Business

Published on May 9th, 2008 | by Megan Prusynski

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Stocking the Green Office: Sustainable Supplies

colorful paperclipsBefore you can open your doors for business, you need an office. Stocking your office with needed supplies is a great opportunity to show your green side and make sustainable choices. From furnishings to paper clips, there are eco-friendly options out there for every office need.

Whether you’re working from home or from a downtown high-rise, you can conserve paper, reduce energy use, and produce less waste by keeping the environment in mind for all your office purchases. In this article, I’ll share ideas for stocking your green office and sources of green office products.

Sustainable Paper Options

After trying to reduce your company’s use of paper as much as possible, it’s still inevitable that you’ll need paper to keep on hand at the office. Thankfully there are many green paper options available that don’t involve cutting down a single tree. Even your local office or stationery store probably carries recycled paper. Don’t forget to look for recycled or tree-free envelopes, notebooks, file folders, and even post-it notes as well as your standard copy paper. There’s just no excuse for using virgin paper when there are so many tree-friendly types available. You can order bulk supplies online from many retailers as well. My favorite source for everything a green office might need is The Green Office. In addition to extensive paper choices, they offer all kinds of green office products from furniture to phones to ink.

Office Furniture

When it comes to furnishing a new office, it’s a good idea to start with what you already have. Do you have any old furniture collecting dust that could be re-purposed into a desk or filing cabinet? It’s economical and eco-friendly to buy used whenever possible, so hit up your local yard sales! A coat of low-VOC paint can turn any old piece of furniture into a new fixture color-coordinated to your office. A DIY project can also be a great way to make your office a little more “you.”

If DIY is not your thing or you’re just not finding what you need second-hand, there are many green furniture companies to fit your office needs. Check out The Green Office’s furniture section, IKEA (many of their products are surprisingly green), or modular, 95% recycled pieces designed by Ecowork. And while it may look professional, I don’t recommend a plush leather office chair. There’s some pretty nasty chemicals that go into making leather, not to mention a considerable amount of cruelty.

For ideas on green building materials and inspiration for the interior design of your new office, head on over to Green Building Elements.

Clean and Green

Every office needs to stay clean, and it’s easy to be green and clean with sustainable cleaning products. Seventh Generation and Ecover make a wide variety of cleaners for any purpose, but it’s even easier (and much cheaper) to make your own cleaning products. Green cleaners help maintain a healthy indoor air quality, which is better for you and the planet. Another way to green your office cleaning is to use re-usable rather than disposable cleaning products. Instead of one-use wipes or dust cloths, keep a stock of organic cotton cloths or even old rags for wiping counters and dusting. They can be washed and re-used over and over, saving landfill space and trees.

When it comes to office supplies, there’s no shortage of green choices. And they may be as close as your nearest office supply store. Just make sure to look for a high percentage of post-consumer content in recycled materials, or the use of rapidly renewable materials such as bamboo in office furniture. And if the store doesn’t have many eco-friendly options available, bring it up and let them know that discerning customers demand greener products.

Happy shopping!

This article is the eleventh in a series called Green Dreams following my journey starting a green design business. You can learn along with me: read the series introduction, see some green business resources, get inspired, learn how to write a business plan, find out how to name your business, learn why sustainability should be a part of your planning from the beginning, avoid commuting by working from home, build green business practices into your daily workflow, work towards a paperless office, and get certified green! Stay tuned for more each week on starting a green business!

Photo credit: K Christner, via Flickr and Creative Commons.





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About the Author

I grew up camping and hiking in the woods of Idaho, leading to a connection with and deep respect for nature. I recently moved to the Mendocino coast in Northern California, where I was happy to find not only beautiful redwoods and beaches, but a high level of green consciousness. I am a graphic and web designer who focuses on making the world a better place through sustainable design and communication. I specialize in green design solutions for small businesses, non-profits, and activist organizations. When I'm not designing, I'm hiking, camping, traveling, taking pictures, blogging, and spending time with my boyfriend and our "fur-kids." You can find out more about me on my sites and blogs: my personal site, volksvegan.org, or unplug magazine.



  • Uncle B

    Hemp based paper comes from a weed that grows well on poor ground and is regrowable yearly. Paper based on trees takes at least 30 years per crop! Go after your government to legalize hemp for bio diesel, paper, fiber and food!

  • Lewis

    Hemp has many drawbacks as a fiber for paper. Hemp is relatively rich in silica, as are most of the annual fibers out there. As such, this silica makes recovery of pulping chemical extremely difficult (scaling, for the most part). Most mills out there processing hemp do not recycle their cooking liquor, preferring to treat it biologically.

    Further, bleaching of the fiber is not as “easy” as wood fiber, requiring more chemicals to reach the same brightness. This explains why most of the hemp-containing papers are shaded (more of an unbleached look). Brown printing paper is fine in theory, not so good in practicality – we’ve tried before.

    On a papermaking point of view, hemp is a very long fiber. To make writing papers, you would need to refine the crap out of it to get properties like opacity and porosity to acceptable levels. Which is why “Weeds” (the grade we made from Hemp) was made with only 15% hemp.

