Are Fountain Pens Green?

Being ‘green’ is starting to creep into every aspect of life. I long ago switched to compact flourescent bulbs, and added insulation to my attic. Recently at my office, the Green Team proposed we stop using paper coffee filters and start using a reusable filter. If not for environment reasons, economics are also driving people to conserve and make more sustainable choices.

But fountain pens had honestly not occurred to me to be a green choice. Maybe it’s because the nicer ones come in really nice packaging – several dollar’s worth to be sure. Or maybe it’s because the price of a single really nice pen might just equal a lifetime of cheap ballpoints. Perhaps it’s just that a fountain pen seems fancy, and fancy usually means excessive.

However, I think it might just be a green choice if the pen is reasonably priced. Suppose, say, a Lamy Safari. A nice, usable pen for $30. Add a bottle of ink (nice ink) for $12, and you have a total investment of $42, say $45 with taxes.

The Pilot G2 is a nice disposable gel rollerball, with performance similar to a fountain pen. A dozen goes for about $16, so for the same money as a fountain pen we’re looking at about 3 dozen G2’s. Well, and the fact that you won’t be chucking 36 empty plastic pen bodies into a landfill. They say the G2 is refillable, but strangely enough the refills only seem to be sold in packs of 2, and cost more than whole pens sold by the dozen.

So is using a fountain pen green? I would say that it probably is, assuming you don’t lose it. I’m not sure how many G2’s worth of ink the average 2oz ink bottle holds, but given how long it took me to drain a bottle of Skrip once (the only bottle of ink I’ve ever emptied) I’d say it’s more like 100 pen’s worth.

Black is Back

As I started pulling old pens out of storage and cleaning & filling them, I realized another change that’s happened in the intervening years. I’d switched to black ink.

My mother was always a black ink fan. She always said that nothing seemed permanent until it was written in black – she was raised in the fountain pen era, by the way. I always thought it made more sense to write in blue, so that one’s signature would stand out on copies. In fact, Namiki/Pilot blue was my favorite. I think that is partly why I ended up switching to Gel pens and then to the Fisher – the color was just so consistent.

But after I switched away from fountain pens, I switched to black ink. I’m not sure why, or when exactly. All I know is that when it came to filling pens, there was no black ink in the house.

I surfed a bit looking for some recommendations, and ended up at the Fountain Pen Network. Opinion there suggested to me that Aurora and Noodler’s were the blacks of choice. After a quick order at Fountain Pen Hospital, a bottle of each should be on my doorstep, along with a Namiki Vanishing Point nib section in broad, on Monday.