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SproutWorld is celebrating 10 years in business and sustainability, led by its flagship product, the plantable pencil. A global product that can communicate sustainably to anyone.
September 13, 2023
How much can a tree grow in 10 years? A Google search estimates that, depending on the type of tree, it can be anywhere from 10 to 20 feet. But what about a brand centered around taking something millions of people use daily and helping us give this item a new life? Well, with the genuine and clear goals that SproutWorld strives for, growth was only a matter of time.
SproutWorld is an incredibly successful business in the world of sustainability with its simple, yet effective idea of plantable pencils. This is where the tree reference from before comes from. Each SpoutWorld pencil has a small capsule on the end of it and each of those capsules is full of seeds. So, when someone is finished with their pencil, they can put it in a pot of soil, water it, and watch it sprout into flowers, herbs, vegetables and trees.
This idea blooming with sustainability has led SproutWorld through a decade of success as the company celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Starting as a concept at MIT in 2013, the plantable pencil patent was later bought by CEO Michael Stausholm after he saw the idea on Kickstarter. Since, SproutWorld has sold more than 65 million plantable pencils in more than 80 countries, inspiring millions to think sustainably and help our environment.
“I saw the idea and I thought this was a great way of illustrating what sustainability is all about,” Stausholm said. “To me, the fact that you take a product, you use it for its purpose, you write with it or draw with it, and instead of throwing it out when you're done, you literally give it new life by planting it. That's what sustainability should be all about.”
Through its tentpole product, SproutWorld can easily demonstrate sustainability to anyone. A plantable pencil can someday grow into a tree which could be made into more plantable pencils, and the process continues. One tree can produce 175,000 pencils, after which SproutWorld replants said tree, because they don’t cut trees without replanting them immediately. Those 175,000 pencils can then be planted, potentially creating 175,000 tomato plants, flowers or basil.
The pencil is a symbol of possibility and one that can be easily understood, showcasing the value of second lives and combating waste culture. This symbol has helped Stausholm communicate the importance of sustainability, as the visual aid could understood by businesses, adults, and even children. Having this simple vehicle to better communicate an important topic spurred his decision to buy the patent.
“It was always really head to explain what [sustainability] really was and suddenly, I saw this product that you could reuse. I thought “OK, here’s a great product that I can use during my presentations”,” said Stausholm. “When I do, everyone will understand what I’m talking about. Children, adults, business, and that’s what really triggered me.”
Stausholm, before the plantable pencil, was working in consulting for sustainability and he hasn’t let up in the last ten years. For SproutWorld and himself, it’s important that both parties practice what they preach, even outside of the business. The company, which provides free lunch to everyone in the office, attempts to limit its food waste by making sure it goes home with employees. SproutWorld doesn’t want to throw anything out.
Back on the business side, SproutWorld’s European production is fueled by 75% solar energy and that number is increasing every day. The company also recently planted its own forest, roughly 12,000 trees, in Europe, which will never be used for pencil productions or any other products. The plan is for those trees to live out their lives, absorbing CO2 and creating a natural environment.
“We want to give back much more than we take, and, to me personally, that’s also how I try to live my life,” said Stausholm.
For the next ten years, Stausholm wants to continue growing SproutWorld into a more global supplier, pushing its sustainability message beyond the 80 countries in which plantable pencils are sold. But the mission remains the same: pencils or not, SproutWolrd and Stausholm want to inspire everyone to think more sustainably. Even small actions like making a sustainable pencil can add up to big changes.
“If we can take an everyday product like a pencil and give it a second life, what else can you do?” said Stausholm.
Content Producer, Waste360
Gage Edwards is a Content Producer at Waste360 and seasoned video editor.
Gage has spent the better part of 10 years creating content in various industries but mostly revolving around video games.
Gage loves video games, theme parks, and loathes littering.
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