A Guide to Eco-Friendly Inks

We are almost willing to bet our bottom dollar that this isn’t a topic you’ve thought about before: is ink sustainable? What is ink made of? And how does ink impact our environment?

Well- now that you’re curious about this topic- let’s explore the world of ink!

First thing’s first: what is pen ink made of? Pen ink can be made in a variety of different ways, with numerous different chemical ingredients and compounds, and dyes. Ink is generally quite a complex liquid, made up of solvents, dyes, pigments, resins, lubricants, solubilizers, surfactants, particulate matter, fluorescents, and other materials. Don’t know what half those things are? That’s because they’re not natural, and they’re certainly not good for you, or for the environment.

Oil-based Ink

Oil-based inks were some of the first inks ever used in modern pens, and have been very commonly used since. Most modern oil-based inks in pens consist of pigment or dye that is suspended in an oil vehicle, usually plate oil. Not phenomenal for the planet, but not the worst.

A common example of an oil-based ink is a ballpoint pen- almost all ballpoint pens are oil-based. The ink itself is often very thick and quite sludgy, and if it ever leaks characteristically incredibly difficult to clean it off anything.

Petroleum-based Ink

Some inks aren’t just generally oil based, they’re petroleum based- meaning that petroleum makes up a large part of the solution. This is not at all eco-friendly, as petroleum is part of the oil refining process. Petroleum based inks also contain a high amount of what are known as volatile organic compounds such toluene, benzene and xylene. All of these compounds are very harmful to the environment, animals, and to people. Benzene is a carcinogen! Eek!

There is no ink available today that is 100% carbon neutral, or renewable due to the sheer volume of chemicals contained within the liquid, and the resources used to create it. However, there are much more environmentally friendly options than using petroleum-based inks, such as our personal favourite, soy-based ink!

Soy-based Ink 

We may be a little biased as we personally chose to use this in our product- but we think soy-based ink is an excellent alternative to petroleum or oil-based inks! Not only is this ink so much more natural and therefore better for the environment it actually produces way brighter and more vibrant colors. This means using soy-based inks is eco-friendly and results in much more gorgeous, appealing colours. Double win? We think so!

As the name implies, soy-based ink is made from soybeans. The soy oil is refined and then mixed in with resins and waxes to create the inky texture. The signature bright colours provided by soy-based inks are actually the result of the soy oil itself, as the oil is so much cleaner, clearer, and less greasy- “oily” than petroleum based inks. Soy-based ink is becoming more and more popular due to the bright colours it produces, and the fact that it is now more cost effective than other oil or petroleum based inks.

So, which oil is your favourite? We’re proud that eco pen club is firmly team soy-based ink, and that our products are both better for you, for the environment, and are of exceptionally bright colours!