Zero Waste & Vintage Fountain Pens

Mar 24th


A little over a year ago I started working towards a “zero waste” home. I’m not nearly where I’d like to be, and I know I’ll never reach 100% zero waste, but we’ve made strides. When we shop, we bring our own totes, cloth produce bags and bulk containers. At home we use seed stitch clothes in place of paper towels (well, most of the time. I haven’t completely weaned my family off the convenience of disposable towels). I try to purchase products with minimal or glass packaging whenever I can and I try to keep laundry simple with powdered detergent that comes in a cardboard box (though it does have a plastic scoop too). I’ve eliminated those chemical infused household cleaners and replaced them with vinegar, baking soda and castile soap. Over all, I think we are doing a decent job. My husband (hi dear) would be quick to point out that I go through a lot of toilet paper. Let’s just say I like to be clean and leave it at that. I also have a lot of disposables packaging that come in with shipments. I hate shopping. And so I end up buying most of my goods online (other than groceries). Everything from clothing, household goods, supplements and chicken products are purchased from my computer and shipped to my home. No, this isn’t the greenest way. I depend on Amazon way too much and need to learn to source elsewhere and make do. The problem is, it’s just too darn convenient.

After chiding myself for “slipping” a bit on my zero waste goal, I decided to finally fix the three vintage Esterbrook fountain pens I’ve had sitting unusable for the past year. I purchased them to replace the plethora of plastic pens that were scattered around my home. Yes, they too are plastic, but its plastic that’s over 50 years old and I rather keep them out of the landfill. I also enjoy using a fountain pen. When I was working AND going to college, my hands would frequently cramp up from all of the typing/ writing. Fountain pens are kind to your hands, as they glide across the paper while ball points require you to use some pressure on the paper to write.

The only problem with fixing my pens was that I had to order more stuff to fix them. I needed replacement pen sacs, orange shellac, pure talc – the lilac scented stuff I already had wouldn’t do according to the experts – silicone grease and for one pen, a replacement J-bar. Ack!

After I ordered all of this stuff – mostly from (gulp) Amazon – I started to wonder if this was any better than just using disposable pens. I mean, here I am generating garbage and buying more stuff and having it shipped across the country in order to fix three pens.

After wrestling with this question for a bit, I concluded that while this initial purchase may be perturbing, I now have the materials I need to fix my pens for years and years to come. Plus, talc, grease and shellac are useful materials to fix other items as well. So while I’m not happy about the extra cardboard boxes and plastic bubble wrap I have to deal with, I am happy with my fixed pens.If your interested in this kind of stuff, I found a really good tutorial for installing new ink sacs in Esterbrooks here.

Disassembled fountain pen with rusted J-bar

Disassembled fountain pen with rusted J-bar. Note nasty old towel is to catch any ink stains and isn’t particularly pretty for photos.

One fountain pen all fixed with a new ink sac.

One fountain pen all fixed with a new ink sac.

Two fixed fountain pens ready to write!

Two fixed fountain pens ready to write!