Review: Plantable pencils pencils
By Anders Lorenzen
A pencil that can become a plant? My first thought, when I was first contacted about the product, seemed like a storyline in a book I would read or a cartoon I would watch with my two-year-old daughter.
But I quickly realised this was a real thing and the Danish-based company Sproutworld had developed an impactful and innovative product.
The B-Corp-certified company takes second-life products, reusability, sustainability and the circular economy to a whole new level.
When I got my hands on the pencils, they looked like ordinary pencils, with the obvious use case as a writing and drawing tool and I liked its simplistic design, but at the end of the pencil was a green know which I worked out would be the plantable part.
A bit of context and history
Before we look at the products further in detail, let’s rewind a bit to how Sproutworld actually started. The seed, quite literally, was planted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) based in Cambridge, Massachusets, US. In 2013 the concept was born by SproutWorld founder Michael Stausholm who saw the pencil on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter, fell in love with its simplicity and sustainable innovation and from there saw a commercial potential, bought the patent and global rights to the pencil. From there the company grew from strength to strength and has since then sold more than 50 million plantable pencils.
Purely looking at the product as a tool I really like its simplicity, its lightweight and from a design perspective it looks as impressive as any pencil you can buy online or in a shop. The fact that it is sustainable, sourced from natural products produces minimal waste and emissions, is carbon neutral – and has a second life as plants only adds to its proponents. It is perfectly suited to taking quick notes or in a more creative way using it as a drawing tool.
The evolution of writing
As anything we do in today’s society has transferred to digital products such as smartphones, tablets and laptops – this is even more prevalent when it comes to writing, I’m a huge proponent of not completely dropping the manual skills and creativity that come from writing with a pen and pencil. From experience there’s something to be said for ditching the phone and laptop now and then, for not only note-taking but also a longer form of writing. The way you think and how you conceptualise what you’re working on differ significantly when using a pen and paper as opposed to writing on your phone and laptop. It is not that one form is bad, they both offer something – but it is unwise to completely stop using one method.
The green and second life element
On the back of this, how do we make it cool to use a pencil again?
The excitement of being able to grow a plant out of your used pencil does at least not damage the use case.
How useful is it?
If one were to deeply analyse how useful the product is, we would need to look at how beneficial it is to plant the pencil, and if it would mean that the customer who planted the pencil would not otherwise have planted a plant, then that is a success story. If you have 1,000 different individual use cases of this, then you have a significant impact. But perhaps it is the potential for behavioural change that is the biggest proponent of this product. If that customer, on the back of that pencil, ends up living a greener lifestyle, you have a success story. However, it could just as easily be the other case, a one-hit wonder – was fun to try, but did not change much. Like most things, the reality is probably somewhere in the middle.
Therefore the conclusion I draw is that the largest benefits might be on the corporate side of the business and the actions made on the back of corporate purchases. If a company buys let’s say 1,000 pencils for a specific event and on the back of that makes a business CSR action of planting these pencils around the office space or maybe even supporting a community project, then we are talking serious positive actions.
This is a decent and innovative product, and while not a fresh product it adds to the trend of second-life products. But the positive potential of this product is all down to the actions the consumer – whether individual or corporate decides to take.