Write with eco-friendly non-wood pencils
Plenty of green wood pencils are available, but eco-scribes might also consider going tree-free. Green pencil alternatives now include those made from blue jeans, old money, recycled newspaper, old CDs, and other post-consumer waste. Refillable mechanical pencils also offer a way to keep pencils out of the waste stream and save trees.
Find it! Eco-friendly non-wood pencils
These pencils are made from recycled newspaper, using the company’s patented 'Rolled On' method. They’re easily sharpened and O’BON claims they last two to three times longer than conventional wood pencils. You select the animal design.
These gourmet scented pencils are made from recycled newspaper wrapped around #2 graphite drenched in environmentally friendly fragrance that’s guaranteed to last for up to two years. Scents include cherry, watermelon, and chocolate.
Whole newspaper sheets are rolled around a #2 lead with no toxic chemicals required. A special adhesive makes the paper hard as wood. One double page sheet of recycled newsprint makes approximately four TreeSmart pencils.
Writing with eco-friendly non-wood pencils help you go green because…
- By using pencils made from newspaper, old blue jeans, out-of-circulation cash, CD cases, and other post consumer waste, you're helping give second life to materials that might otherwise enter the waste stream. You’re also helping to trim the demand for trees to be cut down to make new pencils.
- By using refillable mechanical pencils, which can be used again and again, you keep materials out of the waste stream.
Granted, non-wood pencils (the refillable kind and newer options made of recycled materials) probably don’t account for a large share of the 14 billion pencils produced worldwide each year (enough to circle the globe more than 62 times). But the more people who put pencil to paper with them, the bigger the difference they're likely to make in terms of minimizing the mountains of trash produced around the world each year; the US alone creates more than 251 million tons annually.
Chipping away at the wood pencil market
Non-wood pencils are also an environmental asset because they’re not made from timber and may lessen the need for trees to be felled. Approximately 11,600 incense-cedar trees are cut down each year just in the US to create the 2 billion pencils manufactured in America. Add on the Chinese market, which accounts for more than 50 percent of all pencils, as well as the pencil industries in Brazil, India, Costa Rica, Indonesia, and Thailand, and that's a lot of trees being cut. What's more, an indeterminate number of pencils produced abroad come from rainforest trees, such as the jelutong tree, which raises environmental red flags. Rainforests are home to over half of the planet's species of terrestrial animals and plants, but this verdant, lush ecosystem is being destroyed at a rate of approximately 100 acres or 2,000 trees per minute.
Refillable mechanical pencils are also better environmentally because the durable barrel can be reused again and again with the addition of new lead. They potentially stay out of the waste stream for a long time if used as designed. Natural resources and energy are saved, plus pollution avoided, by not having to make new pencils to replace spent ones. But while refillable mechanical pencils are preferable to disposable mechanical pencils, they’re not entirely green, due to the petroleum-based plastic and metal used to make them.
- Co-op America - WoodWise Program
- ForestEthics - MarketWatch: Paper and pen and pencil chase
- New American Dream - Pencils and Pens: Get the “write” stuff
- US Environmental Protection Agency - Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2006
- Green Seal - Choose Green Report: Office Supplies
- Discover Magazine - 20 Things You Didn’t Know About…Pencils
- Rainforest Action Network - Adopt-a-Rainforest: Conservation in the Neotropics