What’s More Environmentally Friendly – Mechanical or Wood Pencils? - The Intrepid

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What’s More Environmentally Friendly – Mechanical or Wood Pencils?

Wood Pencils
It’s hard to say. It really depends on how prone a person is to losing things.

If you never lose anything, the choice is simple: go mechanical. Mechanical pencils made of plastic are usually composed of polystyrene, or a similar substance. The downside of these types of pencils is that they last a really long time. If you throw the pencil in the garbage, it’s never going to degrade. But, if you’re responsible with your office supplies, a single mechanical pencil might last years.

Energy costs and chemical byproducts are also a problem. The average mechanical pencil requires 22 grams of oil to make, 10 grams of oil for the plastic and 12 grams in terms of the energy costs. The chemical waste created by the manufacturing process can be difficult to dispose of.

Wood pencils require less energy to manufacture, but don’t last as long as their mechanical cousins. The trees necessary to make the pencils are technically a renewable resource, but how they’re harvested can have a big impact on the environment. The wooden pencils that are best for the environment are those that are made out of recycled material or with wood from lumber companies that try to minimize the impact of logging on the eco-system.

Unlike mechanical pencils, wooden pencils quickly degrade. However, the ‘lead’ in the average wooden pencil is much thicker than that of a mechanical pencil. And, the ‘lead’, which is made of graphite and clay, has environmental costs of its own.

Numerous pencil companies have jumped on the environmental bandwagon in recent years, but it can be hard to determine the produce with the smallest carbon footprint. A pencil might be made of recyclable materials, but if those materials were shipped from North America to China and then back to North America again, the oil costs are going to negate the energy saved by using recyclable material.

Ultimately, pencil production has a very small impact on the environment. Buying environmentally friendly pencils might make you feel better, but it doesn’t really make that much of a difference.


Unknown said...

on how many product further possibility of making them green is possible

please reply soon

Stephen M. said...

I'm sorry, I don't understand your question.

Joseph Miller said...

An interesting post. Your last point about a pencil being made from recyclable materials and then being shipped halfway around the world is a very good one.

Ultimately, if you can buy pencils made from sustainably-harvested wood on the same continent upon which you live (maybe even the same region), then you have a chance of reducing the C-footprint of your pencil.

But as you say, this is a relatively small impact. Perhaps the best way to make a difference in this area of your life: don't lose the pencils before they are used up, and use the pencil completely before buying new ones. Art Shops always sell pencil extenders, so that you can use every last bit of that wood pencil (artists have often been poor, and so have 'use it up, make do, or do without')

Thanks for posting!

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