(Updated to correct the name of the columnist.)
Columnist Lori Borgman wrote a puzzling piece the other day complaining that it is all but impossible to find refills for ink pens, implying that the pen industry makes only disposables and is behind the curve when it comes to environmentally friendly products.
In the ever expanding universe of pens - fat tip, fine point, gel, sparkle, retractable, indelible, washable and erasable - there is not a single refill. The operating principle for the pen is "Use it, and then lose it."
The reason that's puzzling is that, as any pen collector knows, refills are readily available for many "disposable" pens. Some of the larger pen makers even have easy-to-find pages on their websites listing the refills for their various pens, as you can see at the Pilot and Uniball sites.
Obviously, buying refillable pens is more environmentally sound (and less expensive) than using and throwing away disposable pens. But, refills aside, pen makers also have been busy putting out a wide array of "green" pen products.
Paper Mate recently announced a new marketing campaign for its Biodegradable pen and mechanical pencil. According to the company, the barrels are made of corn-based materials that will break down in normal backyard soil in about a year.
There's also Pilot's BeGreeN range of pens, made from recycled plastic (72 to 93 percent, depending on the pen). I have one of them, a Pilot Choose .07 mm, that I keep next to the phone, and it's a sturdy, simple little gel pen that's always smooth and reliable when I need to jot down a quick note. Pilot also makes the B2P we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the pen made from recycled plastic bottles that was chosen as the official pen of the climate change conference in Copenhagen.
And, Pentel also has a recycled line which includes the RSVP RT and the HyperG gel.
Of course, those aren't all the recycled or otherwise environmentally friendly pens on the market, but you get the idea.
So, when Borgman writes in her column...
You can spend $5 on an energy-saving light bulb, hundreds on low-flow toilets and low-water-usage washing machines, thousands on energy efficient windows and heating and air conditioning systems, but good luck finding a 99-cent refill for a pen.
Somewhere along the line we've missed the point.
...I've got to think that she's the one who's missed the point, somehow.
By the way, if you've been buying disposable pens that don't refill and now have a huge stack of them that you need to get rid of, here's a suggestion: Send them to The Pen Guy. He's trying to collect 1 million pens for his Mercedes Art Car project.
This guy reallllly likes pens. Good for him.