Solve the Pen Puzzle
The ordinary, innocuous disposable pen.
Everywhere I turn, be it at home or at work, there are disposable pens stuffed in drawers and lying on desks, tables and countertops. And while the subject may seem trivial, it’s not. Bic, who makes a fortune out of making many things disposable, sold its 100 billionth disposable ballpoint in 2005. That averages out to 57 pens every second since the product was launched in 1950.
That comes out to enough pens to stretch 40 times the distance from the earth to the moon if laid end to end.
There are greener choices available today, including biodegradable pens (Paper Mate manufactures one) and reusable/refillable writing instruments with inner cores that can be refilled with new ink or lead, thus reducing the use of disposable products and reserving the precious energy and resources required to create new outer shells.
Am I suggesting that your library toss out all of their disposable pens and replace them with more environmentally friendly options today? NO! But what about asking staff members to search their desk drawers for pens, keep one or two for daily use, and put their spares in a central location. Your library may not need to order any new pens for quite a while—and when you do, you can choose a greener option.
Recently, while cleaning out a drawer in my parents’ home, I found dozens of disposable pens. I also found a set of my father’s refillable fountain pens and mechanical pencils. Though my siblings saw no value in them, I eagerly adopted them, took them to a “pen doctor”—yes they do exist—and now practice green penmanship.
Pens: a small but significant area of consumption where libraries can easily go green.