Instead of throwing out pencil stubs, Sprout wants you to plant them. (Sprout)

By some estimates, global pencil sales top 14 billion units every year. Most of these pencils end up in the trash — unwanted and useless stubs.

But there’s a company that wants to give these pencils new life. Denmark-based Sprout is selling pencils with an attached seed capsule, containing everything from tomatoes to cilantro and lavender.

There is one catch — you’ll have to give up your eraser. So if you prize the chance to erase — or don’t enjoy gardening — Sprout probably isn’t the pencil for you. It’s also more expensive than a traditional pencil, costing about $20 for eight.

Sprout says it sells more than 450,000 pencils a month. (Sprout) Sprout says it sells more than 450,000 pencils a month. (Sprout)

Once Sprout’s pencil — made of cedar wood — is no longer useful, plant it and wait for something to appear. Sprout says the seeds will germinate in one to three weeks, with basil being fastest.

Sprout chief executive Michael Stausholm got the idea from a 2012 Kickstart campaign of three MIT engineers who were coming up with sustainable office products. He initially received rights to sell the pencils in Europe before buying them out completely.

Sprout says it is now selling more than 450,000 pencils a month, mostly in Italy, Germany and Belgium. It is expecting growth in the United States and Britain.

Sprout offers a few other sustainable products, such as plantable paper. The paper, which degrades naturally, has seeds glued to it.  Sprout also offers what it calls “tiny gardens,” cardboard boxes where hemp mats replaces soil. They are designed for window sills.


(Sprout)