By: Michael Stausholm, CEO of Sprout World (sproutworld.com)
Who knew that what started off as a crazy college idea would turn out not only to be a multi-million-dollar business but a powerful symbol of sustainability around the world? Yet this sums up the very story of the Sprout pencil.
It all started with an idea from a group of students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston back in 2012 for a sustainability college project. They came up with the idea of a plantable pencil with a capsule of seeds in the end. When the pencil is planted, the capsule dissolves and sprouts into herbs, vegetables or flowers.
When I saw the idea on a crowdfunding site, I immediately fell in love with it. It was a fun idea but I also saw an invention with great potential because of its uniqueness and simple way of illustrating what sustainability is all about. The idea is that you use the pencil as normal but then you give it a new life when you can no longer use it as a pencil by planting it instead of throwing it away. So, I worked with the students to bring the pencils to a global audience and from there, the company, Sprout World was born in 2013!
Today, the pencils are 100% natural and made from sustainably harvested cedar wood, graphite and clay. The capsule is non-toxic and plant-based, so it’s perfectly safe if you accidentally chew on (or even eat) the capsule! There are a variety of non-GMO seeds including basil, cherry tomato, chia, sage, thyme, sunflower, carnation, coriander, daisy and forget-me-not flowers.
The pencils are sustainable, zero-waste, plastic-free and lead-free, and they’re 100% biodegradable and will decompose safely if buried.
Each day, 135 million plastic ball point pens are produced worldwide. It’s a huge amount of plastic, but you can fight this plastic waste with a plantable pencil instead!
Our most recent product launch is the Happy Bee edition of plantable pencils – pencils that sprout into bee-friendly wildflowers after use, and we are soon to be launching a set of plantable make-up pencils too – the first in the world.
Over the years, the likes of Michelle Obama has used the pencils to promote the publication of her book Becoming, as well as Richard Branson, who gifts the pencils as a souvenir to his guests on Necker Island. Companies from all around the world including Disney, Coca-Cola, Porsche, Toyota and L’Oréal are among some of the companies who personalise and use Sprout Pencil as a symbol of recycling and sustainability for their business.
The company also claimed the #2 spot in Fast Company’s list of the Most Innovative Companies in Europe in 2020, that was a wonderful accolade. But for me, the Sprout pencil isn’t just a product. It’s everything that sustainability should be and is something that can hopefully inspire others to make small changes in their everyday life, and companies to re-think sustainability.
Eight years later and having sold over 35 million plantable Sprout pencils in more than 80 countries – we are still true to our mission. We want to inspire people and companies to plant a green mindset in their everyday life.