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Around one billion trees' worth of paper is thrown away annually in the United States. That means reducing how much paper you use is a great way to help the environment. Writing on both sides of every sheet is a simple way to limit your usage, as is opting for eco-friendly notebooks with recycled or sustainable pages. But paper-free, digital notebook options are becoming more widely available and less expensive.
Many “smart” notebooks offer a reusable, erasable solution for those who like the experience of putting pen to paper but prefer to keep trees in the forest. They also reduce the amount of paper that needs to be recycled, which cuts carbon emissions. Other types of smart pads allow you to use both sides of your favorite paper or notebook to make lists or drawings and then digitize them. Most smart notebooks allow you to save your work to cloud storage using a compatible app. Here, the best smart reusable notebooks to consider.
Available in multiple colors, the Rocketbook Core (formerly Everlast) offers a classic analog writing experience designed for the digital age. Using any erasable and refillable Pilot FriXion pen, simply write, doodle, or create lists on lined or dot-grid pages that are made from a special polyester composite (no trees necessary!). The ink bonds to the pages in about 15 seconds to prevent smudging.
Ready to save your work? Select the correct symbol at the bottom of each page and use the Rocketbook app to send your notes to your favorite cloud-based service like Dropbox, Evernote, or Google Drive. When you’re done, gently wipe the erasable pages (up to 500 times), and you’ve got a new notebook ready for your next meeting or assignment.
It’s got all the features of a Rocketbook Core—erasable pages and the ability to upload content to cloud storage—combined with new page styles like a task list page, two weekly planner pages, and a monthly calendar. When you’re ready to work on a new idea or to turn the page to a new year, just erase your old work with a damp cloth and start fresh.
This splashproof, paperless LCD notepad is great for all ages, but especially for young ones who might not be as careful with a more expensive tablet. This modern-day bulletin board offers a sturdy, hard surface to write on even when you aren’t near a desk or table.
No stylus is necessary, so it’s super easy for little ones to grab the Boogie Board and write or doodle with the touch of a finger. It works best to use the stylus included, but almost any object with a slightly pointed tip will work.
Line and grid templates and a magnetic pen holder are an added bonus. The long-lasting five-year battery is an eco-friendly feature. Capture your creations using the free app compatible with iOS and Android, then erase instantly using a one-touch button.
Whether you’re heading back to school or moving toward creating a zero-waste office, this simple-to-use multi-page notebook is an affordable option. Each page is made of stone paper, which holds its structure even when wet and is reusable up to 500 times. Dotted or lined options are available. The A6 size (17.2 x 10.7 centimeters, or 6.7 x 4.2 inches) has ample space for sketching.
The ink dries in 15 seconds to prevent smearing and can be cleaned with an erasable pen tip or blow dryer once you’ve captured your information with the CamScanner app and stored it safely in the cloud. Two gel pens and a set of sticky notes are included with purchase.
It may be small (3.5 x 5.5 inches) in stature, but the Rocketbook mini is packed with 48 reusable pages. It’s a great travel companion, but it’s also handy for anyone—like medical personnel and journalists—who need to record info on the go.
Like the larger Rocketbook family members, this smart notebook comes in a variety of colors and requires a Pilot FriXion or specialized pen in order to write on the pages. But it fits in your pocket instead of your backpack. The Rocketbook app lets you scan, share, and save your work for accessing later. Simply wipe the pages clean with a damp cloth anytime you need a clean slate.
Elfinbook’s ring-bound option looks like a traditional notebook, but its double-sided pages are reusable and erasable up to about 500 times with a damp cloth, microwave, or hairdryer. They can also be removed from the binding for easy sharing on collaborative projects.
Available in two sizes, the pages are big enough to be used by architects, designers, and anyone with a creative streak. It arrives with multiple ancillary pens. Use the Elfinbook app to send all of your completed drawings and illustrations to a handful of cloud storage services. Later you can manipulate, organize, share, rename, or delete the stored files.
If you’re not ready for a digital notebook, the Paper Saver is a fresh take on an old-school paper writing pad. Its faux leather cover is the perfect place to stash and reuse all that paper you have lying around. Simply collect all that once-doodled-upon letter-sized paper (between 80 and 100 sheets fit) and insert them into the stainless-steel binding.
Fold the other half over and you’ve got a notebook of reusable pages ready for writing or scribbling on. When you’re at the end of the book, pull the stack out, flip it around, and start again. Free downloads of printable lines and grid patterns are available for those who prefer writing on something other than blank sheets.
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What to Look For In A Digital Writing Tablet
Reusability. Since you’re looking for an eco-friendly option, check to see how many times, if any, each page can be erased and reused.
Charging. Does it require a battery to operate? If so, how long it will last? If not, is the device charged with a USB cable or something else?
The “write” implement. Most smart notebooks require a special pen or stylus. Prior to purchasing, confirm how many pens are included and how often they need to be replaced or if they can be refilled.
Storage. Does the device sync to your favorite cloud services?
Size matters. Some reusable notebooks are larger and more portable than others. A5 (5.8 x 8.6 inches) tends to be cheaper and great for note-taking, writing, and simple sketches. If you’re looking to design or illustrate, B5 (6.9 x 9.8 inches) might be worth spending a bit of extra money on. There are also A6 (17.2 x 10.7 centimeters, or 6.7 x 4.2 inches) options available.
Page style. Most smart notebooks utilize dot grid patterns so smart phones easily capture the content. Dotted pages are also handy for engineers and architects, while students and writers might prefer a lined option. Artists and illustrators might opt for blank pages.
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Heidi Wachter is a writer and journalist who has been covering climate and sustainability issues for about a decade.
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