Pens Vs Pencils

I have thought about this recently, what is more environmentally friendly: pens or pencils? As I was looking at the other day I saw that other people have discussed this question although they did not reach a conclusion. Here is the analysis of pens and pencils.

Pencils are made of wood (usually cedar) and graphite (FYI there was never lead in pencils!). Pens are made of chemical ink and plastic. See below for the real details on what is in pens and pencils.

Gel pens are made from chemicals that take a lot of energy to make. Pens are almost always made of plastic and most people do not recycle them when they are done with them. Back in the day people used to purchase nice pens that could be refilled, now you almost never see anyone with one of those pens. Pencils are made out of trees, most pencils that you see in stores are made from cedar trees and graphite is made out of carbon.

So based on how we typically get our pens and pencils today my vote is the pencils are better for the environment. They are made of things found naturally in our environment and renewable. The ingredients in pencils can also breakdown in a landfill. Since people do not recycle their used pens right now either I think it is clear to say that pencils are better for the environment.

If you want to take it to the next level, the green way, you can purchase pens that are made out of recycled paper, corn and vegetables, recycled paper, tires, and even money. Most of us are used to writing with pens so if you do not want to make the switch to pencils for the environment you can get ecofriendly pens at  or

Go green with recycled material pencils too… they make pencils out of recycled newspaper, money, and denim.

Invention idea: a refillable (nice) pen that is made from recycled materials.

How pencils are made (from Wikipedia):
Modern pencils are made industrially by mixing finely ground graphite and clay powders, adding water, forming long spaghetti-like strings, and firing them in a kiln (thermally insulated chambers). The resulting strings are dipped in oil or molten wax, which seeps into the tiny holes of the material, resulting in smoother writing. A juniper or incense-cedar plank with several long parallel grooves is cut to fashion a “slat”, and the graphite/clay strings are inserted into the grooves. Another grooved plank is glued on top, and the whole assembly is then cut into individual pencils, which are then varnished or painted.
How pens are made (from wikipedia):
A ballpoint pen dispenses viscous oil-based ink by rolling a small hard sphere, usually 700–1200 µm and made of brass, steel or tungsten carbide.[1] The ink dries almost immediately on contact with paper. This type of pen is generally inexpensive and reliable. It has replaced the fountain pen as the most popular tool for everyday writing.
A rollerball pen dispenses a water-based liquid or gel ink through a ball tip similar to that of a ballpoint pen. The less-viscous ink is more-easily absorbed by paperthan oil-based ink, and the pen moves more easily across a writing surface. The rollerball pen was initially designed to combine the convenience of a ballpoint pen with the smooth “wet ink” effect of a fountain pen.
A gel pen is a less common type of ball-tipped pen. While the more common ballpoint pens use paste ink based on a solution of a dye solute in an alcohol solvent, gel pens use a gel ink consisting of a pigment suspended in a water-based gel. Common pigments are copper phthalocyanine and iron oxides. The gel is made up of water and thickeners such as biopolymers (including xanthan gum and tragacanth gum) and some types of acrylate polymers. Since pigments are opaque, a gel pen with a bright-colored ink can produce marks that stand out on dark surfaces. Gel inks are available in a range of colors, including metallic paint colours and glitter effects.

12 thoughts on “Pens Vs Pencils

  1. “Invention idea: a refillable (nice) pen that is made from recycled materials.”
    That, thankfully, already exists! There are many, but Pilot (maker of one of my personal favorite rollerball gel pens, the G-2) has a line of pens and mechanical pencils called the Be Green line, with between 71.9% and 89.2% recycled content and uses the same refills as the G-2. Perfect!
    I wonder if Uni-ball, a big competitor and maker of other pens I love, has a similar line.

  2. My vote always goes for Pencils.

    For all rough paper work and also for any taking quick points or pointing out the ideas then and there is no other better tool than a simple and mighty pencil. When I was a kid I use to hate but now I am a huge fan of Pencils.

    While making even quick architecture designs on a rough paper or a design pictures on a rough paper usually with the friction of the pencil lead and paper gives the users extreme control and hence the precision even for such free hand drawing.

    Besides all its 100% bio-degradable, even its lead since its just processed carbon. Who knows bury a pencil couple of miles deep in the earth and after millions of years it might turn into a seasoned diamond 😉

    +Kiran. K
    Author/Founder: Traffic Squeezer (
    Traffic Squeezer – Go Green:

  3. Quit buying plastic injected pens all together. Find a pen turner who makes his/her pens out of wood [ a sustainable product] most use any refill.Some pen turners even use recycled wood..even better. These pens almost never wear out and are timeless.The only item to replace is the ink refill itself.


  5. Thank you. I have been agonizing over which type of pen is more environmentally friendly, but now I see that I’ve missed pencils entirely. I guess now the question is, are mechanical pencils more environmentally friendly or regular pencils. Since regular pencils cannot be used completely, and mechanical pencils require lead, which usually comes in plastic containers, that’s a question that I want to figure out.

    • Mechanical pencils are made with plastic as well so I would say they are not that environmentally friendly.

      An easy way to gauge is just to say; how convenient is it? The more convenient the more likely it’s not environmentally friendly…

      • I think it’s unfair to say that just because mechanical pencils are made with plastic, they are more environmentally unfriendly. Good mechanical pencils last a lifetime. There is also the old adage, “reduce, reuse, recycle.” There’s a reason reduce is the first word in that phrase, as I believe it to be the most important of the three. Using traditional pencils would use more resources than mechanical pencils. As for convenience, I feel like traditional pencils are actually more convenient, because most people use them and then throw them away, just like pens, but proper mechanical pencil usage requires the user to make sure to not lose or damage them.

  6. I agree completely to your point of view. Pencils are indeed more eco friendly than normal pens where you can purchase from the bookstores near your flat. What about mechanical pencils? Is the materials that made up a mechanical pencil similar to what of a pen? And, is it more Eco friendly than wooden pencils?

    Please post more of these
    Kind of interesting topics.
    Perhaps you can discuss about which drink keeps you awake,coffee or tea. Many people now drink coffee because they feel that it can boost up their energy and keep them awake. Is it really like this?

    By the way, I do like your post on pens vs pencils. It is indeed very interesting.

    • Mechanical pencils made from wood would be far more acceptable than any writing implement made out of plastic. the “guts” are metal and could be moved to a different shell. I have several that date from 1700&1800’s that work perfectly.

  7. I hate to break this all to you but pencils are made sustainably from tree farms. Paper (and pencil slats) are a crop, not a resource.

    In fact you might even be helping the environment by buying pencils (more trees will be grown).

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