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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The Pen is mightier

When it's Green! What have I been writing with ever since I could hold a pencil? After graduating from the fat red ones we used in kindergarden I moved onto yellow HB and then - the pen. Or rather - MANY pens. I shudder to think how many I've used and discarded over my lifetime. Each pen was designed to have a limited lifespan in my fingers, never to be recycled as they are made of three to four types of plastic with metal and ink components. I am on a quest to stop this needless, waste-creating habit and will replace all my household writing utensils with environmental and ethical choices. Here's what I've done so far:
My first replacement was a bamboo ballpoint pen. This I picked up at my local Shoppers Drug Mart and it checked off a number of environmental boxes. The outer casing was made from a biodegradable and renewable resource - bamboo - and the outer plastics were corn plastic - another renewable source that is 100% biodegradable and compostable. Finally the cardboard backing was post-industrial recycled cardboard. These are three good things, however, the plastic on the front packaging is non-recyclable AND the inner components (ink, tube, rollerball) are all garbage. SO - good start (and a good price point to feel o.k. lending out to my students) but I think I can do better. Maybe I'll go old school and invest in a refillable fountain pen. An idea for my next mother's day?
This is a second attempt and it makes me happy! When I attended the Waste Management Information Session for my region (see my earlier entries) they gave out loot. One item I fell in love with was their recycled green (literally) pencils. Not only are they recycled (no virgin forests being raided for my writing) but they also promote my local recycling facilities - reminding any one who borrows it to think about the environment. At the end of the presentation I was able to take a number of these away to use in my teaching. I wish our school could buy them.
My third area of disposable writing implements are markers and highlighters. Being a teacher I use, and encourage the use of highlighters on a daily bases. But they usually don't last that long (esp. with lazy users not putting the caps back on properly) and all that colourfull plastic gets tossed. These awesome highlighter pencils are the answer! I ordered them through Life Without Plastic - an excellent online retailer that helps consumers go plastic free! They work great and all the packaging is post-consumer recycled fiber. They are going to last a LONG time and at $7.95 for 4 - that's a great deal! I have marked this boutique as a favourite and am going plastic free with tape and toothbrushes (maybe another entry another time)

Green Seal wrote a report in 1998 summing up the environmental crisis of single-use writing implements. The statistics at that time were that
"every year Americans discard 1.6 million pens. Placed end to end, they would stretch 151 miles—equivalent to crossing the state of Rhode Island almost four times!"
The report is a great read and covers the issues surrounding pencils (recommending ones from sustainable resources and/or recycled), pens (again recommending recycled but also re-fillable), crayons (look for recycled or ones made from soybean oil), and markers (refillable is better and watch ink toxicity). The report ends with and extensive list of recommended replacements for writing utensils and papers. So next time you reach for that pen to write down some of this amazing environmental information I'm blogging to you, look at what you're holding and join me with finding ethical replacements.

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