    Annual fiber availability is also an issue. Harvesting periods are limited and we’re used to running year-long. Supply integrity is always an issue and is not easy to address on a large scale.
    The raw hemp fiber, in my opinion, is more valuable as a textile than a papermaking fiber.

    I’ll end by saying the “saving paper equals saving trees” equation isn’t really as easy as it’s promoted by most. Papermaking in North America is a secondary, or byproduct industry. Most trees are cut down first for lumber and other wood products. The by-products are used for papermaking. The percentage shifts, of course, with the market for lumber (which isn’t good right now, and drives up the input costs for paper) – but the correlation of saying “save trees, don’t print this email” – doesn’t equate. It’s more like “don’t build that mall or house, and save a tree.” But who’s going to tell you not to build a house.

    Most importantly, when done right, supporting responsible forestry is a GOOD thing. You can’t “preserve” a tree or a forest. It’s a living organism. Responsible forestry is part of the cycle, and promotes good forest regeneration.

  • Sarah Pressman Lovinger

    I reuse paper in my office as much as possible. And my I put my office in an unused corner of my basement. Having a home-office is green ‘cuz you are not paying to heat and rent 2 spaces, and you have no commuting costs.

  • Jamie

    Wow. Thanks for this posting. It’s so easy to leave behind the whole “go green” mentality when you leave the house and go into the office. These tips are really useful. It’s really great that so many companies are now embracing “green” technology and in turn offering products to customers. I found this site – CSNChairs.com that has a whole bunch of “eco-friendly” office chairs! Recycling furniture is great but you can buy new stuff to that is environmentally friendly! Thanks again for the post.

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  • http://www.thegreenoffice.com Ky

    Thanks for mentioning http://www.thegreenoffice.com in your posting! Nowadays there’s so much focus on living the green lifestyle that some people forget the environmental impact of their work space. Some easy first steps to office greening is to purchase sustainable options of commonly used office products such as copy and breakroom items.

    We offer green products at competitive cost as well as lots of tips on eco-friendly office practices– come check us out!

  • http://www.easycrane.co.uk Chris

    A lot of paper gets wasted in our office, it’s quite shocking really. I have a notepad (a recycled one!) that I use to keep notes but other people use fresh A4 to scribble 1 or 2 lines, then it gets thrown away…

  • Warren

    And how many offices go through quite a bit of COFFEE? There are plenty of easy and sustainable office options out there (like single-brew coffee pouches). If its a sustainable coffee to begin with then you achieve ease for employees and sustainability for farmers and their local environments. Crop to Cup (http://www.croptocup.com) offers a simple single-brew office case. They work with coffee farmers in Uganda and roast in the US.

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  • http://www.mygreensupply.com Christian Coughlin

    The Green Supply Company LLC supplies biodegradable/compostable products to many offices, they distribute eco-friendly plates, bowls, hot cups, trash bags and more.

    Swapping out Styrofoams or plastics with an environmentally friendly option is a quick and affordable way to make your office greener.

  • http://www.proformagreen.com John Simonetta

    Hello All,

    Late to the conversation but providing green solutions for business is why we exist at http://www.proformagreen.com.

    From post-it notes, ring binders and annual reports, from uniforms, totes and packaging, from eco-friendly coffee mugs, pens, and promotional items, we have it all.

    Follow our articles on this site or check us out at http://www.proformagreen.com

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  • Chris

    Does anyone know of the most sustainable public restroom options for drying your hands? I’m thinking the old fashioned continuous roll towel? We already have a service come once a week to launder our area rugs and uniforms. We could utalized this same service. A co worker of mine just ordered 15 battery operated paper towel dispensers. I’m thinking this is not very green or sustainable. Help.

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  • http://www.greencupboards.com greencupboards

    Check out http://www.greencupboards.com. We sell eco-friendly,office supplies, personal care products, and household cleaners. Greencupboards has done the research so that you don’t have to on what brands are truly green. Check out the specials section on our website to receive clearance prices on the top brands of green products.

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  • http://www.nakedbinder.com Ken

    Paper, furniture and cleaning supplies are a huge part of a green office. Don’t forget that wall of vinyl binders though. They are basically un-recyclable and toxic and you can do better.

    http://www.NakedBinder.com makes sustainable recycled and recyclable 3-ring binders and pocket folders. Check us out for a longer lasting, cleaner alternative.

  • http://www.dolphinblue.com Thomas Manaugh

    There is a free ebook available for download at http://www.dolphinblue.com, The Green Office Guide. Office waste is a huge contributor to landfills and a depleter of natural resources.

  • http://Web Mike S.

    This is a really great list. Thanks! We put together a similar list that you guys might find useful as well.

    http://greenready.webs.com/helpingatwork.htm

  • http://affordablefurnitureinfo.com Affordable Furniture

    Redesigning the furniture you already have is often the best course of action, I’ve done it a couple of times.

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    I’ve been browsing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It抯 pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all website owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet will be a lot more useful than ever before.

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