Sunday, February 26, 2006

Making a Pencil Revolutionary out of an Environmentalist: The Finale


Part 1 of this series set the stage addressing the parameters to be used to address the question “What arguments would one use to convince an environmentalist to use wood cased pencils?”

In Part 2, I provided some detailed information from a former environmental life cycle study conducted in 1993 comparing three forms of casing materials for the typical cased pencil: wood, plastic and a recycled fiber composite material. Certainly, some generalizations had to be made to adapt the information from this study to answer the question at hand in relating the results to alternate writing instruments such as pens and mechanical pencils. I also indicated that relative enviro0nmental impacts may have changed since 1993 due to changes in technology and other factors. I also pointed out the study didn’t look at all issues that might be considered important by enivornmentalus rabidus extremus.

Coincidentally, about the time I was writing my first post on this subject I received a phone call from a true blue environmentalist working actively in the area of forest management issues in our own California Sierra Nevada range. This individual was trained as a Forest Ecologist and is currently working as a consultant to the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign. This group is a coalition of nearly 100 local, regional and national conservation organizations with the mission to protect and restore the ancient forests, wild lands, wildlife, and watersheds of the Sierra Nevada through scientific and legal advocacy, public education and outreach, and grassroots forest protection efforts.

This group’s historic tactics have been to present legal and public relations challenges to timber sales and Forest Service policy initiatives and timber harvest; clearly a group traditionally at odds with the forest products industry. The interesting purpose of this call was that this person was working on a project for the Campaign to address market opportunities for fire damaged timber on public lands and was interested what opportunities there may be for pencil material. Much of the recent discord has been on treatment of fuel build up in public forests that have had restricted harvests over the past 10-15 years due to changes in public policy and increased challenges to harvesting. Higher fuel loads increase the risks of fire and disease. Interestingly, it now seems that there is some growing recognition among environmental groups that wholesale restrictions of harvesting accomplished historical tactics don’t necessarily lead to healthier forests overall.

Learning that our Forest Ecologist was in fact a fan of wood cased pencils I took the opportunity to ask this Forest Ecologist’s assistance on how to convince environmentalists to use wood cased pencils over other writing instruments. His first comment was that he would personally favor wood as a renewable resource over writing instruments produced from plastic and metal. He pointed out that generally the environmentalist movement however values “critters” first, water quality, second and trees themselves a distant third. When I asked about examples of well managed forests in California he indicated he has personally visited a number of private forests that demonstrate superior natural habitat from a wildlife and water resource perspective than most public lands. He also mentioned that while he would consider himself originally more of what I refer to as the rabidus extremus environmentalist, that with his experience closely involved in these issues he has moved him more towards the middle. Generally, those private forests he mentioned were FSC certified forests. Thus from his personal perspective he would favor FSC pencils such as our ForestChoice pencils on purely environmental considerations with non-FSC Incense-cedar pencils being second. Although he agreed other performance factors for pencils are certainly important considerations when deciding among a wide choice.

Perhaps, the most wary environmentalists out there may be skeptical and disbelieving of these arguments in favor of the pencil as a sound environmental writing choice. To this all I can say is to try riding that Palomino, feeding the Golden Bear or select the ForestChoice if you feel you must nurture the conscience by choosing solely on the basis of FSC wood. If these or other fine writers out there don’t convince you about the benefits of a good high quality pencil, then unfortunately I’ll have to admit failure at this task.

1 comment:

Pencil Revolution. said...

I would choose the Forest Choice not only for its environmental benefits, but also because it's such a darned fine pencil -- hands down the best unpainted pencil I've ever tried, including some vintage models.

I'm no expert, but I can't imagine that any plastic and/or metal pen (with its components and whatever chemicals are in that ink) or computer has even close to the smalle environmental impact that a pencil does. It seems like, other than writing in sand or mud or with a wet brush on a cotton sheet, pencils are the most environmentally friendly way to write and draw.

It would be interesting to tally up how many pencils you could get for how much pollution comes from one pen, one laptop, one desktop, etc.

Great post! Thank you:)