When you wear a pencil down to a stub, what do you do with it? More often than not, these worn-out writing utensils end up in the trash, which winds up becoming a significant amount of waste. Around 15 billion pencils are made each year and in an effort to limit the waste created from them, three MIT students created a multifunctional alternative called Sprout Pencil. Developed in 2012, these simple writing tools double as plantable materials made from cedar. In place of an eraser, the wooden pencils have a biodegradable capsule containing a mixture of seeds and peat. Once your pencil too small to actually write with, you can place the instrument in a pot of soil and grow lavender, basil, sunflowers, tomatoes, green peppers, and more. One expired product is literally giving birth to a new form of life.
Michael Stausholm–who is now the CEO of Sprout World–came across the Sprout Pencil when it was only a Kickstarter idea. “At the time, I was living in Denmark and working a lot with sustainable companies,” he told CNN. “But sustainability is hard to illustrate to consumers. I was searching for a product that could easily do that.” That very product turned out to be the Sprout Pencil, so Stausholm partnered with the MIT students and sold 70,000 pencils in Denmark during the spring of 2013. By 2014, a million of these eco-friendly pencils had been sold throughout Europe.
Now, Sprout World wants to help America embrace sustainability. The pencils come in 14 varieties and a pack of eight can be bought for $19.95, but Stausholm hopes to lower the price so that every student can afford to use these pencils. “We know we can’t save the planet just with our products,” said Sprout World’s CEO. “Our mission is to at least educate people on how to be more conscious in what they buy and look for products that are reusable.”