Monday, August 09, 2010

Back to School with Paper Mate Biodegradable Pens and Pencils


It's (shudder) Back to School time!

It's not easy being green when school is starting. Really. I stock up while supplies are on sale so I don't have to spend a bundle when my pens and pencils run out in January, and that eases my frugal mind. My eco-conscious sensibilities are a little harder to please. Lunch boxes and water bottles, pencils and pens, and more - many of these items end up in garbage later. Imagine an empty pen, the ink used up in writing fabulous stories and essays, multiply by the 300 students in my school, and there's quite a pile-up in our local landfill.

When Mom Central offered a chance to try out and review the new Paper Mate pens and pencils, I said, "A biodegradable pen? A mechanical pencil suitable for compost? Count me in!" They sent me a sample of each.

Step one: does it write well? I must admit that I do not like mechanical pencils in my fourth grade classroom. Kids spend more time loading and reloading the lead than they do writing. The pencil writes well, the leads are packaged well in a pencil-sized case (less likely to be lost than smaller cases) with leads on one end and erasers on the other. This has potential; I'll keep mine in my main desk drawer and write my name on the pencil itself so it doesn't *ahem* disappear into a student desk. The pens write well, too, with no warm-up time. That's important; if you've ever waited for a child with ADHD to get a brand new pen working, you'll know what I mean.

Now for the selling point: biodegradable components. Both pens and pencils come in cardboard packages - no plastic. That's a point in their favor. On the back of the package is a diagram showing which pieces can be composted and which should go in the wastebaskets. This is also a plus, as it prevents students from throwing the entire pen in the compost only to find a rusty spring in the tomatoes next fall. The challenge is this: keeping the back of the package until the pen runs out of ink and the pencil leads are all used up. Will the student know what to do when the writing implement has reached the end of its useful and creative life?

I checked the Paper Mate website, thinking that kids are more likely to look to the Internet than to keep a scrap of cardboard, no matter how important. I found what I needed here: a video showing how to dispose of the pen properly and demonstrating the pen's decomposition over a year's time. Paper Mate is also very straightforward about the fact that the majority of its product is biodegradable, not the whole thing. Their honesty keeps them out of the green-washing category and in the serious eco-conscious world.

I plan to use mine before "planting" them in my garden or compost. That's one challenge to this review; I couldn't bring myself to waste the product itself in order to test its compost-ability. I am a teacher, though; I go through writing implements quickly. There's a strong chance that I'll be able to plant a pen or pencil before winter arrives.

Paper Mate's web site states that "Every little bit helps." These utensils may not be completely earth-friendly, but it's a good start. In fact, it's a great start.

Thanks, Paper Mate, for taking the time and effort to develop yet another eco-conscious product.

I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Paper Mate and received the products necessary to facilitate my review. In addition, I received a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate. In my research for this review, I discovered that the new pens are only one of many environmentally responsible products from Paper Mate. They make recycled products, and you can read their company philosophy here and green FAQs here.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Royal Ranch said...

This is a great idea and great timing Daisy. I'm headed out the door today to go Back to School shopping. I will keep my eye out for these products now, exactly as they had intended. Now how do I get in on the testing stages-ha?!?

8/09/2010 7:00 AM  
Blogger Shari said...

Perfect timing! I'll look for them. I'm shopping for back to school supplies this week.

8/09/2010 11:18 AM  
Blogger Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Very cool! I'll look for those. I was pleased to find Ticondaroga #2 pencils in a cardboard package instead of plastic-wrapped.

8/10/2010 9:18 AM  

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