for the love of trees

This Shabbat, the calendar works out so that it is also Tu b’Shevat, aka the new year for trees. This is a time that is generally marked with ecological awareness. I’ve cared for and written about the environment for about thirty years now (thankfully you don’t have access to those early writings, though they were pretty good for an elementary school student). I’m surprised and dismayed to discover I’ve been mostly silent here about this topic.

I use quite a significant amount of paper each year. How do I reconcile that with caring for the environment?

photo of several Clairefontaine and Rhodia notebooks in PSG's collection.

My favourite notebooks are from Clairefontaine and Rhodia. Why do I love them so very much? They are made from pulp and wood by-products from forests independently certified by PEFC or FSC as sustainably managed.


Clairefontaine manufactures their own paper. This provides them complete control over the entire process. They’ve reduced their water consumption, the paper is chlorine-free, they use natural inks (which I believe they purchase), supply most of the energy (80%) necessary for the manufacturing process, and are committed to reducing waste.

These are important things to me, every day. These issues should be important to you as well. If we don’t take care of what we have today, there will be nothing left for tomorrow.

This ראש השנה לאילנות I decided to help raise awareness about how one company is working to make a difference. Another company doing so is Tom Bihn, with their UPS shipping Carbon Neutral Program.

Do you have a favourite company that is doing so? Please let me know.

photo collage of Clairefontaine sustainability marks on three different notebooks

Additional reading:

I’ve received many products from Exaclair USA and Tom Bihn over the years, some may be shown in this blog post. I have purchased even more on my own, the FTC wants you to know. There are no affiliate links in this post.

with notebook & planner love and kindness.

It was hard to decide what to write about today. I surprised myself and earlier this week was quite vocal at little acorn and PennyWise Consulting. I could write an overdue followup to my post, how to go on. I’m a distance runner who enjoys well written fiction. I understand the importance of pacing. After a long day in the city mostly disconnected from current events, I’m curled up on the couch with a snuggle Buddy (Shadow is cuddled close with E) and I’m going to write very briefly about one of my favourite topics: notebooks & paper. Self care in this long game is important.

Over at the QuoVadis blog, last week I wrote another essay comparing the Trinote and Principal planners. It was fun to write.

Foster kittens love the QuoVadis Principal too!

Over the past several years, I’ve developed a relationship with Karen and Sunny of Exaclair, the exclusive U.S. importer and distributor of a French family of brands: Rhodia, Clairefontaine, J. Herbin, Brause, Schut Papier, Decopatch, Avenue Mandarine, G. Lalo, Exacompta, Quo Vadis and Maildor. While they don’t sell direct to the public, if you ask very extremely nicely, you can visit. I had a wonderful visit with them this morning. Their office is near the flower district and it rained this morning and I found it delightful to walk down 28th before heading to them and smelling everything, it definitely helped clear out some of the unsavory aromas NYC is famous for.

There are several great new notebooks and products I’ll discuss more in the coming weeks. Including my new favourite, the A5 grid version of the Clairefontaine “My Essential” notebook. Why is this notebook wonderful?

It’s paginated!. While I love the clothbound A5, and find it an amazing value, pre-numbered pages make me happy. I’ve been sitting on this great notebook for over six months and I’m excited to finally be able to share it!

Spread of Clairefontaine notebooks and 2017 Exaclair catalogue

Many thanks to Karen and Sunny for letting me invade their office this morning.

I’ve received many products from Exaclair USA and have purchased even more on my own, the FTC wants you to know. There are no affiliate links in this post.

Product Review: Clairefontaine Roadbook

Back in the grey and chilly days of early February, Karen of Exaclair put out a call asking for reviews of Clairefontaine Roadbooks. While my travel wouldn’t coincide with the review dates, I offered to put it through its paces around town.

What is the Roadbook? From their blog (and marketing materials), the “travel notebooks are part of the Clairefontaine Basics Life.unplugged lineup: “Rugged, essential and expedition ready, whether exploring the Silk Road or Soho, Clairefontaine Basics are the perfect companion for wilderness or urban adventures.”

They feature rounded corners, an elastic strap, and a flexible cover of heavy cardstock in four colors with a leather look-and-feel. The 8mm lined paper is acid-free, PEFC certified, and 90gsm. The Roadbooks contains 64 pages so they’re slim yet you won’t run out of pages overnight (well, you could…).

Clairefontaine Roadbook

While it is available in a smaller size, I opted for the larger A5 size and Karen sent me one in Red. No way was I going to loose or forget it among my other notebooks. It’s a nice red, closer to brick than primary. I’m surprised to find after weeks of use I like the color! I took it all over town to various coffee shops and let it hang out in the bottom of my bag or join me for my morning coffee even when I wasn’t using it.

Clairefontaine Roadbook

Clairefontaine Roadbook

Clairefontaine Roadbook

I took these pictures of the cover in my sunroom at about 4pm today.

Clairefontaine Roadbook Cover

Clairefontaine Roadbook

Clairefontaine Roadbook

It still, in my opinion, looks amazing. I would have no problem pulling this notebook out at a new-client meeting and worrying that I’d make a poor impression with a tattered notebook. I’m impressed.

I love most everything about it, from the size, to the weight, to, of course, the Clairefontaine paper, but I knew that going in. It put up with every pen I tossed at it, from several fountain pens to some pigma microns. I didn’t go through every pen in the house, but the ones I had in my bag I used. I love that the paper is white. I am surprised, I’d been veering toward ivory papers.

Clairefontaine Roadbook writing samples

Clairefontaine Roadbook writing samples

Clairefontaine Roadbook, writing samples, back

Clairefontaine Roadbook, writing samples, back

The rounded corners help it stand up to abuse in my bag, or if I drop it. I like that I can fold the cover and that it is sturdy enough to write on my leg, useful for taking notes on a train.

What do I wish it did differently?

I wish there was a pocket in the cover, perhaps on the outside so it couldn’t interfere with writing. When I travel there is always ephemera that I want to keep safe until it makes its way to the scrapbook (or recycling bin).

I wish that there was a grid option or narrower rule. I prefer 5-6mm so the 8mm is super wide spacing for me. It’s ok but not my preference.

I wish that the pages were indexed. I think? I don’t know. I go back and forth on this.

I wish that the lines were spaced more evenly on the page, I don’t need the header & footer margins to be so wide.

But really, those are all trivial issues.

How did it surprise me the most? I was skeptical about the cover material. It has stood up to quite a bit of abuse. While I couldn’t make myself purposely spill tea or coffee on it, I am very pleased with how it’s held up.

Clairefontaine Roadbook

A collection of thoughts and photos by recent reviewers can be found at this Rhodia Drive post.

You can find the Roadbook in two sizes and four cover options at many retailers, including Paper Bistro and Goldspot. There are similar notebooks in the Basic Life Unplugged line available at Jetpens and The Goulet Pen Company.

Thank you to Exaclair and Karen for providing this review copy in exchange for an honest review.