My Green Guide for Stationery Lovers

Your love for scribbling can be sustainable.

POOPOOPAPER products on a white surface


My most precious possessions are stacks of letters I’ve saved before emails and instant messaging waltzed in and crumpled the fine art of letter writing. There are letters written by my grandfather from three decades ago, in his definitive blue ink scrawl, gently encouraging and sometimes admonishing. Then, there are those from my best friend, who moved to the West when we were in middle school, speaking of a wondrous life in her delicate, cursive lettering. And scores of my illegible scrawls on aerograms mailed to my mother when she was on a holiday during my sweltering summer holidays, whining about boredom and unfinished school projects.  

While I gave up writing long letters a while ago, my love for stationery prevails. A couple of moons ago, I designed India-inspired sustainable stationery, and my love for it long continues after the project got over. 

But how sustainable is stationery? In 2018, a staggering 422 million metric tons of paper was consumed globally. The highest per capita consumption of paper globally is in North America, amounting to 215 kilograms (474 pounds) per person. While recycled fiber is being used in paper products, when it comes to printing and writing paper, the global average is minuscule with only 8% of recycled content being used.

So, to keep your love for writing green, we’ve picked a bunch of stationery that lets you sign off with a flair while being environmentally friendly. 

  1. Pens: My proudest possession in school was a Sheaffer fountain pen that glided over my page beautifully and made my handwriting sparkle. The right eco-friendly pen should be a joy to write with, without post-use guilt. Some good options across price points include the vintage-styled Zenzoi Bamboo Fountain Pen made from bamboo, with a German-made nib. For inks, consider French ink-making company J. Herbin’s water-based, non-toxic natural inks. Some of these inks have flecks of silver and gold, while others are scented with lavender and rose hydrosols sourced from Grasse, the perfume capital. If you write diligently and work your way through mountains of pens, look at Simply Genius’ pens. Their barrels are made from biodegradable, recyclable cardboard, while the plastic tips are made from a blend of BPA-free ABS plastic and wheat stalk. 
  2. Pencils: Over the years, I have been annotating books with pencils. I love plantable pencils such as Sprout, which when whittled down to tiny stubs can be sowed in soil. Sprouting fragrant herbs, pretty flowers, flavorsome vegetables, and even spruce trees, these pencils are made from sustainable wood. They have a clay and graphite core, and a biodegradable capsule filled with non-GMO seeds. My personal collection is dominated by recycled newspaper pencils that are tree-free. (You can pick them up here.) If you want a unique scribbling companion, then Fabula’s organic pencil is made from recycled tea, coffee, and flowers, with a seed-end that you can pop in a flower pot. Even the shavings are biodegradable. Just sharpen it over your plants. 
  3. Journals: Perhaps my single-largest stationery expenditure is on journals and planners. The good thing is, there are many options for great eco-friendly stationery. Paperage’s hardcover 160-page journals are made from 100% post-consumer waste. Canada-based Ecojot has lovely themed journals—think Frida and U.S. city journals—made entirely from old-waste paper and uses vegetable-based inks and glues. You can get lovely socially and environmentally conscious journals, notebooks, and more, from Poopoopaper made from recycled, pong-free cow, elephant, horse, and donkey feces. 
  4. Cards, mail, and wrapping paper: I usually wrap gifts in old newspapers and tie them with twine, or use recycled kraft paper bags which I decorate with block prints. Else, you can pick up lovely herb and plant seed paper made from completely recycled ingredients and speckled with non-invasive, non-GMO seeds. When it comes to writing paper, legacy British brand Smythson textured bespoke letter writing collection is made from FSC-certified paper and 98% of the inks are water-soluble and solvent-free. 

My favorite piece of stationery is a card. Artists of the self-help group Mouth & Foot Painting Artists create lovely cards and notecards made from recycled paper. I’m also enamored by Nila Jaipur’s dreamy stationery, made from handmade paper and recycled cotton fabric fragments, in beautifully shaded natural Indigo hues. For more beautiful scribbling companions, skivvy over to Craft Boat, a paper studio based in Jaipur, which works with artisans to transform leftover cotton textile scraps into ethereal handmade paper products dyed in shades such as tea and turmeric.