We live in a throwaway society, where even large and expensive products are merely trashed when they reach the end of their life and/or usefulness. It's a rather sad state of affairs, with waste that could be recycled or reused extensively placed in the ground to rot ... or, in the case of non-biodegradable materials, not rot. It's against this rather depressing backdrop that one group of product designers have created Sprout, an ordinary, everyday pencil which hides a rather special trick up its sleeve.
Sprout is at first glance just another wooden pencil. Not that there's anything wrong with wooden pencils; they're still the writing and drawing implement of choice for many people who appreciate the tactile feel and innate naturalness they possess. This particular one is made from Ticonderoga cedar, but features no eraser. Instead, the non-writing end of Sprout houses seeds.
UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,200 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
The idea is that once the pencil has been used and sharpened multiple times until it's nothing more than a stub, it gets planted in a small container of soil and watered. The capsule at the end of the pencil contains three seeds of the plant of the user's choosing – there are 22 variants at present, including basil, eggplant, marigold, radish, and tomato – which will then hopefully germinate.
The seed capsule dissolves after several waterings, and once the plant has embedded itself in the soil the pencil can either be removed or used as a place marker. Given the right conditions and enough love and attention, the seed will blossom into a full-sized plant. What was once nothing more than a pencil stub fit to be thrown away will have produced a living organism capable of brightening up an office or garnishing a salad.
Over 100 Sprout pencils have currently been assembled by hand, but an ongoing Kickstarter campaign – accompanying video embedded below – is seeking to raise US$25,000 for a full production run. Pledging $5 or more secures you at least one Sprout pencil, and the chance to reconnect with nature in a very small way.
Greenbutts cigarette filters hold a similar promise, but using a pencil is perhaps preferable to smoking.