“Buy one, give one” from EcoJot.

Mark sent us a video of his trip to Africa this fall, on EcoJot’s Kinderkits mission.  I really like EcoJot books largely because they’re well-made and a pleasure to use.  But you’re also buying something both green and socially conscious.  You’re getting a great book, and you’re helping to do, well, Good. You can’t beat that.

View the video here.

NaNoWriMo 2010 Gear: Paper.

While the question of which pencils to use for Nation Novel Writing Month is certainly an important one for pencil fans who are embarking on the one-month writing challenge.  But, perhaps almost as important, is the question of what to write on.

There are myriad notebook blogs, on which Comrades can find information about notebooks’ construction, which ones can handle fountain pen ink, etc. What we try to provide with our growing number of paper reviews are pencil-specific reviews. We have a growing stack (er, box) of review samples we are testing for ghosting, point retention, etc.  But, I thought it might be helpful to suggest a few great notebooks in which to write (or in which to take notes for) Comrades’ NaNoWriMo work — and, of course, invite others to share pointers.

1) Field Notes.  I was hoping my “Raven’s Wing” editions would show up this week, but it is not so.  Field Notes are stylish, durable and very pocketable.  I might not want to draft much longhand in these (they’re small and not full of much paper), but for on-the-go notetaking, it’s hard to beat a Field Notes book.

2) Rhodia products.  There are tiny stapled notebooks (like smaller Field Notes) for your pocket, the beautiful “Webbie” journals for long drafts and all manner of pads to suite your pocket or desktop.  The smartphone pocket of my T2 bag usually has a Rhodia pad in it, in some kind of Luddite gesture.

3) EcoJot Workbooks.  I was hoping we’d be able to publish a review of these from some samples Mark sent us in time for November, but it’s not to be.  The review is coming, but you’ll have to take my word for it that they are like Moleskine Cahiers.  Only greener.  With attractive covers.  And better paper.

4) Whitelines.  We’ll have a review of these interesting notebooks in the near future, but I think they bear mention for marathon writing.  The idea is that the pages are light grey, with white lines, since dark lines on white paper are harsh for the eyes.  It might sound strange, but these are very nice books, and the paper is intriguing.

5) Something FANCY.  A big MoleskinePaper Blanks.  Something handmade from Etsy.  I have a beautiful journal that my sister-in-law sent me for a birthday a few years ago made from an old library book and big rings that I am considering using, or a giant EcoJot journal.

I thought about listing books I would personally avoid, but I think that’s unnecessarily negative.  And, you know, one writer’s graphite mess is another’s silvery-grey paradise.

What are other Comrades planning to write in/on?

Review of EcoJot Journals.

Mark at EcoJot was kind enough to send a package of samples to Pencil Revolution HQ in Baltimore (thanks, Mark!) a couple of weeks ago. We’ll be dealing with the journals in this post, with a review of the “workbooks” closer to NaNoWriMo, since I think they’d be a great tool for intrepid souls bent on writing their novels in longhand.

EcoJot is known as such because they are a brand of 100% post-consumer recycled stationery. Sure, there are myriad such brands these days. EcoJot is unique because their paper quality is top-notch (as we’ll discuss); their philanthropic efforts really excel; and because, well, these don’t have that “feel” that a lot of “green” stationery has. You don’t have to sacrifice writing pleasure to save the planet.

Cover Material: Very thick, very stiff recycled board.
Paper: 100% recycled, acid-free paper with vegetable-based inks (green lines and unlined).
Binding: Steel spiral.
Size: Varies (Test units: 6X9; 5X7; 3X4 inches).
Page Count: Varies (Test units: 150 lined; 80 lines; 50 unlined).
Unique Characteristics: 100% post-consumer recycled and still high quality; huge variety of cover art and formats.
Origin: Canada.
Availability: From select online and brick-and-mortar retailers (I even found them at the bookstore of the university at which I work).

One of our test units is a Giant Panda from the line supporting the Jane Goodall Institute. “Ecojot’s ‘Buy One, We Give One‘ campaign is our company’s new business model committed to directly advocate children’s arts and literacy in developing countries.”

EcoJot’s eco-claims are the real deal:

* We use acid-free, processed chlorine free paper & board.
* All our inks & glues are vegetable based, therefore bio-degradable.
* No new trees are used to make our paper & the paper mill is powered by biogas harnessed from a nearby landfill.
* All our protective packaging is corn-based. Furthermore, we try and use as much locally made raw material as possible.

But this is a review of EcoJot’s journals for the purpose of being something for pencil writing and drawing. And this is where EcoJot’s books really set themselves apart from other “green” notebook lines.

Frankly, I love this paper!  It’s white with soft, green lines.  At first I thought the spacing was a little wide.  But, for pencil, I like something wider than tiny lines like we find on a lot of notebooks.  It has a very nice tooth for pencil writing.  Too-smooth papers (like Moleskine’s regular paper) leave graphite all over the place, since there aren’t enough nooks and crannies for graphite to hide in.  This has a nice texture to actually wear away some graphite, without rendering it necessary to sharpen anything softer than an HB every page.  It’s not as shockingly white as Rhodia paper, and it’s not as smooth.  Neither of these are bad aspects to me at all, but quite the opposite.  This paper doesn’t “feel” like other recycled paper.  It’s relatively thick, very stiff (for paper) and doesn’t have chunks of anything in it.  This texture lends itself very well to erasing, even the new Blackwing (which some folks report erases badly in general).  Smearability is really minimal.  And, my favorite part, no ghosting!  It took a heavy hard and very soft pencils to product any ghosting at all.  Writing pencils (General’s Semi-Hex and Cedar Pointe; Faber-Castel Grip 2001; modern Mirado Classic; old USA stock Dixon Ticonderoga; Palomino; Forest Choice — all HB grade) didn’t leave any ghosting whatsoever.  If you journal in pencil, you might appreciate this pleasingly unique characteristic in a spiral-bound book.

Speaking of which, construction is outstanding.  The spirals are flexible, while the holes don’t have pages catching like happens on cheap spiral-bound notebooks.  The covers are very stiff and strong, and the whole thing is cut perfectly and put together very nicely.  Each book has a page in the beginning that explains EcoJot’s mission and what the book is made of.  The graphics are really outstanding.  I especially like “The City” and would love to get my hands on the journals in that line.

And that is the conclusion I drew when I tested this book: I want more!  And, thankfully, these are not very hard to find, even offline.  The prices are fair, and (especially the jumbo) the journals have a lot of pages in them.

We also tested a tiny green notepad/journal and an orange jumbo “solids” book.  Like the medium Panda book, these were outstanding.  A box of pencils and a jumbo book has “longhand novel” written all over it.  And, of course, a box of Forest Choice matches nicely, in theme and appearance (and works wonderfully on EcoJot paper to boot!).

You can follow developments on EcoJot’s blog.  To be perfectly honest, I try to find something positive to say about things I review. Or, put differently, I don’t review things I hate (haven’t done it yet).  I don’t want to convey that my raving is par for the course.  But these notebooks are really just worth ordering right away if you like spiral books with heavy covers, nice paper and serious eco-credentials.