Wednesday, April 18, 2012


A while back, I tried to determine whether matches or a lighter would be a more environmentally friendly way to start fires. (I don't smoke, but I do use oil lamps, candles, and occasionally burn blessed items to dispose of them properly.) I couldn't find a conclusive answer at the time, so I settled on a mixture of options.

Over time, though, some other priorities came into play. I didn't like the idea of throwing away disposable lighters, and for my most frequent uses, most of the wood in a kitchen match would be wasted. (When I started, I was also burning incense, and letting the match burn out in the censer actually helped.) I also wanted my use of fire starters, as with other things, to reflect my preference for buying local.

I realized that the least disposable option was a classic Zippo lighter. It's designed to be refueled and refurbished, and the manufacturer will perform more complex repairs for free under a lifetime guarantee. They're based in Pennsylvania, which is just about close enough to call "local," and there are plenty of local retailers that stock supplies.

The main drawback is that it uses a petroleum-based fuel. The amounts are small enough that the difference in environmental impact between any of the available options is probably negligible. But I try to live by the assumption that we will eventually run out of the stuff, with the final stage probably involving Mad Max-style skirmishes over whatever dregs remain. What good, then, is a lighter designed to last forever, if the fuel won't?

But I think I figured out a solution to that problem. From what I can tell, you actually can run a Zippo on ethanol. So as long as there's a gap-toothed hillbilly making 190-proof moonshine (surely a growth industry in any post-apocalyptic wasteland), I should have something to burn--something locally made, no less!

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