Autumn Leaves

“Autumn Leaves” is one of my favorite jazz standards to play or hear. After picking it as the title of this post, I learned that it was originally called “The Dead Leaves” (which, you’ll discover, makes it even more appropriate) AND was covered by the incomparable Edith Piaf! I’m taking this as a good omen.

Our story begins with me looking at an empty OJ carton wondering what I can do with it, because my community doesn’t recycle waxed paper products. So, I started thinking of turning them into some sort of log or briquette that I could burn for heat. I was thinking of the mechanics of doing so, and my Dad introduced me to the “leaf log“. Leaves are abundant, so I figure that I’ll create a mix of leaves and wax paper.

So before building anything, I need to figure out the appropriate mix. My first experiment was to build muffin-sized briquettes using just leaves. I ground up a bunch of leaves in my trusty old Vita-Mixer (not very successful, BTW, you really need a flow through design), and mixed them with a bit of water and some xantham gum. I chose Xantham gum because my household is gluten free, so we don’t have any wheat flour around the house, like they suggested in the leaf log video linked above.

The Xantham gum worked perfectly–it is quite sticky after just a few minutes contact with water. Depending on how it compares with flour price-wise, it might be a superior alternative because of its incredible stickiness.

I should have just formed them by hand, but I used a muffin tin lined with sheets of toilet paper. as it turned out, the toilet paper prevented the briquettes from burning properly. However, the experiment was successful enough. Even though I created a too small starter fire using a waxed paper carton and twigs as a base, the briquettes did burn down to just ash. The waxed paper carton, as expected, burned very well, although I was actually expecting it to burn with a bit more vigor.

My next tests will be a 50-50 mix and an all paper briquette, and I’ll definitely eschew the muffin tin and form them by hand. My hope is that this would become a way to cut down on my municipality’s landfill requirements by getting the whole town to donate their waxed paper cartons to this endeavor. who knows? I don’t know what percentage of landfill waste consists of waxed paper products, but maybe this is a useful way to cut that amount down.

I’d prefer to compost them, obviously, but that hasn’t worked well (as in, not at all) in my tests.


About jeffmershon

Director of Program Management at SiriusXM.
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