These paper pens, a great alternative to plastic ballpoint pens, don’t just address the plastic menace but also contain seeds that can grow into trees.
The seemingly innocuous ballpoint pens – we lose them more than we use them! We trash them instead of bothering to buy new refills. Do we even realize that these millions of small writing instruments sold daily are made of plastic and contribute to the degradation of the environment?
Unlike most of us, Lakshmi Menon, an obsessed eco-evangelist, is extremely aware of this problem. A designer by profession, she runs an organization in south Kerala that is dedicated to finding sustainable livelihood solutions, called Pure Living.
Lakshmi has combined her design skills with love for the environment and crafted pens made from waste paper. At the bottom of each pen, she has buried a seed of a tree.
Once a pen has been used up, it can be just be planted into the soil. The seed will sprout from the bottom of the pen.
Even if you happen to lose the used pen, chances are that it could still sprout into a sapling!
Lakshmi calls the pens ‘Entree’ because they symbolise an entry by the user into eco-friendly living. She was determined not to use new paper to manufacture them; her raw material is the paper waste generated by printing presses. The paper is rolled with a machine that she herself designed and patented. The machine ensures the paper is rolled tight enough to be as tenacious as plastic pens.
The seeds the pens carry are of the versatile Agasthya tree, also known as the hummingbird tree. These trees hold a special place in Ayurveda for their medicinal properties.
In one shot, these pens achieve up-cycling of paper, plastic waste reduction, and tree plantation. In addition, they provide a boost to women empowerment and inclusivity – Lakshmi employs women and paraplegic persons from underprivileged backgrounds to make these pens.
“The pen just became mightier,” she beams.
Entrée brings down the usage of plastic per pen to one-fifth of a normal ballpoint pen. It is one-fifth and not nil because the refills are still made of plastic. Cost constraints have forced Lakshmi to keep the plastic refills.
She sells each pen for Rs 12, while competing with plastic ballpoints that sell for Rs 5 each. But for customers who do not mind spending some more for a good cause, she makes metal bodied refills.
Lakshmi hopes that she’ll soon be able to do away with the plastic refills altogether; until then one-fifth is a great achievement!
Lakshmi also plans to conduct a ballpoint pen trash collection campaign in the schools of Kerala and make an art installation to create awareness about the plastic waste problem. The art installation, she says, will be a visually quantify the enormous plastic waste we generate.
In the popular sci-fi novel Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, there is student who is fixated with the mysterious disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he has bought over the years. He claims to have found the planet where these pens slipped away to – a planet that is no doubt full of plastic waste.
But imagine if Lakshmi’s pens were to disappear? We would have a planet full of trees!