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In the Pipeline: 'Green' logs, a bonfire solution?

September 30, 2013
  • Tom Sanetti's Earth Log business has grown but he still can't meet the demand for his environmentally friendly firewood.
Tom Sanetti's Earth Log business has grown but he… (Chris Epting, HB…)

Earlier this summer, at one of the bonfire rallies at the beach organized to help gather support against the Air Quality Management District, which was then trying to ban fire rings in Southern California, I met Tom Sanetti.

The Huntington Beach entrepreneur, who has lived here for about 20 years, was at the event on this summer evening to demonstrate a product he created two years ago called the Earth Log.

Earth Logs, also the name of his company, are "green" fire logs that burn 80% cleaner than wood and generate three times the heat — while burning about two hours each with as strong a flame as wood. The logs are a 50-50 mix of candle wax and wastepaper.

Sanetti doesn't call himself an environmentalist per se, but he cares enough about the planet to have spent a lot of his own time and money on a product that he simply can't produce enough of to satisfy demand.

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In a Huntington Beach warehouse, he has created a production facility that really is a marvel to behold. At first glance it all appears very makeshift, tons of shredded paper being loaded into forms with melted candle wax and then sent down a refurbished log splitter through a chamber that gets its cold air from a swamp cooler.

But upon closer look, one gets a sense of how simple and ingenious the whole operation is.

Sanetti, who likes to camp in the desert, was inspired by the cool desert nights. He was tired of lugging wood out there and also realized that wood gives off toxic smoke. He began working on Earth Logs in his kitchen and then eventually began producing them in his backyard.

He told me that when he learned that our country's No. 1 export to China was wastepaper, he thought, "Hey, why not keep some of that here and make something of it?" As for the candle wax, he gets that from textile companies and candle manufacturers and often it is scented, resulting in a product that is not only good for the environment but also smells good.

That's why you'll find fragrant Earth Logs that smell like kiwi, cinnamon, fresh cut grass and bubblegum. These are the only scented fire logs available. Sanetti even created the very first citronella log, scented with natural oil from edible lemongrass, to keep the bugs away. To test this new log, he took it to a jungle in Panama and said he was blown away by how effective it was at keeping mosquitoes at bay.

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