Zero-Waste: Refill Ink Pens

Bottles of ink seem very oldfashioned, but they align very well with an eco-friendly lifestyle. For a start, lots of bottles of ink are sitting around unused while the ink is perfectly fine. There are lots of initiatives to make pens less wasteful – making the shells out of recycled materials, taking plastic pens for recycling – but the easiest way to reduce waste is through continuous re-use.

A good fountain pen is a great way to significantly reduce the waste of writing and stationery. You can change the colour of inks very easily and change the style of nibs if you decide you want to try different writing styles, all without buying another pen.

When I was in primary school we begged our teacher to let us use pens to write instead of pencils – eventually he relented and said we could use pens so long as we got fountain pens. So I’ve been using a fountain pen for my writing since I was about 10. I got a bright red LAMY Safari that did me about 10 years before I lost track of it, and I recently just purchased a new LAMY Safari to use up all the bottles of ink that are lying around my house.

My new LAMY Safari

Because fountain pens have disposable ink cartridges, they often get a bad name for being wasteful – this is the opposite of the truth. Firstly, even a cartridge pen produces much less waste than using single-use pens and biros. Secondly, lots of fountain pen brands offer a converter attachment to make them refillable from bottled ink. Thirdly, if you have a really nice pen, you’re much more likely to hold onto it compared to biros that disappear as soon as you look at them.

My new LAMY Safari cost me about 25€ in the Pen Corner on Dame Street (a family run business for nearly 100 years) including a new nib and converter. I opted for a matt black version with a extra-fine nib for detailed writing as I’m practising learning Japanese & writing kanji.

If you’re not keen on the idea of bottled ink, or if you have a cartridge pen you want to start using again, I guarantee that if you don’t yourself have hundreds of unused ink cartridges lying around your house, that there are people who do. And those people would be only too happy to get rid of them, so ask around your friends and family or on freecycle pages. It’s likely you won’t have to buy new cartridges at all.

If you can have one really nice pen, writing will become a joy in of itself. Because it’s refillable, you don’t have to worry about wasting your favourite pen on frivolous writing or sketching. You also don’t have to worry about buying dozens of biros, that go missing and are never seen again.

One thought on “Zero-Waste: Refill Ink Pens

  1. When I was a child, pens were expensive.Even biros. So you didn’t have loads of them, and you used them until they ran out. The pen in the bank was chained to the desk so that nobody would steal it. Sometimes they still did.. At some point free pens became a thing. I remember going to exhibitions in the RDS and coming home with bundles of pens advertising various products and services. These days I am making a conscious effort not to pick up free pens. I’m pretty sure I have enough pens to last me a lifetime. And I still get a bizarre thrill from actually finishing all the ink in a ball point pen.

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