Coming out of its niche: a greener way to write

Saving the climate can only be achieved with a change of mind – even when it comes to writing. Schools and offices can already change over to writing materials that are part of a sustainable circular economy: environmentally friendly production (preferably using recycled resources), low-waste packaging, durable, repairable and recyclable. As a look at the green niche of paper, office and stationery products shows us, such products have been around for quite a while.

Green writing and art implements

Pens are indispensable in schools and offices. Environmentally friendly variants are made from recycled plastic or biodegradable and sustainably produced materials such as recycled paper (shaft, cover) or unpainted and renewable wood (clip and shaft) and sugar cane.

Moreover, we should once again cherish well-proven and environmentally friendly writing implements, because although long-lasting, large-capacity refills in ballpoint pens with writing lengths of between 6,500 and 10,000 metres may well be able to beat shorter-lived standard refills (3,000 metres) and gel refills (1,000 metres) by far, the good old pencil can nevertheless reach a figure of up to 20,000 metres! And a handy, almost forgotten, tool from times gone by that means that people don't have to throw away lead and coloured pencils long before they are spent is the pencil extender. In the best-case scenario, the remaining pencil stump can even be planted in the ground.

There should be no harmful substances in pencils manufactured in line with the EU standard DIN EN 71. One of Germany's oldest and largest environment associations NABU (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union) points out that harmful substances are mainly found in ballpoint pen ink, but sometimes also in felt-tip pens and highlighters. Alternatives such as dry wood markers are, therefore, the healthier option. And felt-tip pens with solvents and preservatives can be easily replaced with water-based refillable products.

Green erasing implements

Modern pens increase writing comfort and facilitate corrections. The question arises as to how environmentally friendly the writing culture at schools and in offices actually is. Crossing words out and rewriting them would, ultimately, be the most climate-friendly alternative to ink erasers and the like. A sustainable ink eraser should contain neither plastic (PVC) nor plasticizers (phthalates). After all, plastic-free and healthy alternatives such as rubber-based ink erasers or erasers with micro sand particles have long been available on the market. Erasable rollerball pens are another possibility. And don't forget the correction roller tapes, which are also available with a refillable housing made of recycled plastic.

Recycled paper saves energy and water

Saving paper is now the order of the day, but without paper at schools and in offices, things just don't run smoothly. If paper is used for writing, it can, of course, be recycled. According to NABU, 60% less energy and 70% less water are used to produce recycled rather than virgin paper. According to Greenpeace3, the "Blue Angel", "UWS" and "Ökopa plus" are quality marks that reliably indicate this.

About the author 

The freelance journalist on organic issues and #motherof4 Doreen Brumme blogs on about how to enjoy a green lifestyle at work, in school and at home.