The Pen for Life™: Sustainability Rewritten

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Regardless of your particular stance on sustainability, the bottom line is that it’s in all of our long-term interests to cut down on non-recyclable waste and preserve our natural resources. 

This is especially pressing when we consider the tens of millions of plastic pens sold globally every day. In America, for example, there is a staggering 1.6 billion disposable pens discarded yearly (1) – which is a huge amount of plastic and metal components simply thrown into landfill.

The primary non-recyclable component of a pen is the ink refill or cartridge, which unfortunately has to go to landfill because the residual ink could contaminate an entire batch of recycled plastic. Despite the issue of sustainability forcing us to direct our attention to the future, the answer to this problem may actually be found by casting our gaze to the past…

Looking To The Past To Benefit The Future 

Long before the invention of the ballpoint pen came the fountain pen, but not as we know it today!  Early fountain pens worked in a similar fashion to a syringe, drawing ink from a bottle up into the pen itself with the use of a device commonly called a ‘converter’.

What makes the traditional refillable fountain pen the perfect environmentally friendly pen? Well, apart from requiring the odd top up with fresh ink, nothing else is used or disposed of. There are no empty cartridges to throw away, minimal mess and no risk of ink contamination as the cartridges are self-contained. 

While the sustainability factor of a refillable fountain pen was never a motivation amongst the original models of the past, it is now a very welcome benefit when considering the preservation of the future. 

The Pen for Life™ is a delicate balance of design ingenuity and practicality, with hand-engraved accents to the barrel and plain upper parts for unrestricted branding or personalisation. Manufactured from brass and triple chromium plated (one of the most sustainable materials out there -read our blog on metals here), the Pen for Life™ promises superior, long-lasting performance that endures the test of time.

Refilling the Pen for Life™

To refill the Pen for Life™ , simply use the included converter to pull ink from a bottle up into the chamber within the converter. Bottled inks come in a wider range of types and colours than cartridge inks, giving you greater opportunity to tailor your writing experience to your exact preferences.

Pen for Life™ : Care & Maintenance Tips

Just like a nice watch, a fountain pen is an investment which is built to last a lifetime. But, in order to get the best performance and ensure the product lasts as long as it should, a certain level of care and maintenance is required. When you take your watch in for a service, you can expect the product to be disassembled, cleaned, oiled and polished to make sure it’s operating to the best of its ability. The same applies to the fountain pen – it needs minimal but fairly regular maintenance to deliver the best performance and, perhaps most importantly, last as long as it should.

Follow the tips and tricks below to give your fountain pen the love it deserves and it will repay the favour with a lifetime of use!

1.   About once a month, remove the cap of your fountain pen and flush the cartridge and nib under running water. Repeat two or three times to remove any accumulation of solid ink.

2.   For converter fountain pens, fill a glass with water and insert the end of the converter into the water. Then, pull water up through the converter a few times until the water runs clear.

3.   Use a cloth to thoroughly dry the components of the pen, paying particular attention to the nib and any metal parts.

💡 Did you know…

If you regularly switch between different ink types and colours, be aware that these inks can interact with each other and cause excess build-up. Therefore, you might need to clean your pen a bit more than normal!

You should avoid storing your fountain pen for long periods of time with ink in the cartridge / converter, as this can cause the ink to solidify and compromises the performance of the pen.

You can take your fountain pen to a professional for nib and feed adjustments! This ensures long life and consistent performance while avoiding the need to throw the pen away if it becomes damaged in any way. A quick Google search should show fountain pen repair services near you, but we recommend a service like Pen Home: Vintage and Modern Pen Specialists who have been repairing vintage and modern pens for the past 25 years and are recommended by industry leaders such as Parker, Waterman and Sheaffer UK. Learn more at

Make Your Own Eco-Friendly Inks! 

While the Pen for Life™ is indeed a sustainable solution to your writing needs, its eco credentials can be enhanced further still with the use of an all-natural ink.

You can purchase natural ink bottles from a number of reputable suppliers, but why not make things a little more fun by creating your own at home? Once you’ve perfected your technique, you’ll never need to spend money on costly inks or unnecessary packaging again! Store your homemade inks in a glass bottle or container and make a new batch when you start to run out, filling up the glass bottle each time to create as little waste as possible. 

Here’s a couple of ideas to get you started:

You will need…

½ cup of dried walnut hulls

½  teaspoon Arabic Gum  

1 x cup water

Simply boil the walnut hulls in water for 30 minutes. Then, strain the hulls, add the Arabic Gum and whisk thoroughly. Once cooled, pour into a bottle with a lid and ensure the lid is tightly closed.

You will need…

2 x avocado stones – the bigger the better!

1 x teaspoon sodium carbonate

½ teaspoon Arabic Gum

1 x cup water

Chop both avocado stones and simmer in water and sodium carbonate for 20 minutes. Drain the water and stir in the Arabic Gum until combined. Once cooled, pour into a bottle with a lid and ensure the lid is tightly closed.

Need more proof that fountain pens are fascinating…? Check out this great video by National Geographic to learn how expert Richard Binder keeps fountain pens in pristine condition with his unbelievable craftsmanship and mind-blowing knowledge!

In Summary

With care and correct maintenance, a fountain pen can last a lifetime without having to discard or replace any of the components. As we have discussed, even the ink can be sustainable with the use of a refillable / recyclable glass bottle and, when making your own ink or using an eco-friendly inks, you don’t need to worry about causing damage to the natural environment when disposing of it. That’s not to say we recommend pouring unused inks down the drain, however! It’s far better to sell or give the inks away to someone who can make use of them, such as members of a fountain pen group like

The long-life design of the Pen for Life™ should serve as a source of inspiration for general consumerism moving forward. Its quality of craftsmanship, durable materials and sustainable operation prompts us to be conscious about our buying habits and to reject disposable product options which subscribe to the throw-away society we have created. No longer should we be content to consume and dispose: now, we must think carefully about the quality and longevity of what we spend our money on to reduce the end-of life environmental impact that we have been considering in previous editions of EcoSense. 

This, combined with a responsibility from manufacturers to provide sustainable products and care guides for ensuring optimum performance and lifespan, should help us effectively move away from disposable products and the environmental impact they bring with them. 

Extra Reading 

Learn more about fountain pens as a sustainable product option by clicking the links below! 

Why Fountain Pens Are Back

How Do You Dispose of Bottles of Ink?

Pen Maintenance

If You Haven’t Started Using Fountain Pens …

Zero Waste: Introduction to Fountain Pens