I have thought about this recently, what is more environmentally friendly: pens or pencils? As I was looking at treehugger.com 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 http://ecofriendlypens.com/unique_material_pens/ or http://www.ecodot.com/recycled-pens.htm
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. 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.