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As ecological concerns become more widespread and urgent, many artists are looking for environmentally friendly versions of their favorite supplies. Colored pencils’ pigmented cores usually lie inside cylindrical cases made of wood, an increasingly precious resource. One way to find a more eco-friendly coloring utensil is to consider whether its wood is sourced from sustainably managed forests.
Colored pencil cores contain pigment and a binder, usually wax, that holds the pigment together and allows it to adhere to surfaces; there may also be other additives like chalk fillers and vegetable gums. Various wax-based art media have been around since classical antiquity, and wax crayons have been in use since the 1500s. Wax colored pencils didn’t gain traction until the early 20th century, when they were primarily used not in the arts but for activities like “checking and marking,” according to the Western Association for Art Conservation. The manufacture of more brightly colored pencils for creative pursuits picked up steam in the 1920s and ’30s, led by graphite pencil maker Faber-Castell and other companies including Caran d’Ache and Berol Prismacolor.
Some colored pencils use oil-based, rather than wax, binders, and some come in watercolor and woodless “stick” varieties. Below are introductions to five of the most eco-friendly colored pencils, focusing on their sustainable sourcing or complete lack of wood.
Caran d’Ache Pablo Colored Pencils
Caran d’Ache’s Pablo line is one of multiple colored pencil sets certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an international nonprofit that supports responsible forest management. Caran d’Ache is a Swiss manufacturer of art and writing materials, including these pigmented pencils, which are sold individually or in sets of up to 120 colors. Along with FSC certification, the company relies heavily on solar power and reuses the wood scraps from its pencil production to fuel its heating system.
Faber-Castell Colored Pencils
Faber-Castell, a major global producer of both colored and graphite writing and art utensils, was one of the first manufacturers of artist-grade colored pencils. More than 90 percent of its pencil wood comes from FSC-certified forests, and it also carries out forest replanting and preservation programs. Faber-Castell Classic Colour Pencils comes in sets of 36 or 48, and the company also offers sets with up to 120 colors.
Koh-I-Noor Progresso Woodless Colored Pencils
Colored pencil sticks without wood casings require zero trees to be logged. Koh-I-Noor Progresso colored pencils have a lacquer coating instead of wood and contain five times more core material than typical colored pencils, according to the company. Koh-I-Noor has roots in Bohemia in the Czech Republic and a U.S. base in Massachusetts. These woodless art tools can be bought individually or in sets of 12 or 24.
Stabilo GREENcolors Colored Pencils
Stabilo, a German, family-run producer of writing and art media, offers 100 percent FSC-certified pencils in 24 unique colors, available in sets of 12, 18, and 24. Stabilo is also well known for its popular highlighters, along with pastel pencils and other drawing and marking materials.
Sprout Pencils, Special Mix Edition, Colored and Graphite Plantable Pencils
The end of each Sprout colored pencil in this eight-pack holds a capsule full of wood flour and non-GMO seeds. When these tools reach the end of their usefulness, they can be planted, continuing the cycle of life. All Sprout pencil wood is certified by the FSC or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, another international nonprofit promoting sustainable forest management. The company also carries out various replanting projects.