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The Green Life: The World's Biggest Maker of Pencils Tries to Erase its Eco-Mark

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November 16, 2011

The World's Biggest Maker of Pencils Tries to Erase its Eco-Mark

Faber-Castell treesFor Americans, Faber-Castell may not have quite the name recognition of, say, Ticonderoga. Which doesn't change the fact that Faber-Castell is the world's leading producer of wood pencils, cranking out some 2 billion graphite-filled sticks per year.

That’s a lot of wood.

Fortunately, the family-run, Germany-based company, which this year is celebrating its 250th anniversary, is trying to do better by the environment by strengthening its commitment to conscientious forestry.

One of its biggest eco-initiatives came in the mid-1980s, when the company started a sustainable tree-planting project in Brazil. Developed on former grassland and nowhere near the Amazon River, the company-planted pine forest provides about 75% of Faber-Castell's wood. After the trees are cut down, they're quickly replaced with seedlings of fast-growing pine species.

SeedlingCovering nearly 25,000 acres in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, Faber-Castell reserves 30% of its land as habitat for more than 200 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, some of which are endangered.

Because of its forest project, the company says it's carbon-neutral three times over — that is, it absorbs three times more carbon dioxide than it produces. Faber-Castell also claims to be the first in the industry to use a water-based varnish for its pencils, replacing the old coating based on chemical solvents. This also makes conditions healthier for employees.

The company's other green initiatives include reducing its non-recyclable waste: Of Faber-Castell's total amount of refuse, 88% is now recyclable. And 90% of the energy used at its Brazil location comes from renewable sources, mainly wood and water.

--Josh Marx / images courtesy Faber-Castell

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