What happens to a wooden pencil after you wear it down to a stub? It gets thrown into the trash.
15 billion pencils are made annually, and three million of those are just in the United States. There are many pencil stubs thrown away – said Michael Stausholm, CEO of Sprout World.
Denmark-based Sprout World wants to shrink this waste. The startup makes plantable pencils that can grow into vegetables, flowering plants or herbs once you’re done using them.
Stausholm said that the pencils are made from cedar in Pine City, Minnesota, and they are also the perfect sustainable product. This is because one “dying product is literally giving life to a new product.”
Moreover where a typical eraser stands, these wooden pencils will have a capsule made from biodegradable material that contains a small mixture of peat and seeds.
You will plant the capsule in a pot of soil and use the stub end of the pencil as a marker. The capsule dissolves and the seeds grow into a plant.
The pencils come in 14 varieties ($19.95 for a pack of eight), including tomato, basil, lavender, green pepper and sunflower.
Sprout World CEO Michael Stausholm.
The pencils were developed by three MIT students in 2012.
“At the time, I was living in Denmark and working a lot with sustainable companies,” he said. “But sustainability is hard to illustrate to consumers. I was searching for a product that could easily do that.”
A year later, he came across Sprout Pencils when it was a Kickstarter campaign.
“I loved the idea. It was a perfect way to explain what sustainability is all about,” said Stausholm.
Stausholm made a partnership with the students and convinced them to let him sell the pencils in Denmark. “We sold 70,000 pencils in the spring of 2013. We realized there was definitely demand for them,” he said.
By 2014, they sold a million pencils across Europe. Furthermore later that year, Stausholm acquired the patents and rights to the brand and became Sprout World’s CEO.
He said Sprout World now sells an average of 450,000 pencils a month and has logged more than $3 million in revenue.
Stausholm’s next step is to conquer the U.S. market. He also opened a small office in Boston in September to get drive going. There are two employees there and 15 in Europe.
“America is a couple of years behind Europe in terms of embracing eco-friendliness,” he said. But he thinks it’s a perfect market for Sprout World pencils because its creators and manufacturers are U.S. – based.
The pencils are sold on Amazon and in Whole Foods (WFM) stores in the U.S.
Stausholm is also intensive on bringing down the price. Ultimately, he wants every student around the world to use Sprout World pencils.
In January, the startup plans to roll out new products, including plantable greeting cards and colored pencils.
“We know we can’t save the planet just with our products,” said Stausholm. “Our mission is to at least educate people on how to be more conscious in what they buy and look for products that are reusable.”