Yesterday I was in a bookstore (the irony of that will be exposed in a bit) and saw a stand of mechanical pencils that gloated "NEW! Biodegradable Pencils!!".
Where to begin?
Before the "green" movement was even a glimmer in the eye of bighead ALGORE, I was so futuristic by using a "biodegradable" pencil. It was made out of wood, you sharpened it, and used it down to a nub before getting a new one. Hey, you coveted your pencil, its not like they grew on trees (pausing while you laugh at that lame joke). Oh sure, pencils are made out of precious trees, trees that actually survive on the horrible man-made CO2 that we people spew into the air, and turn it into that pesky oxygen. Wood pencils are practically the ONLY thing left that we manufacture in the United States, and are made from California Incense Cedar wood that grow on farms and are harvested on a sustained-yield basis (they grow more than they harvest). Most wood pencils are manufactured in Tennessee, but what with the whole, cheaper to get them overseas thing, our pencil manufacturing capability is quickly being stolen by those wonderful, cool, shiny, pretty mechanical pencils that are produced overseas (where they don't have business crushing stupid regulations so they poison the ozone willy nilly).
Mechanical pencils were marketed as the new coming in saving the world! Instead of cutting down innocent trees and leaving huge bar spots on the earth, you could buy a plastic pencil and use it over and over, replacing the lead when you ran out, and therefore, not only would you be saving the forests, but its cheaper in the long run... sorta.
With this kind of thinking, the most ecological peoples would cherish and keep their plastic pencil and hand it down from generation to generation. There would never be a need to buy another pencil (just replacement lead) and therefore after enough pencils had been manufactured to give each and every person a mechanical pencil (well, not give... sell) then there would never be a need to produce yet another pencil ever again.
That didn't work out so well apparently. Go into any office supply store and there are so many choices, styles, looks, and types of mechanical pencils, you would think that in this age of technology and computers, that the need for a pencil was so great that they couldn't make mechanical pencils fast enough. That's because people buy them, lose them, use the lead and rather than buy replacement lead, they buy a new pencil (defeating the whole refillable concept), and frankly leave them laying all over the place because they are so damn cheap you can just buy another carton of 40 for a few bucks.
This lead to the mountainous pile of discarded mechanical pencils. People would travel from miles around to take pictures of their loved ones in front of the gigantic pile of discarded and non-biodegradable mechanical pencils. Ok, they didn't, but now they are making us think that, what with the new and improved and eco-friendly biodegradable pencils. We've relieved the guilt of green people everywhere by creating pencils that will literally fall apart in your hands and make the world safe again. No more clogging the earth with plastic mechanical pencils because if you drop one on the ground, it will literally, before your eyes, melt into the earth and become one with the universe. Now you can buy as many of these things as you want, guilt free and you can actually brag to your friends that you are doing your part to SAVE THE WORLD...
Except for that pesky part about how much crap is thrown into the air and water from the manufacturing of these mechanical pencils, and how much crud and junk is spewed into the air and oceans when these pencils are shoved into a container and shipped across the ocean to the U.S., and how much gas and crap is spewed into the air when the container of pencils is shipped to a big warehouse, then broken into smaller lots, driven in gas guzzling trucks to smaller warehouses, then broken into even smaller lots and driven in more gas guzzling trucks to our neighborhood Staples or Office Depot. Yep, they sure are earth friendly! Buy them by the carton-full because we'll just make more!
So back to the irony part, the part where I'm standing in a bookstore and looking at the stand of biodegradable mechanical pencils... standing in a store that is filled with shelves upon shelves of books... made of paper... books that proudly proclaim (in only some instances) that they are made with a WHOPPING 10% post consumer waste. That means that only 90% of trees had to die to make the book, and yet I'm suppose to cheer the creation of biodegradable mechanical pencils?