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How many trees are used to make pencils each year?

Most pencils are made out of wood and graphite and since wood is used we wanted to find out how many trees it took each year to make pencils, especially since there are really cool pencils made out of recycled materials notably newspaper.

trees needed each year to make pencils
info graphic from a 4th grader, age 10


So how many pencils are made each year? About 3.5 billion in the U.S. and about 15-20 billion in worldwide.

Our sources for this article include the The Economist for the total number of pencils made worldwide each year, The National Forest Service had data on the California Incense Cedar, and the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association had data on the number of pencils made in the U.S. each year. You can help! Check out pencils made out of recycled materials.

15-20 billion is a lot of pencils! Just taking 15 billion pencils and laying them end to end they would stretch from the earth to the moon almost seven times!

Pencils can be made from different woods, in the U.S. they are mainly made from California Incense Cedar (as a result of a shortage of Red Cedar). Imports might use other trees including rainforest hardwoods.

The number of trees needed depends on how big the trees are, so this can vary a lot depending on the tree. The California Incense Cedar has varying dimensions but on average is about 60 feet high and 3-4 ft in diameter. We will use 60 feet and 3.5 feet in diameter to calculate the available volume of wood. (This tree can also live to be 500 years old).

Using these dimensions, and 15 billion pencils per year, results in a need for about 60,000 trees.

At 60 feet a tree, the trees laid end to end would stretch about 684 miles and they could form a bridge across the Gulf Of Mexico from New Orleans to Cancun Mexico!

What can you do?
Try a recycled pencil! They are cool, inexpensive and save trees! See a bunch of designs pencils right here. A few are shown below.



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