Decomposition notebooks are just like the iconic composition notebooks made for note-taking, writing, and sketching, but more environmentally conscious. The owner, Michael Rogers, designed Decomposition with sustainability and his love for the outdoors in mind. In addition to being well known for their high-quality notebooks, Decomposition notebooks are ten dollars each and are gaining popularity due to their creative and colorful cover designs. Decomposition has a wide selection of stunning notebook covers, ranging from nature landscapes like Moab, the Everglades, and Big Sur, to detailed illustrations of monarch migrations, dinosaurs, and humpback whales. Although Decomposition is transparent regarding the materials of their notebooks, they lack information in their ‘About Us’ webpage; the Decomposition brand is under Michael Roger Inc., a family-owned business since 1949 that claims to be dedicated to producing eco-friendly products. After doing some research, however, it seems like Michael Roger Inc. is quite obscure and virtually absent from surface-level Google searches. There is not much information about the company itself, and there is no main website for Michael Roger Inc. The lack of information feels suspicious, as the only indicator of the existence of Michael Roger Inc. is Decomposition itself. On the website of Decomposition, they do state that Michael Roger Inc. is a small company and family-owned, as the company was established in 1949 by the current owner’s great grandfather. Something to consider is that the main website of Michael Roger Inc. may be the Decomposition website. Overall, Decomposition’s use of sustainable materials feels legitimate and admirable, but they lack in detailing how their notebooks are made and who makes them.
Decomposition notebooks are made up of 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper, meaning that all paper used to produce their notebooks was saved from the waste stream and recycled. Paper that comes from post-consumer waste can include virtually any paper waste that people throw out. Post-consumer waste recycled paper helps save landfill space, protects forests, animal habitats, and prevents deforestation, and I find the use of entirely recycled paper to be admirable and impressive. Decomposition has calculated that they have saved almost 40,000 trees, 16 million gallons of wastewater, and avoided releasing thousands of tons of solid waste and carbon dioxide emissions. Furthermore, the notebooks are printed with soy ink, allowing the notebook to be recycled after its use in the future. The use of soy ink has fewer negative environmental impacts than traditional petroleum-based ink, as petroleum-based ink supports the oil industry and tends to release volatile organic compounds, while soy ink production uses non-toxic resins and natural wax. Furthermore, the use of soy ink enables Decomposition notebooks to be recycled after its use, creating a circular life cycle. I commend Decomposition for their use of soy ink and recycled paper, but, I would like to see additional information regarding the sourcing of soy ink.
The composition books have a sewn binding, but it is unknown if the books are sewn and bound by factory machines or actual workers. Considering how difficult it is to find information about the main company, Michael Roger Inc., trying to find information about Decomposition’s production process for their notebooks is even more difficult. On their homepage, Decomposition states that they try to manufacture in the United States as often as they can, insinuating that they may have factories and possible manufacturing partners abroad. Although there is limited information on the actual binding process of the books, Decomposition’s decision to use 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper is one of the most eco-friendly options to consider in paper production. The use of recycled paper increases Decomposition’s overall rating, as post-consumer waste recycled paper involves the reuse of paper that would originally be sent to landfills, and 26% of landfill waste can be attributed to paper. Furthermore, post-consumer waste recycled paper can recycle various paper products that are not just limited to other notebooks. The use of recycled paper embodies the circular economy model, where other products that reach the end of their life cycle can be sustainably reused into new products, and so on. In contrast to the option of using recycled paper, the traditional paper industry has immense and damaging effects on the environment; paper production inherently causes deforestation which releases greenhouse gases, fuels the destruction of ecosystems, and decreases biodiversity. Paper production in itself is incredibly unsustainable, as it also utilizes intensive chemicals and large amounts of water in its processing methods. Even as the paper industry trends towards more sustainable practices, as seen in the increasing number of notebook and paper companies with the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification logo on their products, the use of recycled paper may be slightly more sustainable, as products with FSC certification still promote deforestation. As stringent as FSC is while regulating and inspecting their paper supply chains, their harvesting techniques for paper still require deforestation, which releases greenhouse gases, as some forests are natural carbon sinks that help combat climate change. Thus, it is good to see Decomposition taking an active role in reducing the percentage of paper in landfills and preventing the environmental damage that would normally be caused through regular paper production. Another positive aspect of Decomposition is that a majority of their notebooks are indeed made in the United States, which likely limits severe carbon emissions for transportation of materials. Despite this, Decomposition severely lacks transparency in the How it is Made category, and as a potential consumer, knowing how the books are bound and produced is an important aspect to consider when purchasing the notebook.
Decomposition does not detail who makes or designs their notebooks, and I was unable to find where the company was based. They merely say their “designers use tools both old and new” to create illustrations. Although Michael Roger Inc is a small, family-owned company, it is critical for them to specify exactly who is producing their notebooks, who they may be outsourcing from, and who is helping them recycle and reclaim paper for their notebooks. From an interview with Decomposition, it seems like the owner of Decomposition is Michael Rogers who has worked with his brother, Jacob, to create the brand name and notebook designs. However, without information on who manufactures their notebooks, it is difficult for a consumer to know what the working conditions are like within Decomposition’s factories. As they were founded in 1949, I am surprised to still see such limited information about their factories and working conditions; before purchasing a notebook from Decomposition, I would like to see them take a first step in being open about their production process and the workers producing and designing these notebooks. For a company that prides themselves on using sustainable materials for their notebooks, I would like to see them go further and take on new future goals or initiatives to continue their sustainability. In general, it is nice to see a more eco-friendly company like Decomposition begin to make its way into large retail stores that can reach and encourage more consumers on a global scale to shop more sustainably. As for the pricing of the notebooks, $10 can be incredibly expensive compared to a cheaper notebook one can purchase from Target. I believe $10 is a bit of a stretch for a composition notebook, but the more sustainable aspects of the notebook, high-quality, use of recycled paper, and creative artwork may seem worth it to some people. If the price of the notebook were slightly lower, around six to seven dollars, I think Decomposition could reach a much larger consumer audience and promote even more sustainability. However, with their current price of $10, the notebook can be inaccessible to many people and unreasonable to buy when cheaper options are available at other stores. Although I find their current strides in sustainability to be inspiring, before I fully support and endorse the purchase of Decomposition notebooks, I would like to see them be more transparent in their manufacturing process and working conditions.