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Zero Waste Stationery [+GIVEAWAY]

July 22, 2018

Eliminating, substituting, reducing and/or recycling the waste from our stationery drawers.



 At this stage of my life, I have less need for stationery than say, my teenage days. Thanks to technology, almost 90% of my work happens on a computer or an iPad, which requires zero stationery whatsoever.


However, I do keep some stationery with me because I do a bit of arts & crafts, and also enjoy keeping a physical, paper-based notebook for my to-do lists and bullet journaling (although this too is possible to do completely digitally nowadays). I am also a stationery lover, and can go a little out of control in stationery shops. 


Whether you love stationery or not, or you need them or not, it is inevitable that you will own some - and so let’s find ways to reduce or eliminate the waste in this category!








Eliminate: It is now very easy to eliminate the use of paper, what with laptops and iPads and Adobe Acrobat. You no longer need to print something to be able to read it, and even official documents can be signed digitally! 


Reduce: If you are old-school, however, and enjoy printing stacks of paper for whatever purpose, you are in luck as paper is recyclable and the infrastructure to recycle them is quite sophisticated. Not printing is, of course, the better way, but the next best thing you can do is to ensure your waste paper go to the right place for recycling.



Substitute: If you do absolutely need to print, then do so on recycled paper. Be a patron of recycled products and encourage others to do the same!






Eliminate: Get rid of cheap disposable pens that don’t last long in use, but last forever in the landfill. (In fact, avoid disposables altogether). Even if these pens are labeled as ‘Eco’ because they’re made of bamboo or orange peels or magic, they are still trash at the end their useful life (unless they are refillable!)


Substitute & Buy to Last: Opt for good quality, refillable pens that last a long time, and that can also potentially be passed down from generation to generation. Have one or two excellent pens instead of ten crappy ones, and see the difference. I use fountain pens, that are not as expensive as you think they are - I bought mine for less than RM50 (~USD15), while a bottle of ink set me back another RM15 (~USD 5) and lasts for a year of use (the ink, not the pen. The pen can last you your lifetime with good care). To get started on fountain pens, go here.


It doesn't cost much to be this posh!


ps: Keep reading to find out details about a super relevant giveaway!






Recycle / Compost:  The beauty of pencils is that they are designed to be used down to little stubs that can be composted. Even the pencil shavings from sharpening the pencil can be composted! Truly a rare creature in the universe of products these days. 



My father's well-used ittty bitty pencil stubs



Substitute: If you use mechanical pencils made of plastic, consider switching to the wood-based pencils that can be easily composted. 


Buy to Last: If you prefer mechanical pencils (like I do), the best option here is to buy a quality one and use them for years (mine has lasted me more than half a decade now). At the end of its life, they can be recycled in parts - if you are in the USA, send them to TerraCycle


My own mechanical pencil that has lasted me years, evidenced by the yellowing rubber!


Share: Another option for colour pencils is to participate in the sharing economy and not buy a whole set for yourself. If you are in a household, or in an office, or a community, consider buying a communal set rather than a personal set that can be shared with others around you, or consider borrowing from others who are willing to do so, especially if you only have sporadic need for them.






Eliminate: Unless you are in an office-setting that use up marker after marker on the surfaces of a lot white boards, consider eliminating markers completely. For personal, home and daily use, which probably only involves labelling things or colouring things rather than brainstorming things, other stationery can do the job.


Substitute: For brainstorming or presentation purposes, consider switching to black boards and chalk. For simple labelling, consider switching to refillable fountain pens or colour pencils.


Recycle (USA): Markers are a little tricky, and there are very few recycling facilities that take them. In the US, you have the option of sending them to TerraCycle, but in Malaysia? Not so much. Do consider the previous two options above instead.






Use up: Like wood-based pencils, erasers are meant to be used until they disappear off the face of the Earth. If used till the end of its useful life, there is nothing left to throw away.


Buy to Last: If you prefer those mechanical erasers (like I do), then buy a quality one and keep them forever. Mine has been with me since my high school days, and will hopefully remain with me until I die. 


My mechanical eraser that has also been with me for over a decade






Eliminate: Given that most of our work now happens digitally, you may consider not even owning one, unless you’re a student who needs to write essays for school, or you’re writing your hopefully-best-selling novel by pen. 


Recycle: If you truly need a means to cover up your inking mistakes, consider opting for the liquid version rather than the tape version, or those that come in recyclable packaging. Even though the correction tapes are technically refillable, the refills are made almost 75% out of plastic that get thrown out at the end of use. I hope one day the companies will figure out how to let us refill only the tape and not the entire plastic mechanism of rolling the tape out… 


Don't. Just don't. Way too much plastic waste. 








Recycle: Opt for products that come in recyclable packaging. Sticky Tapes typically come in rolls with a paper base that the tape is wrapped around, which can be recycled. As for glue, check to make sure the container is recyclable and ensure it goes to the right place at the end of its life. Blue or Green tack are also accepted by some recycling facilities (notably in Australia), though am not sure about Malaysia. 

Blue/Green tack





Eliminate: Consider switching to digital reading with a Kindle, iPad or computer, and highlight sections of your book or textbook digitally. The beauty of this is that all your highlighted notes can be compiled together into one text file!


Substitute: Opt to underline with colour pencils (that are erasable!) instead of highlighters. Colour pencils can be composted at the end of their lives. Or check out these ECO Highlighter Pencils! *Not a product endorsement.






Reduce: As with paper, try to reduce the amount of printing you do and save on ink. 


Recycle: After using up the ink, return the ink or toner cartridges to the distributor or sell them to companies that specialise in collecting empty cartridges: HP Planet Partners Program, Printer Bullet, T&C Ink Trading, DELL.