Goodkind Pen Company

Have you ever cleaned out your room or office and been shocked by the collection of pens that you’ve amassed? In 1993, Ian LeBauer had just that experience, but he reacted to his discovery a bit differently from most. Fresh out of college with degrees in environmental science and economics, LeBauer found himself thinking quite a bit about his pen collection. Specifically, he was unable to make sense of why plastic—a nonrenewable, non-compostable material made from petroleum byproducts—is used to create disposable pens.

He and a few friends began experimenting with more eco-friendly methods of pen production and ultimately determined that wood can be used to make a biodegradable pen that feels similar to conventional plastic versions. They developed a contract with a local producer of wood furniture and began crafting pens out of the producer’s wood scraps. After nine months of operation, Goodkind Pen Company had sold pens in all 50 states and to 12 different countries.

Goodkind Pen Company’s environmental consciousness permeates all aspects of its work. It imprints its products through environmentally safe laser technology, a practice that emits less smoke than a cigarette and uses less electricity than a radio. Reinforcing the idea that pens can and should be reusable, all Goodkind pens come with one refill cartridge, and additional refills can be ordered as needed. And unlike conventional pens with plastic cartridges intended to last one year, Goodkind pen cartridges are made of brass, which is significantly less porous than plastic and allows the cartridges to last three times as long.

Additionally, LeBauer and his colleagues developed an innovative approach to packaging and shipping. They ship Goodkind Pens in recycled plastic reusable packaging; the recipient need only attach a stamp and mail the plastic, clamshell shaped package back to the factory where it is refilled and shipped out again. “This shows what plastic should be used for,” says LeBauer.

Goodkind offers eight styles of pens, which have proven popular for both aesthetic and environmental appeal. LeBauer is excited by the success of his product in mainstream markets.

“People are often more excited by how cool the pens look than by their environmental friendliness,” says LeBauer. “And that works perfectly, because we believe that convincing people to buy a product because it’s environmentally safe isn’t the right philosophy. Our job is to make it so the environmental choice is the obvious choice. That way, people are acting in a way that is environmentally friendly whether they like it or not, and it’s win-win for everybody.”

—Michelle Levy