When I received my Sprout pencil crayons in the mail, I called my four-year-old nephew and arranged a play date.
We got together and sharpened every pencil crayon in the box - a green "Basil" pencil; a purple "Sage" pencil; a pink "Thyme" pencil; a brown "Cilantro" pencil. After a weekend of coloring in Sprout's "Mindful Coloring Book," the pencil crayons were ready to be planted. That's when the real fun started.
Related: How to Live Sustainably in the City
We dug our city hands into the soil and planted each pencil, placing the colorful pots by the windowsill. When my nephew came over three weeks later, he was beaming."How are my pencils doing?! How are my pencils doing?!" To his pleasant surprise, the pencils had sprouted.
My five-year-old nephew is a city boy, born and raised in the heart of Toronto. He doesn't have a garden and he thinks that fruits and vegetables come from the local grocery store - not from the earth.
Related: What the Cluck: The Joys of Keeping Backyard Chickens
Sprout pencils (and paper) teach children about sustainability and gardening, while connecting them to mama nature. They get to experience planting a seed and watching it become a herb or vegetable that they can eventually eat in a salad or on a pizza. These pencil crayons are a fun, affordable way to get kids excited about nature.
To learn more about Sprout and its awesome products, I spoke to Sprout founder and CEO, Michael Stausholm.
Q: How did it all start?
A: The Sprout pencil was created by three students from MIT in Boston, back in 2012. They put their idea on Kickstarter.com, where I (Michael Stausholm), founder and CEO of Sprout, saw the pencil. To start out with, I was going to deal with the distribution and sales in Europe, but I later bought out the students and now own all patents and IP-rights to the pencils. In June 2013, the first pencils hit the shops.
The idea is that you plant your pencil or color pencil instead of throwing it out when it is too short to write with. This way, you give your pencil a new life by making it grow into herbs, vegetables or flowers.
Q: What attracted you to Sprout?
A: I was excited about the idea and thought it to have great potential. The Sprout pencil is a response to the growing consumer-culture we as society have developed, and I found it inspiring that it had the ability to make sustainability something that is much more approachable and understandable.
Q: Why is it important to teach sustainability to children?
A: Children are our future, and since environmental issues are a huge part of that future it is important for them to know what impact their choices can have.
In Denmark, we have a lot of great initiatives to make children more interested in sustainability, and with great success. This tells us that children really want to learn about sustainability, we just have to give them the tools to do so - and that is something we would like to help with.
We want sustainability to be for everyone.
Q: What has the response been from children and families?
A: We have got great response. Parents are very nice to give us complements, kind words and general feedback on social media, which we appreciate a lot.
We wanted to make the Sprout color pencil into something relatable for children, something that would make it fun for them to understand and learn about sustainability. And planting a pencil is also something fun for parents to do with their kids.
Q: What do you hope to achieve with your products and your company?
A: Overall, we hope to inspire individuals as well as companies to take better care of our planet. We know we cannot save the world, but we do hope we can be a small step in the right direction.
Q: What has your impact been so far on the environment?
A: As we all know, it will require to cut down trees in order to make pencils, and the Sprout pencils are no exception. However, by using FSC or PEFC certified wood you ensure that a new tree is being planted every time one is harvested, this is extremely important to us. Last year we sold 2.000.0000 pencils, and by that harvested 8 trees.
A bonus to this is that all the Sprout pencils will turn in to new beautiful flowers, vegetables or fruits, hopefully meaning that we have helped 2.000.000 new plants into the world.
Q: What else can we expect to see from Sprout?
We always try to make our products adaptable for different industries, we recently launched a golfkit with our plantable pencil and sprouting paper.
We also have a few goals in 2017, we would love for all of our packaging to be made of recycled material, and we hope to be able to do more interesting projects like our Tour De Children's Homes project.
Q: Tell us about the Tour De Children's Homes project.
We just started this project.
The project simply means that we donate one Sprout pencil to a children's home for every 8-pack you buy on Amazon or from our web-shop.
Pencils are an important tool in school, and some children cannot afford a pencil of their own. This is something we feel we can and should do something about.
We hope to be able to give every child in the children's home three pencils each, when this is achieved we move on to the next home.
Last year we sold 10,000 packs, so we expect to donate quite a number of pencils this year. We believe that all children should have access to education and learning, and we hope that we can help with that.
To get your own Sprout Pencils, click here.