With September looming, I’ve been busy getting my three children all kitted out and ready for the start of new term, a somewhat daunting task given the length of time they have been off! Anyone who knows me, knows I do like a little challenge from time to time so for this post and I set my myself an Eco Challenge of trying to source sustainable stationary supplies for a pencil case. A pencil case, ruler, rubber, pencils and pens.. you get idea?
It was a actually a lot harder than I thought it would be, with many high street shops not really even offering any nod to eco or being more environmentally friendly in this market area. Also I found that eco ranges get blurred with budget low cost ‘economy’ options which actually end up in landfill quicker as they are so poor quality so not what I would call ‘eco’ at all. Even worse is when they are branded as using recycled materials and then are packaged in a non-recyclable plastic display packaging that goes straight in the bin. The best place I found was a website called The Green Stationary Company They do have a shop in Bath where you can collect orders but if you are not local (like me) then their website has lots to offer. It is more cost effective to buy in bulk from them with discounts and free delivery over a spend threshold. With all that in mind, here is a my take on an eco pencil case.
Most pencil cases are some form of plastic, either polyester or PVC as they are wipe clean. However, once they have been used a while, get old, you fancy a change or break they will end up just going in the bin for landfill. Using a pencil tin is a recyclable alternative, although I find they are sometimes a bit awkward and small to fit everything in and the most annoying thing is when they get dropped, everything falls out and the tin then doesn’t shut properly. It wouldn’t be a first choice alternative. You could buy or even make a sustainably sourced fabric case either from recycled polyester or cotton. However, unless a dark colour is used it won’t take long before they are covered in dreaded ink stains.
For my eco pencil case challenge, I opted for a pencil case made in the UK from recycled car tyres. I bought it on-line for the cheapest price but there are some places where you can order them in bulk for a whole class or school. This really caught my attention as I thought, Yes! This is what we should doing, re-using resources! My 9 year old gave me the thumbs up for this pencil case. Surprising, it doesn’t smell like old tyres and it has the bonus of being wipe clean too. The main case is black but there are are options with different colour zips for a change or you could add a key ring or something on the zip pull to personalize it and make it more fun.
Most biro, bic style type pens are not easily recycled. This is due to the component parts being small, mixed plastics and the tiny metal springs in them and mixed with ink. When looking at pens, it is good to see how easy they are to dismantle them to be able to take out the recyclable elements. We are really lucky the school my children go to have been able to get onto a recycling program with Terra Cycle where they will collect any brand of pen, felt tip, highlighter, marker, correction fluid pot, correction tape, mechanical pencil and eraser pen, sort them and remelt the plastic to be able to make into other products or barrels for pens like these Ecoline highlighters. This programme is actually full given the huge demand but you can find the nearest center to donate any used pens to if they are taking them.
For my Eco pencil case, I chose a sustainable olive wood pen which is a refillable option. The barrel of the pen is made from olive wood grown in Calbria from trees that are replaced with new plantations. You then buy refill ink cartridges made from metal for the pens when they run out. This is wasting much less and still have a sturdy ball point pen that that lasts. There are options to select many types of pens like gel pens and fountain ink pens too.
The good news is that wooden pencils are altogether more sustainable than pens. However, It is important to be aware that some pencils are actually made of a non-recyclable plastic casing, you can tell as they have a pinkish brown colour and they don’t have a wood grain. The packaging might say what the composition is, or you check wooden pencils if they have been sustainably sourced, the big brands such as Crayola will have a statement of their website to check before buying if not sure.
For my eco pencil case, I decided on recycled pencil options. The pencils are from a company called Vent for Change. This a Bristol based company that makes pencils and other stationary items from old CD cases. They are made from *recycled* plastic and the proceeds from their product go towards global education projects getting children back in to school. I love that pencils are a universal tool that all around the globe children use them so supporting in this way is simple and for a humanitarian cause.
I also put in some recycled newspaper colouring pencils from pandoo. Recycled materials are a good way to reuse resources without having to cut down trees for virgin wood. There are many other pencil choices out there too including the Sprouting Pencils that I’ve featured before that have a future use too of herbs and plants, a perfect little eco gift.
Finally for my eco pencil case, I put in a metal ruler instead of a plastic one, although there are also plenty made from recycled plastic or even corn starch if you prefer the transparent rulers, and a rubber that doesn’t contain PVC.
I have certainly learnt a lot from this mini challenge and discovered some new products and ideas. There are ways of reducing waste, reusing items with refillable options and also recycling of them too. I hope it inspires the next generation of children to select carefully and think about what they are using and the impact on the environment.
What will be the next Eco Challenge?