Challenges of the sustainably minded farmer: egg cartons

As much as we aim to eliminate off-farm inputs, there are a few resources that are hard to imagine ever doing without. Milk jugs are one and egg cartons are another. Luckily, we haven't had to actually purchase egg cartons in years because our wonderful customers bring us all that they can find. This saves us upwards of $0.25/dozen, which adds up quickly. If you are one of the people out there bringing us cartons, thank you! We happily accept all egg cartons: foam, cardboard, 18-packs, ours, grocery store, whatever. 

There is a little process to working with "rehomed" cartons, so if you're counting labor, they're not completely free. First they are sorted by kind with dirty and exhausted ones going straight to the waste basket. Since our wholesales customers eventually pass our eggs onto their customers, and we're like to make a favorable "brand" impression with those folk, the clear plastic cartons and the ones with easily removed labels are set to the side for labelling. Until recently, almost all the others went into a general collection that eventually end up with our farm share folk, who presumably know where their eggs come from so well that labels are unnecessary. But gosh darn it! I work hard for these eggs, I want everyone to know where they come from. When our beloved shareholders open their fridge to show their friend or neighbor or inlaw the incredible eggs they enjoy so much, why should Kroger or Vital Farms get to have their name on my hard work? Well not anymore!

With all the rain of the last week, I've spent time experimenting with rebranding various egg cartons. After a lucky find at our local hardware, I had a quart of flat, cardboard-color paint to work with and some foam brushes pinched from the kids' school supplies. So to start, I tried covering the printed cardboard cartons. With so many markings and the porosity of the cardboard, these ones required a lot of paint and didn't look or feel good after all the effort. Darn. Next I tried cardboard cartons with labels that aren't easily removed. It looked strange when I tried to mark out the entire label, but an area just big enough for my stamp actually looked decent. This idea worked even better on the cardstock cartons with the wrap-around printing. But what to do with the styrofoam ones? The regular paint just turns into little bubbles and refuses to dry, so no go. Then I tried spray paint made for plastic, but apparently spray paint melts styrofoam?! Point for you cheap grocery cartons. It looks like those cartons will get to keep their intended identity, for now.