Dear Umbra,

I’m looking for a place that accepts pencil stubs (one to two inches long) to recycle into new pencils. I’ve found recycled pencils online — made from denim, plastic, recovered wood, and paper currency. But what can I do with my stubs?

Covington, Ky.

Dearest Phoenix,

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All the waste-reduction tips tell you to stop using wooden pencils, but that doesn’t help with the ones you already have. Plus wooden pencils are chewable, a vital aspect for many scriveners.

A pencil holder may be just the retro gizmo for you. I refer not to a jar to hold the stubs, but a tube to elongate them — also known as a pencil extender. The holder fits over the eraser end and presto, your pencil is like new, except with a short lead. A nice pencil holder in an attractive color will give your pencils a fresh life and your writing desk a certain panache. Find one at any art-supply store and keep an eye out at antique shops.

Once you’ve truly used the entire lead and are stuck with the metal ring and the eraser, you will doubtless exclaim, “What shall I do with this ferrule and rubber?” I say, reverse the pencil in the extender and start working your way through your collection of erasers. When the end finally comes, it will be only the ferrule that goes in the trash. Or, collect the ferrules until you have enough to fill an old sock, and use the heavy sock to fluff pillows in the dryer. Oops — did I say use the dryer? I mean, use the heavy sock to beat rugs.

If an extender is not for you, try donating the stubs to a church or library.

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