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Complete your collection of green pencils with some pencil accessories that tread more lightly on the earth.

Find it! Green pencil accessories

Crafty types can turn an old soup can into a chic pencil holder or an old box into a pencil case with a little imagination and a few materials. But if you don't have the time or inclination to reuse household items, consider these eco-friendly pencil accessories:

Using green pencil accessories helps you go green because…

  • By using pencil accessories made from used tires, cans, jars, juice cartons, and post-consumer recycled plastic you're helping give second life to materials that might otherwise enter the waste stream.
  • Choosing pencil erasers made from natural rubber instead of synthetic rubber, or vinyl, helps reduce the manufacture of synthetic substances that may be energy-intensive and harmful to the environment.
  • Crops such as bamboo grow quickly, are easily renewed, and reduce the strain on valuable forests.

Pencil holders and cases are often constructed of plastic, wood, or metal. But eco-alternatives made from products headed for the garbage keep them out of the waste stream. And although purchasing a pencil case made from recycled juice cartons, for example, won't significantly reduce the mountains of trash produced around the world each year (the US alone creates more than 251 million tons annually), it does make a small difference.[1]

Bamboo pencil accessories

Rapidly renewable materials, such as bamboo, grow quickly with little chemical assistance, reducing the strain on virgin or old growth forests. Bamboo, actually a type of grass, is one of the fastest growing plants in the world. Some species grow 30 inches or more every day, significantly more than the 30 inches oak trees gain in an average year. Bamboo does not die when harvested, either; it simply grows new stocks to replace the old ones.

Found most commonly in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America, bamboo provides some important environmental benefits. It has net-like root systems, unique leaves, and dense litter on the forest floor, which protects against soil erosion and reduces rain runoff. This is true even in locations where it's difficult to grow plants, such as deforested areas, riverbanks, and places where earthquakes and mudslides are common.[2]

A bamboo stand will release 35 percent more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees and can sequester up to 12 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare. Bamboo is also very adaptable, growing in a variety of ecosystems. With 1,500 or more species, bamboo can tolerate between 30 to 250 inches of rain per year and thrives from sea level to 12,000 feet.[2]

Controversies

Bamboo is not grown in the United States and must travel long distances, burning fossil fuels, to get here. The growth in popularity of bamboo products has also been detrimental to the natural forests in countries where bamboo grows. Existing forests are often cut down and replaced with bamboo plantations, negatively impacting biodiversity. In addition, bamboo is often "over-managed" with chemical weeding and periodic tilling of the land to clear undergrowth. These practices increase erosion and produce a single-species plantation over large areas. The intensive use of pesticides, weed killers, and fertilizers in some bamboo-growing areas also affects the environment by releasing toxins into soil and waterways.

Erase that

Pencil erasers were once predominately made from natural rubber but now are increasingly manufactured from synthetic rubber blended with pumice or made from vinyl, a flexible plastic. Vinyl, also known as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), is dangerous to human health and the environment throughout its life cycle. When produced or burned, PVC plastic releases dioxins, which can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive systems. PVC also releases mercury and phthalates, which may pose irreversible life-long health threats.

The raw material of natural rubber is latex milk that comes from the sap of the rubber tree. Natural rubber erasers are still manufactured and offer an eco-alternative to synthetic erasers.

Glossary

  • old growth forest: Also known as virgin forest, ancient forest, or primary forest, old growth forest is an area of forest which has attained great age, contains a variety of vertical layers of vegetation, including large live trees. These forests may also be home to many rare species that are dependent on these ecologically unique old growth features.

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