I’m just going to get it out now. I have a problem. A paper problem. Well, it’s not the paper that’s the problem. I’m the problem. Or more specifically, my infatuation with paper is the problem. I have far more notebooks than I could ever use. Yet I still buy more. Why? Because I want them. I need them. If I don’t have them, I’ll just die. I know that may seem like a gross exaggeration, but I’m holding to it.
On a recent trip to Target, I thought I heard someone calling for help in the stationery aisle. I dashed over there to find that it was actually just a bunch of notebooks sitting there quietly.
What?! It’s a natural mistake! Don’t look at me like that!
Anyway, I didn’t want to make it look like I raced into that aisle for no reason, so I picked up a 3-pack of notebooks I wasn’t familiar with. Well…make that two 3-packs. And some Post-It notes. Did I mention that I have a paper problem?
Today I’m taking a look at one of those 3-packs: the Greenroom Recycled Notebooks.
About the Company
Greenroom is a surfing term that refers to “the perfect space inside the curve of a wave when the water completely encircles a surfer” (description from the Greenroom site). An avid surfer, Greenroom founder David Imbernino chose this name not only because of the tie-in to one of his favorite activities, but also because it reflects the eco-friendly nature of their products. The paper they use is made from 60% to 70% recycled material and is printed with nontoxic, soy-based ink.
Greenroom makes a large variety of stationery products, most of which have bold and fun designs, and for some reason they’re only available at Target stores. Unfortunately, the selection of Greenroom products varies by store, and you can’t order them online (what!?). So I guess there’s no guarantee that you’ll find the exact notebooks you’re looking for at your neighborhood Target.
All the Greenroom notebooks I saw were nice-looking. I think they did a really nice job with the design and production of the books, from the covers, to the paper & printing, to even the cutting & binding of the books. The pack I got consisted of three 80-page, soft-cover notebooks. All have the same cover design (banded hexagons), but each one has a different color scheme, giving them some variety in appearance.
Greenroom notebooks come in various sizes and binding types. These notebooks measure 7 x 10 inches. That’s really, really close to B5 (the perfect notebook size in my not-even-going-to-attempt-to-be-humble opinion), so the size is fantastic for general note-taking. While most of the company’s notebooks use twin-ring or spiral binding, these books use a form of perfect binding, where single sheets are glued together. This is a pretty cheap binding method, and I think it may lead to pages eventually falling out after a while. I did remove a page to see how easily it would come out and it took a little effort. So the glue is pretty strong, and time will tell how durable it really is.
Let’s face it, most recycled paper looks and behaves like recycled paper. It’s usually cheap and thin with a rough surface and generic (and often sloppy) ruling. And recycled paper is often unusable with fountain pens for the bleed and feathering it yields. But the Greenroom paper is actually really nice. They call it their “premium” paper, and I believe it. It’s fairly heavy paper (they don’t list the weight/gauge) and it feels pretty smooth for a regular notebook.
I’ve found most recycled paper to be either stark, bleached white or a very light gray. But the Greenroom paper is a beautiful cream color, in keeping with its “premium” designation.
The pages are listed as college-ruled, but at 1/4-inch spacing (6.4 mm), they’re technically narrow-ruled (college ruling has lines that are spaced at 9/32-inch, or 7.1 mm). The lines themselves are actually made of tiny dots printed in a soft, brown ink. I love the way this looks. The lines give you the structure to write in a straight line, but are really subtle and barely noticeable on a page full of writing. Other than the horizontal ruling, the only other printed element is a small Greenroom logo, printed in the bottom, outside corner of each page, in the same brown ink as the ruling. Between the paper color and the minimalist ruling, the pages have a warm, clean appearance that invite you to grab your favorite pen or pencil and capture all your thoughts and dreams.
The FP Friendliness Factor
So the paper looks nice…and it feels nice, but how does it perform under the increased demands of a fountain pen with water-based ink? Unfortunately…regrettably…sadly…not so hot. I used a large range of pen types, including regular ballpoints, pressurized ballpoints (e.g., space pens), gel rollerballs, liquid ink pens, and of course, fountain pens. All the ballpoints and gel pens worked flawlessly (no surprise there). Even my sloppy, 0.7mm Zebra G-301 pen behaved itself.
The trouble really starts with the liquid ink rollerballs, though. Both my Pilot Precise V5 RT and Uni-ball Vision Elite BLX saw some spread and even a little bit of feathering (especially the Vision Elite). My fountain pens fared even worse.
I tried a very wide range of fountain pen nib grades, from the crazy fine Platinum Preppy 02 Extra Fine up to a (supposedly) medium Think Pens Violino (that might be the broadest non-stub I own). Only the Preppy gave me nice results. Every other fountain pen spread and feathered pretty badly. Even my Vanishing Point Fine and Lamy Safari EF, both of which typically work well on cheaper paper.
Some people don’t have much of a problem with a little feathering, but it drives me nutty. For me, any feathering is too much feathering, and if a paper produces any feathering, I won’t use it with fountain pens at all. The problem with this paper is that it’s way too absorbent. In addition to the feathering and spread, any traces of shading and sheen go right out the window.
I also tried using some plastic-tip Sharpie pens (fine and medium) and three different brush pens on this paper. For the most part, I’m happy with the results. The medium Sharpie pen and a couple of the brush pens gave a tiny amount of feathering, but you have to look really close to see it. If you’re just reading at a normal distance, you’d never notice it.
I think what impressed me most about this paper is the lack of bleedthrough to the reverse side. Despite how readily the ink soaked into the paper, the reverse side remains usable. There is some pretty heavy ghosting and a few spots of bleedthrough with the heavier fountain pens and the liquid ink rollerballs, but most of the pens didn’t show through enough to inhibit use of the reverse side. While I wouldn’t recommend using both sides with wetter pens, you shouldn’t have a problem with any ballpoints, any gel rollerballs 0.5mm and smaller, and most extra fine fountain pens.
|Price||$8 for a pack of 3 notebooks|
|Size||7 x 10 inches (17.8 x 25.1 cm)|
|# of Sheets||80 per notebook|
|Ruling||Narrow Ruled (1/4-inch; 6.4mm); dotted line|
|Binding||Glued (similar to perfect binding)|
|Bleedthrough||Little, with liquid/water-based inks|
Overall, I really like these notebooks, but due to the feathering issue, I’ll not be using them with my fountain pens. Life is too short to deal with feathering. But I love the paper, the ruling, and the size of these notebooks, so I’ll probably end up using them them at work with gel pens & pencils. If you’re a fountain pen user (or a liquid ink rollerball user) and you cringe at those creepy little tendrils of ink cutting through paper fibers while they flee from your letters, then I’d recommend using other notebooks. But if you are a fountain pen user who doesn’t mind feathering, or if you’re more a user of ballpoints or gel pens, then these are fantastic notebooks that look nice and work well.