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Eco-pencil pushers, rejoice. You can now write out those grocery lists and finish the daily crossword puzzle using pencils made of green wood. That is, pencils constructed of wood from sustainably harvested forests or from wood scraps that would otherwise be discarded.

Find it! Green wood pencils

Writing with green wood pencils helps you go green because…

  • Buying pencils from FSC-certified wood ensures the wood was taken from sustainably managed forests, which in turn means soil, waterways, and wildlife were also preserved.
  • Pencils made from wood scraps that would otherwise be thrown away help decrease waste and reduce the demand for trees to be cut down to make new pencils.

Despite the popularity of electronic, non-handwritten communication, there are still plenty of pencils being made and used. Indeed, about 14 billion pencils are produced worldwide each year, enough to circle the globe more than 62 times.[1]

Because so many pencils are made of wood, meeting worldwide demand requires a lot of trees. In the US alone, approximately 11,600 incense-cedar trees are cut down each year to create the 2 billion pencils manufactured in America.[2] Forest ecosystems are critical to maintaining life on Earth. They filter the air, stabilize climate by absorbing CO2, and provide habitat for 90 percent of all land-dwelling plants and animals.

Forest Stewardship Council

To reduce the eco-impact of wood pencils, opt for those made of wood from sustainably managed forests. There are many labels to choose from, but pencils with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label are considered the best because they come backed by a rigorous forest certification program.

FSC's program is endorsed by most national and international environmental NGOs (non-governmental organizations); unions; social groups; indigenous peoples; timber industries; private, communal, and state forest owners; and scientists from over 60 countries, including such organizations as the World Wildlife Fund, the Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Rainforest Alliance, and the World Resources Institute.

FSC has six strict principles for monitoring every stage of production, distribution, and sale of wood products, and works with wholesalers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. These principles cover environmental, social, and economic criteria, such as harvest rates and clearing sizes; natural forest conditions; rare, threatened, and endangered species; adequate conservation zones; chemical use (minimized); protection of streams and lakes; and the health of workers, communities, and indigenous peoples. Only those operations that meet the criteria are allowed to display the FSC label.

In the last few years, the top three wood buyers in the world—Home Depot, Lowe’s, and IKEA—all committed to work with FSC to reduce their consumption of non-sustainable wood products. For instance, Home Depot has replaced traditional carpenter pencils with those made of FSC-certified wood.

Controversies

One of the controversies to emerge regarding forest certification is the notion of FSC vs. SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative), the two primary standards for forest certification. SFI emerged from the American Forest and Paper Association (AFPA), the forest industry trade association. FSC, on the other hand, evolved as an international nonprofit organization built from meetings with timber traders and environmental and human rights organizations.

Due to SFI’s ties to the forest industry, critics often charged SFI as lacking independence, accepting the practices of logging old-growth and endangered forests, replacing natural forests with tree plantations, and allowing the excessive use of chemicals. In an effort to refute this long-time and widespread criticism, in January 2007, the SFI program broke away from the AFPA and became a fully independent nonprofit organization, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Inc. The new SFI boasts an independent board of directors, which includes members of environmental and conservation groups.

Glossary

  • old growth forest: Also known as virgin forest, ancient forest, or primary forest, this is an area of forest which has attained great age, containing 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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