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The Novel Take on Sustainable Stationery

Image of a discbound notebook with a pencil on top, next to some metal binding discs of various sizes

Novel Notes is a UK-based stationery shop specialising in eco-friendly and vegan notebooks. Their products are designed to be reusable and recyclable, made of sustainable materials such as 100% recycled paper and board. Even the aluminium binding rings are recyclable and ethically produced in the UK. Novel Notes supports local suppliers and manufacturers, but much of the production is done by hand by creator and owner Alex who provides professional graphic design services to other ethical businesses alongside their own.

The minimalist style of the products is intentionally designed to support the expression of the users’ individual creativity whilst providing simple layouts for efficient use, allowing the user to quickly get their ideas down in an organised way. Each element of the design is carefully considered, and the product range has been adapted to the needs of its users.

Let’s delve into the current Novel Notes product range, how the items are made and what they are made of.

Disc-binding is a method of book binding that involves punching sheets of paper, resulting in a series of mushroom shaped holes along the binding edge; the paper can then be attached to discs with a profile of a correlating shape. It is a bit like using regular hole punches to secure paper into a binder, if there was a slit from the hole to the edge of the paper, allowing the paper to be easily removed. The shape of the discbound punched holes ensures that the paper does not easily slip off – you have to pull the sheet in a specific downward motion to remove it from the discs.

Image of discbound notebook with one sheet partially removed, exposing the 'mushroom' shaped punch

The discbound system is brilliant for those that enjoy the feel of using a notebook instead of a bulky binder, but still want to be able to easily rearrange their notes, create sections, or archive pages that they no longer need. Since the notebooks can be refilled with new inserts as needed, paper waste is reduced and the covers can be reused or interchanged depending on the purpose of the book. You can be more creative and organised with a discbound notebook because of the customisability of the covers, discs, and contents of your notebook.

Novel Notes notebooks are discbound with the aim of reducing waste, and encouraging creative use of the notebooks. The Novel shop supplies ready-made discbound notebooks and planners, as well as all the items you need to create your own book: binding discs, punched covers and a variety of refill sheets for note-taking, drawing and planning purposes.

Novel binding rings are custom-made in the UK. The price is a bit higher than the plastic or unknown metal discs produced in some other countries, but you can rest assured that the production of Novel discs complies to UK labour and manufacturing laws. The pieces are made by skilled machinists using high-quality aluminium. The manufacture of the discs utilises a process that results in minimal waste. The aluminium is sturdy, non-toxic, non-corrosive and will last for years of use, but is also easily and endlessly recyclable.

Shiny aluminium rings in a pile, on a white background

The binding discs made by Novel Notes were designed with a circular cut-out in the centre of the disc, forming an elegant ring that is light in weight and beautifully polished. The rings are available in diameters of 20 mm (fits approximately 50 sheets of paper) and 32 mm (suitable for a thicker notebook, desk planner, or for archiving your notes). They are packed in sets of 8 for A5 size sheets, and 11 for A4 sheets.

Novel discs are compatible with most popular disc binding systems such as Staples ARC, Atoma, Levenger Circa, and Happy Planner. The discs will fit with the mushroom shaped punch made in products from these major brands. Novel Notes refill sheets are also compatible with most discbound systems that use the metric paper sizes (A5, A4 etc.) that are standard in Europe. The spacing between the punched holes tends to be similar. You will need to be aware that if you are buying from companies that use different paper sizes such as U.S. Letter or Half Letter size, the spacing between punched holes might not align with that of Novel Notes sheets.

The first step in creating your own discbound Novel notebook is attaching the covers to the discs. The covers protect your notes, and when flipped back around the discs, like on a spiral bound notebook, they provide a convenient writing surface that you can lean on.

Novel notebook covers are made from 100% recycled paper fibres that are compressed into durable board, 1000 microns thick. Due to the nature of the material, colours may vary and there is potential that the final product can discolour over time. This is because no dying or bleaching is done on the board – the colour is achieved by matching the raw materials (post-consumer waste paper) during production.

Despite being easily recyclable and biodegradable, these covers are durable. The rounded corners prevent fraying and add to the recognisable yet minimalist style. The cover designs are hand painted on using water based non-toxic paint. One-of-a-kind illustrated and painted covers are available, but the standard covers are intentionally left plain aside from the subject lines and logo. The board takes pen and paint well, and offers an opportunity for creatives to customise their notebooks even further with their own artwork or stickers.

Novel Notes' standard notebook covers with subject lines and logo in white on greyboard

Whatever you use your notebook for, you’ll find inserts that can help. The utilitarian designs are simple enough that they can be adapted for a variety of uses and personal styles, whether you prefer to bullet journal, write lists, draw tables, or doodle without any grids at all.

Novel Notes' Plans - A5 planner with 32mm discs, open to a spread with 'Blocks' list-making sheets

The layouts are designed in-house and sent to a local print shop. The refills are printed in small batches to reduce waste, and done with vegetable-based inks using minimal waste methods. The sheets are then punched for disc binding and rounded on the corners for durability.

The paper is 100% recycled and available in different styles. Novel Blanks (plain paper) refills are slightly textured, providing a great texture for pencil drawings as well as writing. Printed inserts such as gridded, lined and planner sheets are printed on smoother paper in either bright white or a slightly muted natural cream colour.

Made to Order

Although ready-made stationery products are the primary offering from Novel Notes, it is possible to request custom items such as notebooks covers with personalised designs or notebooks bound with your preferred inserts. The price does vary depending on the complexity of the designs, but you can get a quote by getting in touch with details of your request.

Custom notebook cover design with splashed paint in primary colours

Carefully Packaged

The entire creation process of Novel products, from concept to delivery, is carefully considered. It is important that waste is kept to a minimum and that all materials used are vegan and environmentally supportive.

When an order comes through, items are wrapped in recycled tissue paper in a way that allows the paper to be reused. The packing slip and postage label are printed on recycled paper, and the order is packed in eco-friendly recycled cardboard packaging. Single-use plastic is avoided wherever possible, and everything you receive from Novel is recyclable or biodegradable.

Even the clear baggies that Novel Notes binding discs are sealed in are made of vegetables. Place them under moist, warm conditions with bacteria and fungi, and they will biodegrade into CO², H²O and biomass. Commercial composting will be most efficient, but you can compost these at home too – just make sure to turn the compost to aerate it from time to time. The packaging can also be sent to landfill with your other household rubbish, but decomposition may take longer than composting if there is a lack of moisture. It is not suitable for paper or plastic recycling.

Please recycle paper products and packaging when you have finished with them, thank you!

The Sustainable Stationery Movement

Sustainability is not an afterthought with Novel Notes. With the support of fellow environmentalists and vegans, Novel Notes continues to advocate for ethically-made stationery and provide tools for conscious creatives.

Browse the blog to learn more, and subscribe to the mailing list to be the first to hear about new projects and special offers.

Help to spread the word about Novel Notes and sustainable stationery by sharing social media posts and blog posts.

You can also get in touch if you have any questions, or if you are interested in collaborating with Novel Notes and bringing awareness to important issues.


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