This story is part of a weeklong series on climate change and sustainability. It’s in partnership with Covering Climate Now, a global journalism initiative to cover climate change in the week leading up to the U.N. summit on climate change in New York on Sept. 23. Click here to learn more about the initiative and read all of Adweek’s coverage on how sustainability and marketing intersect.
As world leaders convene in New York for the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, some of them received an unusual gift—a sleek aluminum pen with ink produced by breaking down carbon dioxide gas.
Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat crafted the unique writing utensils and presented them to G20 heads of state as a memorable way to urge concrete measures around climate change during this week’s session and next week’s U.N. Climate Action Summit.
Agency TBWA\Helsinki helmed the campaign, and state-run research firm VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland provided the technical skills.
“As journalists, we know first-hand that a pen can be a powerful tool in changing the world,” Helsingin Sanomat’s editor in chief, Kaius Niemi, said in a statement. “While our main responsibility is to primarily report on pressing matters like climate change, it seems that climate coverage has so far moved individuals more than decision-makers. We hope this gift will remind policy makers of their responsibility.”
To make the ink, VTT’s research scientists used heat to decompose carbon dioxide into its component elements—oxygen and carbon—and then turn the latter into carbon black, a material commonly used in pigments for plastics, paints and inks. The bodies of the pens were 3D-printed from recycled aluminum supplemented with brass, and the gases emitted from the manufacturing process were offset to keep the project’s carbon footprint at least neutral.
“In climate change mitigation, politicians, decision-makers and society in general will most likely need to make quite painful decisions,” said Antti Arasto, VTT’s research manager, in a video. “This initiative will encourage them to make the right decisions.”
The team produced 250 pens in total with the rest awarded to Finnish members of parliament and President Sauli Niinistö.
Carbon dioxide is of course the primary driver of climate change, accounting for about 65% of greenhouse gas emissions trapping heat in the atmosphere. World leaders previously agreed on steps to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted globally in the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, but the deal suffered a major blow when President Donald Trump’s administration opted to withdraw the United States in 2017.