be the most frustrating. Good jeans that feel and fit well are so hard to find, right? So...once, when I just couldn’t let go, I...yeah, turned them into shorts. Am I the only one who still does that? Now for more ambitious ladies, they could be turned into a skirt, and it is indeed a beginner thing. So go for it, make a hip denim skirt out of your fave old jeans! (Thank you Spruce Crafts!)

  1. Get a weekly box from a local farm! I love that one. It is so easy and a delicious part of the win-win paradigm. Farmers win because they receive a direct and steady stream of income (without losing to a middle man). Earth wins because most of the produce is organic and local. And we win because we save ourselves a boring trip to the store!

See Country Living article here and The Independent article here to find the right veggie box for you.

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Of all the plants and flower-friends a girl can have, the BFF has got to be calendula officinalis.

My skin has been a happy beneficiary of calendula since long before I even knew it was a flower...or what it looked like.

And, I’m a little embarrassed to admit, it’s fairly recently that I realised that calendula, also known as Pot Marigold, is *not* the same flower you see in the opulent garlands at your Indian friends’ weddings. Why pot marigold, or English marigold, from the daisy family, would share a name with a flower from a different genus is beyond me, especially since they do look alike. Which is probably why they share a name…

But enough about names, what is important is to know how to recognise a proper calendula officinalis flower because it has SO many benefits besides being pretty, resilient, perennial, low-maintenance, versatile, oh I could go on and on. (Whereas its--let’s call her ‘mean cousin’-- the marigold of the genus Tagetes is only pretty, but toxic to animals and humans to ingest.)

If you are foraging, make absolutely sure you know your calendula from a marigold. Quick tip: the marigold makes straight black seeds with a white tip. Calendula produces brown, U-shaped seeds with small bumps along the exposed surface. (More details on the differences here).

You can easily find dried calendula flowers if you are eager to get started on your calendula DIY projects. But if you can, the best is to grow calendula from seeds. Why? Because it’s easy! And oh-so-rewarding! Even a novice gardener will obtain eye-pleasing bright flowers. You don’t need to worry about soil type or finicky watering needs. Calendula is a perennial in mild climates, but even as an annual (where things get frosty), it can self-sow, or its seeds can be easily collected and replanted. Come sun or shade, out or in-doors, calendula will show up for you.

Also delightful: calendula loves to share her flowers. The more you pick, the more abundant the flowering will be. So pick away, and have fun using the pretty flowers for:

  1. Tea: add 1 tablespoon of fresh flowers (two teaspoons dried) to cold water. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer or allow to steep for about 10 minutes. You can use it to drink to soothe internal mucous membranes, or as a healing warm compress for sunburns, rashes, sores, even eye infections. Refrigerate for up to a week any tea you don’t use right away.

  2. Calendula oil : The anti-inflammatory and antiseptic compounds in the oil are fantastic for wound healing and skin conditions. Fill a sterilized glass jar with dried calendula flowers and cover the flowers with a high quality oil: olive, almond, or grapeseed work well. Cover the jar and let it sit in a cool, dark place for four to six weeks, shaking or stirring occasionally. Strain the plant material from the oil using two or three layers of cheesecloth, and refrigerate the oil until ready for use. You can rub the oily cheesecloth bag holding the spent flowers onto your face or hands as a moisturizer. To help prevent the oil from going rancid, add two or three drops of benzoin essential oil or half a teaspoon of tincture of benzoin per half cup of oil, along with a few drops of rosemary or lavender oil.

  3. Salve/Ointment: add three or four teaspoons of melted beeswax per half cup of warmed oil in a double boiler, and stir well until the mixture begins to cool. Pour into a suitable glass or metal container and seal. If the salve is too hard, reheat it and add a bit more oil; if it’s too runny, add a bit more beeswax.

For more on the fabulous uses of the pot marigold, Lovely Greens has an excellent, detailed guide on growing calendula and using it in skincare.

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