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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.

5 comments… add one
  • Office Supply Geek December 19, 2008, 9:07 am

    This is one of the many reasons I picked up a fountain pen. Also remember that most ink comes in a glass bottle too, which you can recycle.

    I feel like the ink lasts for ever. Ive only inked my pen twice now, but the bottle still looks full, I feel like at this rate I can fill my pen 100s of times before I run out of one bottle.

  • mwschmeer December 20, 2008, 9:03 am

    As a fan of both the Pilot G2 and Parker fountain pens, I can say that my Parker Sonnets are definitely smoother to write with, and a bottle of ink can last a loooong time. I’m still working a bottle of Levenger Cobalt Blue that I bought about three years ago–and I refill my trusty Sonnet about once a month or so.

    I go though G2s at the rate of one a month (I’m a writing instructor–lots of grading and marking on papers). I prefer the G2 for marking student papers, and the Sonnet for journaling and personal writing.

  • Rosemary December 20, 2008, 1:48 pm

    Oh, yes, Fountain Pens are green! Not only because they are refillable, and therefore we won’t throw them away, but because they have a specialness about them which causes us to keep track of them! How often have you used a “stick ball point” pen all the way until it’s empty? I always lose it before it’s empty. I have kept fountain pens from my childhood!

    My current favorite in the world of fountain pen is the Pilot Varsity. It is quite easily refillable – simply pull the nib out with a pair of pliers (wrap in a rag first – there’s a tiny bit of spray), drop in some ink with a dropper, pop the nib back in and away you go. It holds a lot of ink!

    I LOVE this pen, and I wish they’d include refilling instructions on the package. They are marketed as “disposable” but in fact, they are quite easily refillable.

    These are such nice fountain pens – wonderful nib, no leaks, nice (very light) weight. Wonderful for those of us with hand pain, as they are so light.

  • Kim December 21, 2008, 9:29 am

    Whoah, commenter Rosemary has blown my mind with her suggestion of refilling a Varsity! The next one I use up is getting this treatment. Thanks for this post and Rosemary for her comment.

  • Brigitte January 12, 2009, 10:05 am

    Yes, fountain pens can be a more sustainable choice… in theory. They can also be repaired and used almost forever – I use a few pens that are over 30 years old on a daily basis.

    However, most fountain pen lovers (including me) have dozens of pens, which definitely dilutes their environmental contribution.

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