Plant your pencil

A new pencil will sprout in Danish shops this summer

Mario Bollini, an American design and robotics student, has long wanted to make a sustainable pencil. He posted an idea on the website, which is based on the concept  ‘crowdfunding’, where common people can invest in uncommon ideas. Three Danish men – Michael Stausholm Christiansen, Kasper Tikjøb Andersen and Jonathan Løw – were intrigued and developed the idea together with Bollini.

The notion of a sustainable pencil began to sprout and after about 2,000 people had invested a total of $37,000 in the idea, the first prototypes were made.

Nine months later, the first sustainable pencil – given the name 'Sprout' – was created and come June 1, will be available for purchase in Danish stores.

By now, the astute reader is probably asking himself just what constitutes a 'sustainable pencil?' The answer can be found in what happens after it outlives its purpose as a writing tool. When the Sprout gets down to its last bit, which most people would normally throw away, it can be planted in soil. The pencil will then begin to sprout and provide edible herbs.

The sprouting pencil is produced in seven different variations: basil, dill, coriander, mint, rosemary, thyme and sage. The producers are now working on even more options including tomato, jalapeno, chilli, parsley and various flowers.

The American-Danish team, which has also designed and built the machines that produce the pencils, have several ideas for how to use the sustainable design apart from just consumption.

“We believe that Sprout can serve several purposes," said Christiansen. "Firstly, it can be a teaching implement for families with children to talk about recycling and sustainability. Secondly, it can serve as an inspriation for more pro-environmental office habits, and finally it is just a fun gadget for childish, creative and inventive souls.”

The pencil is made of clay, sustainable cedarwood and graphite and is completely organic. It is now being produced, partly by hand, in the US and will be available for purchase in Denmark and thereafter other European countries. Bollini is also working on getting Sprout on the market in the US.

When the pencil reaches its end, it can be stuck in the ground with the tip pointing up. Then all it needs is “water, heat, sunlight and love,” according to the product's website.

Even after the pencil has sprouted, it can still be of use. The product developers say that the leftover bits can be fed to goats. They caution, however, that feeding it to other animals is not advised.