It’s safe to say that we’ve progressed significantly when it comes to caring for the world around us. (Remember when it seemed okay to toss trash out of the car window?) Nowadays, most of us want to do as much as we can to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Still, with only about 34 percent of the world’s waste being recycled, we’ve got a long way to go.

Making a positive impact on the environment (and your community) might seem like a daunting task, but believe it or not, you can do it right at home—just take this clever dad from California. When he noticed his kids playing with crayons at a local restaurant, he got a bright idea that would not only help the planet, but change the lives of needy children all around the country…

It’s difficult to comprehend just how wasteful modern societies have become. Tossing out perfectly good food and toys isn’t something anyone intends to do, of course, but it still happens with alarming frequency.

And those aren’t even the only things we waste! With access to more resources than ever, we still don’t treat our planet with the respect it deserves. Food, water, and electricity are just a few of the resources that we seem to view as infinite.

Worse still: these resources tend to be wasted by the people who can most easily afford them. For instance, it’s all too easy to throw away a refrigerator full of rotten produce when you know you can easily replace the items without another thought.

This way of thinking is a real problem when it comes to sustainability. And that’s a shame, because there are so many people around the world who could use the things that others take for granted.

Fae / Wikimedia Commons

Luckily, one Californian dad named Bryan Ware realized that he could do something to curb wastefulness. He was actually inspired by something his own children seemed to use almost every day…

While eating at a restaurant one day, Bryan noticed that the majority of the crayons that restaurants gave to children—including his own kids—simply ended up in the garbage. He couldn’t understand why they were just being thrown away…

After doing some research at home, Bryan learned that more than 500,000 pounds of non-biodegradable crayons—which were used by restaurants and schoolchildren—were being dumped into landfills every year. In most cases, these crayons were considered unsanitary after one use, so they were simply tossed.

Flickr / dmitri_66

Bryan thought about all the children, particularly those suffering from serious disadvantages or illnesses, who would have loved to play with the used crayons that were otherwise being thrown away only to clog landfills…

Unable to stomach the waste, he started asking restaurants to give him the leftover crayons that were otherwise headed for the trash. Armed with bins upon bins full of crayons, Bryan began transforming his own kitchen into a makeshift color factory.

At first, Bryan thought he’d simply repackage the old and half-used crayons, but then he had a better idea: why not make brand-new ones? Bryan simply melted down the old crayons that he collected to create roughly 4,000 brand-new crayons every day.

Of course, this wasn’t a simple—or clean—project! At first glance, it seemed as if he was cooking up some sort of sickly-looking soup in his kitchen. Some pots even looked like they contained a Nickelodeon slime du jour…

But Bryan was determined to keep going, and soon, his Pinterest-worthy arts and crafts project would pay off. His motivation was to make a difference in people’s lives, while keeping the environment and sustainability in mind.

While melting down thousands of crayons in his kitchen might have seemed crazy—just think of the dirty dishes he’d have to wash!—Bryan was on a mission. He soon dubbed his incredible project “The Crayon Initiative.”

The Crayon Initiative acted as a charitable organization that recycled thousands of discarded and used crayons and donated them to kids in need—particularly those at local hospitals. Now, no matter their circumstances, kids everywhere could have access to these fun coloring tools.

Word of Bryan’s project spread, and it wasn’t long before countless other people were offering their help. From groups of children to restaurant chains, it seemed like everyone wanted to donate their old and used crayons!

Even nationwide companies participated in the project. Dozens of volunteers would tirelessly sort broken and used crayons into color-coordinated piles for Bryan to melt down later. It transformed into a community effort…

The program soon became nationally recognized, and it didn’t show any signs of slowing down. What started off as a simple idea for recycling crayons became a real way to make a difference—and bring joy to the lives of children in need.

Isn’t it amazing to consider how something so ubiquitous as a crayon—which is often regarded as a cheap and disposable toy—could actually mean a world of difference to young people across the country?

Of course, the impact it had on the community was nothing compared to how Bryan’s program affected the planet. Just think of all of those non-biodegradable coloring sticks that were spared from landfills.

Who knew that one trip to a restaurant could wind up leaving this California dad so inspired to do good? Watch Bryan at work in the video below—and take a peek at the special process he uses to make his recycled brand of crayons!

This is such a great idea! The next time you’re cleaning out your house, why not gather up your unused and broken crayons? Visit The Crayon Initiative to see how you can help.

Share Bryan’s amazing story with your friends below!