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My step to become more eco-friendly with Plantable Pencils

This article describes the step I took to become more Eco-friendly, plastic-free and help nature grow by using Plantable pencils. Pencils are a regular feature in home and office use. At my office, we order hundreds of pencils a year. With these pencils, I not only helped take part in nature but also took my part in reducing wood cutting done for making pencils.

Introduction to pencil culture

Pencils have been in use since long. The familiar black lead in a pencil helps us to write and record information. The benefit of using a pencil is that it can be erased and the paper can be reused. At least for rough use, the paper is reusable. Such became popular the use of pencils, that scientists invented pencils to write in water. Young students are encouraged to write with pencils to get good handwriting.

Components of a pencil

A pencil is a very common feature and is easy to make. It contains a material by which one can write on paper. The writing medium is enclosed in a protective casing. This casing is usually made of wood or plastic. Occasionally pencils have a rubber eraser on the top of it. The writing edge needs to be sharpened with an instrument like a sharpener. The sharpener peels off the bottom part of the pencil. It creates a conical shape which helps to easily hold the pencil. The writing material, usually Lead, is also sharpened. Thus, one can write from the sharpened edge.

After writing a page or two, the writing edge becomes blunt. The edge can be sharpened once again to continue writing. If you are using a plastic pencil, it has a thin lead. This lead can be pushed out to continue writing.

So is it good, to continue using a pencil in this manner?

Well, we have been using pencils since edges. Millions of pencils are manufactured every day. Some of the concerns are noted below. It is popularly called as Pencil Pollution.

  • In the production, a lot of wood is used to make the casing of the pencil. This leads to cutting down of forests to make the wood pulp required for encasing the pencil.
  • Lead is used in the pencil, which is a major pollutant. Remember, vehicle fuels went Lead-free just because of the chemical pollution happening because of Lead.

So what could be a solution to these concerns? Well simple, if you can prevent usage of wood casing, it would save a lot. That does not mean you go to plastic casing! We needed to prevent pollution from both kinds of pollutants.
We wanted to look for alternatives to Lead pencils.
And we wanted to go for something which can help us "Give Back" to Nature.

Happy Pencils

Does that sound nice? Well, I was very much intrigued when I saw that name on Google and that too near my home at Pune in Maharashtra, India. We were searching for "Plantable Pencils". By using Plantable pencils, we wanted to show children, how to grow a plant from the pencil, once it is used. We had already tried before, but, unfortunately, those seeds did not grow.

So, I searched for this place which said "Happy Pencils" on Google Maps. They had their phone number on the search result. I called to reconfirm that they were open and I could visit their place. It was easy to reach and just another phone call. They came to receive me at the nearby lane.

And what I saw by my eyes, made me very happy. The plantable pencils were very near to my expectation:
  • The pencils were bound by rolling old newspaper.
  • The writing material was Graphite and not Lead.
  • The pencils had a gelatin capsule head. This gelatin is the same as the medicine capsules that we consume.
  • Inside the capsule, there were about 30 to 40 tomato seeds. The owner said the seeds are of good quality and they have a survival and growth rate of 40 to 60% of the total number of seeds.

I was very much intrigued with these pencils. Jagruti Khabiya, the owner, said they produce the pencils themselves, thus there was no other agency in between; I was thus discussing directly with the manufacturer.

So I took a few samples with me to cross-check the product with my colleagues. We did some crazy tests on the pencils.
  • Firstly, we allowed the pencils to fall from a height. Well, it did not break.
  • So we decided to throw the pencils at speed, to see if it breaks! Well, it did not break again!
  • Then we decided to check the strength of the pencil. Would it break off at high-pressure writing? We expected this as it would be kids and small children who would be using these pencils. The graphite in the pencil survived this test to a large extent. Any crazy pressure would surely break off the tip, but it surely passed on this level.
  • Then we wanted to see if the newspaper rolling comes off or not. We decided to rub on the rolling. The newspaper rolling survived!
  • Then we wanted to see the prints on the pencils. Children can be naughty, you know! We put ourselves in their shoes and did all pranks and things. But, the print also survived!
  • We took a normal sharpener to see if the pencil sharpens well. The pencil passed this test.
  • Then, we wanted to check the seed part. Would it break off easily? Would the gelatin break open? So we took a needle and tried to poke into it. Well, the gelatin capsule did not break, although it got a dent on it after a lot of pressure. We also tried to tap the gelatin capsule on a wall to see what happens. After our ultimate efforts, it still did not break, apart from getting a fold on it. After all, it is only Gelatin! But the Gelatin becomes an energy source for the seeds once sowed.
  • And then the ultimate test, would the seeds grow into a plant? The idea is to plant the remaining stub of the pencil into the ground and water it. The newspaper rolling, gelatin, graphite all become a part of the soil. The seeds should germinate in a week or 2. So we all used the pencil by asking various team members to use it. And then we got our stub to sow in the soil. We watered it on the first day. The next day it rained. After 4 days, to our happy surprise, we saw a small sprout from where we planted the pencil. After another 2 days, we could see it growing! And after a few weeks, we had a small tomato plant in our garden! Our chefs were more than happy to see the Happy pencil plant!

The cost of pencils is also comparable to other conventional pencils. The Eco-friendly pencils cost 5 Rupees a pencil without the seeds. With seeds, the plantable pencil costs 10 Rupees per pencil. They have recently introduced colour pencils as well. Anyone you choose, you are still helping mother nature by not using wood casing!

Find below a few photos which I took from the Jagruti Khabiya, manufacturer of the product. Her company is called as Araatrika and the product is branded as Happy Pencils. She also makes Eco-friendly Pens, plantable papers and up-cycled diaries.

Images are taken with permission from Jagruti Khabiya, owner of Araatrika. For further details, do visit, happypencils.in.

Article by Dr Apurva Tamhane
If you have begrudged, forgive.
If you have torn down, repair.
If you have injured, heal.
If you have judged, pardon.
If you have grasped, let go.

Follow Dr Apurva Tamhane or read 25 articles authored by Dr Apurva Tamhane


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