It’s time to buy school supplies and you’re looking at the pencil displays. The word “recycled” catches your eye. Then you note the price tag. $2 for 10 recycled pencils or 50 cents for the cheap brand. Another set of pencils advertises “made from renewable resources.” They too are pricier than the loss leader brand.
Your heart is green, your wallet not so much? Does the price difference get you wondering how much difference a recycled pencil- or one made from renewable resources- makes?
Here are some things to consider:
Mechanical Pencils Trump Traditional Pencils
When it comes to environmental friendliness, the best pencil is mechanical. Because these pencils are refillable, a lot less are needed. The optimal mechanical pencil is one whose barrel is made from post-consumer use, recycled materials.
But if the teacher wants your child to bring “regular” pencils to school, keep reading.
“Recycled” Pencil Composition
The United States produces about 2 billion traditional pencils per year, according to Green Seal’s Choose Green Report. The barrels of most pencils are typically made of cedar. The sacrifice of a single cedar tree will produce 172,000 pencils; thus it takes about 11,600 trees to fulfill the annual demand.
By contrast, recycling a single press run of a Sunday newspaper could produce 79 million pencils, according to the manufacturer Eco Friendly Pencil.
One key to deciding whether buying a pencil labeled “recycled” is environmentally advantageous is determining whether its constituents would otherwise have been headed for the landfill. When opting for conventional pencils, Green Seal recommends choosing brands comprised of 100 percent recyclable material, at least 50 percent of which is post-consumer or biodegradable.
The composition of recycled pencil barrels made from post-consumer use, reclaimed materials otherwise headed for the landfill is diverse. They may be made from plastics, cardboard, discarded clothing, old newspapers, currency removed from circulation, even agricultural waste.
Ins and Outs of Pencils “Made from Renewable Resources”
The claim that a pencil is “made from renewable resources” could be construed to cover any pencil whose barrel is wooden. In judging the environmental validity of a claim that a pencil is “made from renewable resources,” it’s essential to know whether the forest producing the trees from which the pencil is derived is sustainably-managed. The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization publishes voluntary sustainability guidelines for forest management worldwide.
Remember the Packaging
The packaging matters, too. Look for:
* minimal packaging;
* recycled packaging; and,
* packaging printed with soy inks; and,
* avoid blister packs.