Office Supplies

April 3, 2008

Healthy Office Supplies

by Amy Ross

When considering the healthiest options for office supplies, less is obviously more. This concept is, however, lost on the manufacturers of these products. Less than five percent of the entire market for printing and writing paper is made of post consumer recycled pulp. Although reports say “environmentally sustainable office products are less expensive than their conventional counterparts” (Frogfile Office Essentials) the options are out there, but disappointingly few. Encouraging manufacturers to see the value in producing post-consumer recycled products and using renewable resources like soy based inks and toners is up to us.

Despite all of our options for “paperless” technologies (each personal computer is a virtual office), paper use is on the rise. Paper still accounts for about half of the waste in a “typical” office. Not only is this wasteful use of resources not healthy for our planet, it is not healthy for any living critter on our planet. Paper mills use toxic chemicals, that become toxic waste that finds it’s way into groundwater. More bad news? It is estimated that over 100 million trees are cut each year just for copy paper alone. You could build a twelve foot high wall from Los Angeles to New york with the amount of paper Americans throw away in an average year. (Organic Gardening magazine issue Feb. 2008)

The good news is the face of the office is changing and we can participate in that change. Each ton of 100% post -consumer recycled paper saves 7,000 gallons of water, 4,100 KW hours of electricity, 60 pounds of air pollution and 17 mature trees. (Organic Gardening mag.) Conservatree, experts in the field of environmental paper, and based in the bay area, offer a multitude of paper options. They will advise you on choosing the correct paper for the job and have tree free papers, as well as post consumer recycled papers. The twin cities green guide(The Twin Cities Green Guide) offers ideas on how to cut down on waste in the office. They give solutions for things like mail waste reduction, purchasing and shipping tips and reducing paper waste. I found their suggestions helpful and their website has a good amount of information that is very useful.

When you consider that more than three quarts of oil are used to produce a single laser cartridge; the plastic used in producing each printer cartridge takes more than ten centuries to decompose, and twenty five million printer cartridges go into landfills each month(, it becomes clear that it is essential to take responsibility for the use of these necessary printing evils. Luckily, there are remanufacturing options as well as bio-derived inks and toners. Toner cartridge remanufacturing alone saves over thirty eight thousand tons of plastic and metal from landfills each year. (Conservatree)

For those of us who would like to refill our cartridge, there are places like Island Ink-Jet (Island Ink-Jet – Home) that will refill your brand name printer cartridge with OEM (original equipment manufacturer) inks. These are inks as good as or better than the ink the original manufacturer used. But all of these petroleum based products will have varying levels of toxicity. The healthiest option is bio-derived ink and toner. These are new to the market but offer promising possibilities. Not only is the need for oil eliminated, but paper from copy machines is easier to recycle if bio-derived toner has been used. The best part of all is that bio-derived toner can be used in the same conventional machines that use petroleum based toner. Bio-derived toner is less expensive, renewable and healthier than petroleum based products. It is sure to become a more widely used alternative in printing and “green” office choices. To read more about soy and other bio-derived toner see the article: “Bio-derived toner staged to change the world” by Michael Carlotta. (Bio-Toner Article)

Healthier options for the other obligatory office supplies like: staplers, filing systems, presentation packets, writing utensils, etc., can be found at Frogfile Office Essentials. Frogfile is a canadian company specializing in “green” office supplies. They are a “values based” company that say they will stand beside each product throughout it’s life span. They research the history of the products they sell and offer responsible suggestions to dispose of them when there is no alternative. Their online catalogue has items such as a staple-less stapler, which works by creating a small perforation in the paper and folding back in on itself. They also have rechargeable batteries and postconsumer recycled office needs. They are not, however, close to home. The GreenOffice located in San Francisco, CA offers many healthy alternatives for office supplies, furniture, cleaning supplies and technology. In addition, they have a carbon offsetting guide and sustainability consulting.

These companies, and the ones below give us a way to close the recycling loop. By offering recycled and sustainable goods they allow us to make healthy decisions for ourselves and our planet. Together we can create a more holistic perspective of the healthy office; one where we do not dispose of, we creatively reuse, or better yet, we do not use at all.

Below is a list of resources that I found to have healthier office supplies, and useful information.

Frogfile Office Essentials – Environmentally responsible office supplies

Office Supply Packages of Letterheads, Envelopes, and Business Cards


Recycled Products Cooperative

The Green Office – Home


Electronics Recycling Services

Recycled Office Supplies

About the Real Earth

Recycled Products Cooperative

Treecycle Recycled Paper and Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products

Hemlock Printers

Ink jet, Laser & Toner Cartridge Recycling

The Twin Cities Green Guide

Island Ink-Jet – Home


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