Plantable pencils sprout into flowers, vegetables and trees

Plantable pencils
© Sprout

Done with that pencil? Sink it in the soil for a second life.

A green-fingered Danish start-up has come up with an improbable way of planting trees: using pencils. It sounds peculiar, but the so-called plantable pencil is only the latest in a range of products made by Sprout, a company based outside Copenhagen. As its name suggests, Sprout makes products you can plant and watch grow into flowers, herbs, and vegetables. (Think: basil, cilantro, and sage, cherry tomatoes, forget-me-nots, and marigolds.)

Sprout’s products include stickers and greetings cards. Yet it’s the plantable pencil that catches the eye. They’re fitted with a small biodegradable capsule that contains seeds. Once the pencil has been sharpened to a stub, it can be planted in soil instead of being thrown away.

Sprout© SproutThe plantable pencil is in fact the brainchild of three students at MIT, who sold the rights to Sprout’s CEO, Michael Stausholm. He says the company’s products show how things can be reused and given a new lease of life. “We strive to rethink products and give them a second purpose, to minimize waste and make consumers more conscious of how and what they buy.”

Sprout has launched the limited edition tree-growing pencil to mark Earth Day, teaming up with Forests of the World, a Danish organisation that promotes sustainable tourism and logging. Sprout says just one tree is required to make 170,000 pencils and that it will give 10 percent of proceeds from the sale of the limited-edition pencils to Forests of the World.

Plantable pencils© SproutSprout’s botanist spent months running tests to see which seeds were not only small enough to fit into the capsule but strong enough to germinate and grow into trees. Three passed the test: spruce, birch, and pine. The company recommends trying to grow the latter indoors. At room temperature, pine tree seeds should germinate within 10-14 days. “They can also be used as bonsai plants,” Sprout reckons.

Still, unlike its regular plantable pencils, Sprout’s new tree-growing ones might not be for everyone. Stausholm says it takes an “advanced and patient” grower to produce trees from seeds. “Many tree seeds may be difficult to germinate, as they have a natural dormancy,” he explains. “However, with light, water, love and a lot of patience it should be possible.” To makes things easier for novices, the company has popped some wildflower seeds in the capsules “to give them an extra sprouting touch.”

Yet potential pencil-pushers will have to be patient: Sprout recommends planting the pencils outside during fall and “letting the winter do its work to break the seed dormancy”. With luck, the seeds should germinate next spring, it says – just in time, of course, for Earth Day 2017.

Tags: Fruits & Vegetables | Gardening

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