Tobias Hope Young


Making Meaning Matter

Blue Rabbit


Did you know every year in the United States we dispose of… 1.6 billion disposable pens (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act)

A “plastic soup” of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States, scientists have said. (The World’s Rubbish Dump: A Tip That Stretches from Hawaii to Japan)

I would have everything in the house-television, washing machine, stereo, water pump. I would be proud that I had everything that everybody else has. Then my life would go smoothly and I would be proud. I wouldn’t have any problems. (Women in the Material World)


When asked what to print my knee jerk reaction was to make some gadget like a clock or a special sort of puzzle box with a sophisticated lock or any number of sophisticated knickknacks which would be quick to get thrown onto the shelf and collect dust before, inevitably, getting thrown away. After all I have no need for a clock of any kind since I already own a watch and a cellphone just as I have no need for a puzzle box since I have nothing that needs to be locked away. My second thought was to create something with symbolic value like a cross or a good luck charm or a token that could remind me of the ideals and values that I hold dear to me now. But then it occurred to me that that the symbolic item would lose all value once it was passed onto the next person or once I moved on to a different stage in my life. After all what would happen to these objects after I have given them up to Goodwill? Some people might keep them to put on their shelves but most would get thrown away which makes you really think. The object that I am making needs to get used thoroughly before it enters the trash heap. This of course led me to think about the continent sized trash island and the wildlife that it was destroying in the middle of the ocean and I shuddered to think that I might contribute to that cycle. The thing I wanted to bring into the world would be less stuff, less junk, less plastic, which would mean that I would have to work on replacing some of the disposable things that I have in my life. This caused a problem for me as to what I could dispose of until it hit me that the one thing that I use every day is my disposable black pen.

My decision of what I would make was enforced by reading sections from the book “Women in the Material World”, because when I was reading some of the chapters I was able to really reflect on what it means to own something and how that might positively affect you. It has been generally accepted that owning more stuff is a source of pride but in today’s world of increasing global temperatures where every appliance and product we own contributes to our own carbon footprint more is not necessarily the answer. This is why I believe that we need to start moving towards a more minimalistic lifestyle.

Unlike Buaphet in Thailand I don’t consider myself particularly proud of the things I own (like my television). By that I mean that I try to embrace a more eco-friendly lifestyle by owning the least amount of stuff as possible. And the stuff that I do own is high quality. This applies to just about everything I own with the exception of one thing: the disposable pen that I replace every month. The more that I thought about it, the more I realized how irrational my choice of stationery was, and it really did violate my philosophy. This is because when you think about it, what is a disposable pen but a product that is guaranteed to break (run dry), at least once every two months. When this product does inevitably break the next step you take is to go to the store and buy another one which only perpetuates the cycle and adds more trash to the trash heap. The strangest part by far is that no one really questions it, that we just accept it as normal.

My goal is to create a pen with a refillable ink cartridge so that when the pen runs dry it will mean simply replacing the cartridge. This is preferable to buying a pen with a refillable ink cartridge at the office depot because the pen that I will make will be more tailored to my needs and will have a more personal feel to it since I designed it. It will also have added personal value because, as I know from experience, the things that we personally make have added personal value to us in contrast to the things that we buy from the store. With my 3D printed refillable pen I can start working towards staying true to my own philosophy and keeping in mind that the United States throws away one point six billion disposable pens per year I can slowly start adding less stuff to the worlds junk pile.


Fact Flash 6: Resource Conservation And Recovery Act (Rcra). FACT FLASH (n.d.): n. pag. FACT FLASH. EPA. Web.

Marks, Kathy, and Daniel Howden. “The World’s Rubbish Dump: A Tip That Stretches from Hawaii to Japan.” The Independent [London] 5 Feb. 2008: n. pag. Print.

D’Aluisio, Faith, and Peter Menzel. “Thailand.” Women in the Material World. San Francisco: Sierra Club, 1996. N. pag. Print.