5 Best Zero Waste Pens for Eco Friendly Writing


Stop buying plastic pens in plastic packaging!

Try zero waste pens instead or maybe pens that are far less problematic than the 100% plastic stuff.

Zero waste pens can be made from feathers or twigs and used alongside homemade ink.

Other eco friendly pens like refillable fountain pens, dip pens and ballpoint pens are made with cardboard, metal, and wood but they do contain plastic components.  

Before buying a brand-new pen, it is very important to:

  • Use what you already have. It doesn’t make sense to buy a new pen when you have working ones in a drawer somewhere. Hunt them down and use them all first.
  • Visit Goodwill or second-hand stores to pick up previously owned fountain pens or dip pens. You’ll likely find them without much plastic packaging. Give them a second life.

Why use zero waste pens?

According to the National Pen Company, 125 ballpoint pens are sold every second and 3.4 billion are imported into the US annually.

The vast majority of these pens are plastic (with a metal tip). So, just imagine how many are thrown in the trash every year.

All that plastic is going to the landfill to break down into microplastics. And we don’t know the true extent of damage and health problems microplastics can cause.

A recent Italian study found microplastics in human placenta. Researchers have named the phenomena: ‘plasticenta’ and are studying if the plastic could disrupt the growth and development of the fetus in the womb.

Plastics could become an existential threat for our health. It’s time to switch to products with as little plastic components as possible.

The best zero waste pens and ink

Almost all commercial eco friendly pens contain plastic. So, if you truly want a zero waste pen, it is best to make it yourself.

Writing instruments can be made the same way as centuries ago – using twigs or bird feathers. Cally Lawson has an interesting Youtube video on making dip pens from twigs.

The King of Random (video below) explains how to make a quill from a bird feather and ink from unshelled walnuts.

Don’t buy the feathers though, see if you can find them at a flea market or even the farmers’ market. Ask around if you need to.

Berries, charcoal and black soot from burning a candle can also be used to make your own homemade ink for refillable and dip pens.

Check out these epicfantasy and TabLeft Workshop videos for more info.

What to look for when buying eco friendly pens?

Unfortunately, commercial eco friendly pens contain plastic. The same is true for their refills and ink cartridges.

So, you’ll need to balance practicality, reusability, and recycling options in your area to make the best decision for you and your needs.

For the most part, you’ll need to look at the:

  • Material:
    The barrel, cap, clip, ink chamber, thrust device, tip, nib, feed, section, and converter should be made from durable materials that are biodegradable or easy to recycle.

  • Ink & Refills:Ink is made from inert dyes (like eosin and triarylmethane dye), water and sometimes pH modifiers, anti-foaming agents, and biocides. These compounds are not likely to impact the environment in low doses but you can consider making your own ink.

    Also, choose refills made with metal where possible.

  • Packaging:
    Avoid plastic packaging. Look for pens, refills and ink in recyclable and biodegradable cardboard packaging instead.

  • Recycling options:
    Before buying an eco friendly pen, look at the recycling options in your area and ask yourself: can I recycle the metal, cardboard, wood or plastic parts? Are the plastic cartridges refillable or recyclable? Are the glass ink bottles recyclable? What can you do with old pens?

    TerraCycle and BIC have a recycling program for writing instruments and packaging. TerraCycle also partnered with Staples so you can take your old pens there to start the recycling process.

Best eco friendly pens

These are not all perfect; but as I said before, decide with practicality, reusability, and recycling in mind.

1. Lamy AL-Star fountain pen

Lamy AL-Star fountain pen

Features:

  • fine nib
  • 7.1 inches long
  • pen, 1 blue and 5 black cartridges included

Pros:

  • pen barrel made with aluminum
  • pen nib made with stainless steel
  • very durable and reusable
  • cartridges last much longer than ballpoint pens

Cons:

  • does not come with ink or the refillable ink converter; they are sold separately.
  • cartridges and internal parts are plastic
  • pen can leak ink
  • homemade ink must be sediment free otherwise the nib will clog
  • packaging contains plastic

What to do at the end of its life:

  • repurpose the metal parts
  • recycle plastic components with TerraCycle

Get on Amazon: Lamy AL-Star fountain pen (it is the ultimate fountain pen!)

2. Zog kraft paper barrel ballpoint pen

Features:

  • 0.5 mm ballpoint pen with fine tip
  • 5.7 inches long
  • 10 pens included

Pros:

  • pen barrel and cap made with recyclable cardboard
  • paper envelope packaging
  • on-the-go eco friendly pen with no messy ink required

Cons:

  • excess water could damage the integrity of the pen barrel
  • the ink refill is plastic
  • the refills cannot be changed, making the pen single use

What to do at the end of its life:

  • the barrel and cap are biodegradable
  • reach out to TerraCycle to recycle the plastic refill

Get on Amazon: Zog kraft paper barrel ballpoint pen (it’s way better than a plastic ballpoint pen!)

3. Cambond stainless steel ballpoint pens

Cambond stainless steel ballpoint pens

Features:

  • 1.0 mm ballpoint pen with medium tip
  • 5.5 inches long
  • 3 pens with 3 metal refills

Pros:

  • pen barrel made with stainless steel
  • refills mostly made of metal
  • more durable than plastic ballpoint pens
  • on-the-go eco friendly pen with no messy ink required

Cons:

  • pens come wrapped in plastic
  • the tops of the refills are plastic

What to do at the end of its life:

  • repurpose the metal components
  • recycle the plastic packaging where possible
  • reach out to TerraCycle to recycle the plastic refill

Get on Amazon: Cambond stainless steel ballpoint pens (it makes a great fancy gift!)

4. Wooden ballpoint pen

zero waste pens: wood pens

Features:

  • 0.7 mm ballpoint pen
  • 5.7 inches long
  • comes with 1 wooden pen, 1 wooden box and 2 metal refills

Pros:

  • pen barrel made with renewable rosewood and maple wood
  • nib, clip and other components made with metal
  • comes in paper based packaging
  • refills mostly made of metal
  • durable far more than plastic pens
  • no messy ink required

Cons:

  • the tops of the refills are plastic

What to do at the end of its life:

  • separate metal and wooden components
  • repurpose or recycle both types of components
  • compost the wood if you are unable to repurpose

Get on Amazon: Wooden ballpoint pen

5. Handmade Glass Dip Pen

best zero waste pens: handmade glass dip pens

Features:

  • 7.3 inches long
  • unique design

Pros:

  • completely made with borosilicate glass
  • holds enough ink to write over 20 words
  • can use with homemade ink
  • no concerns with clogging of nib

Cons:

  • fragile tip which can chip or break
  • brittle since it is made of glass
  • requires dipping in ink which can get messy
  • comes in plastic packaging

What to do at the end of its life:

  • repurpose the glass (it’s beautiful)
  • recycle the glass as normal

Get on Amazon: Homemade glass dip pen (how unique is this!)

Those are my choices for the best zero waste pens available – they are not all perfectly zero waste but they are better options than the regular plastic pens.

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