Woman on a mission: Wada Kealotswe transforms newspapers to pencils to save the planet

Kealotswe - climateaction

Woman on a mission: Wada Kealotswe transforms newspapers to pencils to save the planet

Climate change is a burning issue around the world, dominating conversations as individuals and governments seek ways to mitigate its devasting effects on the planet.

Among the ways to mitigate climate change effects that the world is currently driving is the curbing of human-driven and natural loss of trees, also known as deforestation.

In terms of climate change, when trees are cut down, there will be lesser trees that would ordinarily help sequester carbon dioxide which is one of the major contributors to climate change. Also, the carbon that the trees have captured is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, further causing harm.

This is how deforestation and forest degradation contribute to global warming. In fact, forest loss and damage are the cause of about 10% of global warming.

This indicates the need to end deforestation in order to combat climate change and the good thing is that people are beginning to adopt alternate solutions to products that require trees as resources for production.

One of such people is Wada Kealotswe, an innovator from Botswana who recycles newspapers into eco-friendly pencils.

Wada Kealotswe started her pencil brand, Eco Zera Pencils, after participating in the 2019 Youth Conference in Washington DC.

Before starting the boot-strapped Eco Zera Pencils, she had pitched her newspaper recycling project with the World Bank City Resilience Program in 2019. Although the project didn’t make the finals of the program, she was inspired to continue with it, and that led to the founding of Eco Zera Pencils.

According to Kealotswe, since she started her business two years ago in Gaborone, Botswana’s capital city, Eco Zera Pencils has manufactured about 40,000 pencils and sold about 39,000, while processing more than 8,000 newspapers.

That, to Kealotswe, is a significant contribution to the climate change fight in the cities as she has saved thousands of trees from being chopped down through her project. Her focus is also on raising awareness of environmentally friendly products and she hopes that through that, tree cutting will be reduced.

Kealotswe combines newspapers as well as graphite and other materials needed in the pencil manufacturing process, to produce the pencils.

With only 20% machine use and 80% manual effort (by hand), the manufacturing process takes a unique layer of stages:

Firstly, newspapers (which are sourced from offices and individuals) are cut to the size of the graphite with the help of a machine (sourced from China) then paper glue is used to secure the graphite.

After that is done, a machine rolls the rest of the paper to make pencil rods secured by resin glue, which are then dried in the sun for about 4 hours before using an electric oven which hardens them to have similar qualities in common with wood. The rod is then cut at the two ends to give it shape before being filed for a smooth feel.

At the final stage, an eraser is attached to the pencil after which it is packaged in a branded box of 12.

Kealotswe’s efforts through Eco Zera Pencils have earned her the SEED Climate Adaption Award 2021, for managing waste.

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