Material things have closed boundaries; they are not accessible, cannot be penetrated, by things outside themselves. But one's existence as a spiritual being involves being and remaining oneself and at the same time admitting and transforming into oneself the reality of the world. No other material thing can be present in the space occupied by a house, a tree, or a fountain pen. But where there is mind, the totality of things has room; it is possible that in a single being the comprehensiveness of the whole universe may dwell.
⁓ Josef Pieper
I put the cap back on with a soft sigh. The freshly-marked pages run through my fingers, a mostly unconscious act, as I cool down after a particularly honest moment of introspection. The words blur into a visually calming mass of abstract lines and loops — more tangible through the subtle indentations made from the weight and movements of my hand. Moments like these, I rediscover the simple and renewable joy of using a fountain pen on paper. I could never write this lengthily nor comfortably with any other instrument.
Beyond personal experiences and day-to-day actions, have you ever thought about the role our fountain pens play in the greater scheme of things? Can you imagine a world where such a functional object can be used again and again, by more people? In honor of Earth Day, let us consider the possible answers.
Giving Back to Mother Earth
Headed by EarthDay.org, over 190 countries and a billion humans actively participate in the largest, secular event celebrating our little pale blue dot each year on April 22. It is an annual renewal and reinvigoration of our collective awareness of the environment and our responsibility for its conservation. Born from the catastrophic Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969, the need for environmental protection inspired Senator Gaylord Nelson to take the first steps towards creating a task force. An assembly of activists, students, and various organizations coordinated by Denis Hayes worked together to raise national awareness through widespread educational campaigns and demonstrations. The first Earth Day was commemorated in 1970, which then led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the subsequent passage of groundbreaking environmental laws. Earth Day became a worldwide event 20 years later, eventually paving the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit.
This year’s theme is a continuation of 2022’s “Invest in Our Planet” which mobilizes people, communities, governments, and businesses to promote and practice sustainability and support the use of eco-conscious brands and products.
Sustainability and Fountain Pens
This is the answer to the question. A fountain pen, by virtue of its filling mechanism, is designed to be used again and again. Along with proper maintenance and care, a well-made one can last several lifetimes. Simply put, they are not readily disposable.
Personally, those that I have gently used or not at all I often give away to penable friends and family or welcome newbies into the community.
The use of bottled inks further lessens the environmental impact of fountain pen use. Although ink cartridges are more convenient (and they do have their place), they result in more plastic waste since they need to be replaced more often.
Being an ink aficionado myself, I admit that I may have collected more inks that I can consume in my lifetime. My personal solutions would be to use my fountain pens more often, share my inks with others willing to try them, and find other creative techniques with inks as the medium.
Paper is our canvas as fountain pen enthusiasts. Our pads, notebooks, and journals serve as repositories of our daily thoughts, creative expressions, and systems. The material itself is recyclable. When paired with sustainable sources and environmentally-sound manufacturing practices, it is a product that lessens its harmful impact on our planet.
I have discovered that three of the more well-known brands are produced using raw materials from sustainable forests or recovered paper, and/or have been manufactured responsibly — Rhodia, Clairefontaine, and Tomoe River paper.
A Call for Earth Day
Let us reinforce our responsibility for Mother Earth in the little things we choose to do every day, or through more participative ways within our community.
As fountain pen enthusiasts, we have begun to act more purposefully (as in the simple, sometimes tricky, task of refilling a pen ;) ) by maintaining our avocation and growing our circle of like-minded individuals.
Rumi once said, “You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the ocean in a drop.” — I likewise take this to mean that what we do creates ripples, no matter how seemingly small. And if each of us choose to do everyday, beneficial things for our world — the effects of our collective endeavors will equal the breadth and depth of the Earth’s oceans.
Happy Earth Day!
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Written by @lekzumali
Check out her musings on Instagram!