Business

Published on May 22nd, 2008 | by Paul Smith

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Terracycle + Office Max = Innovative Green Office/School Supplies

Terracycle is most known for their reuse of plastic soda bottles as packaging for their Worm Poop gardening products. While these initial products are definitely to be commended, it’s their recent move into office and school products in conjunction with Office Max that stands to make an even more profound impact.

Many people spend a great deal of time working in offices, and to have a mainstream supplier actively promoting awareness about the value of using green office products will likely lead to many people that may not have previously found relevance in their lives to consider more deeply what they choose to purchase for their office, and perhaps other parts of their lives.

Why Office Max?

Why exactly did Terracycle, the scrappy company (literally, reusing scrap production waste in some products) decide to partner with the massive Office Max? Listen up green startups, this is important: They are able to go beyond their youthful  excitement about all things green, and hear from people with decades of experience what consumers are actually buying, where they want things to be greener, and where the most impact can be made. And, having a large, deeply ingrained distribution network, Office Max can also allow Terracycle to more confidently venture into making new products, with a sharply reduced time on the development cycle. This plus being able to produce larger numbers right away leads to  being able to keep their prices at an everyday level, so that a broad segment of the population can and will try them.

Review of  innovative green office products from Terracycle

So where does that lead Terracycle? It leads them to start with 7 new products, and have several more coming soon, including paper made from Mango leaves. More on that below. I had the pleasure of trying many of them out, and here’s what I found:

Trash and recycling cans : Beyond being made from a combination or recycled computer cases and other company’s product production waste (of which there is a lot of) they are quite attractive. With a pattern of lines accenting each side and hand sized grips built in to carry it, this recyclable recycling container is a gem.

Eco binders : Bringing me back to my Pee Chee days, these sturdy, bare paper binders are made from 100% recycled paper and the clips inside 90% recycled metal. And in an industry first, when you’re done with them, you can send them back to be recycled by Terracycle.

A quote of note on the packaging:

Because it is constructed using waste stream resources, our Eco-Binders are priced competitively, allowing you an eco-friendly choice without a premium price.

terracycle natural cleaner 2Natural all purpose and window cleaners : I can’t yet speak from experience of their utility, but I can say they are packaged from former old 1 liter soda bottles, are non toxic, with clean ingredients you can read, and they’re biodegradable. They are doubly certified by Zero Footprint and Environmental Choice, from Canada. And they just look nice, sitting there on your counter! Now if I could just get  motivated to actually clean…

terracycle juice bag pencil caseDrink pouch pencil case : Remember drinking Capri Sun as a kid? Remember recycling them? Probably not, as they aren’t. Well weren’t, until Terracycle came along and decided to make pencil cases out of them. Mine is two jade colored Kool-Aid Sports sewn end to end, with a zipper holding your contents in place.

Visually unique, these cases come with a fringe benefit: at 1300 schools and non profits nationally, they collect these juice bags, and Terracycle pays them per bag collected, serving as both a fundraiser and a waste stream diverter. Going even further, these cases are created in their own factory in Mexico. They’re not outsourced, but rather, a new operation entirely controlled by Terracycle to assure quality working conditions, as is the same in their Trenton, New Jersey factory. They are now the largest employer in Aquascalientes.

Beyond these products, they’ve also got a natural degreaser, bathroom cleaner, and drain clearer.

Future green innovation from Terracycle

In conversation with Albert Zakes of Terracycle, he let me in on some intriguing new products being developed, in tandem with the suggestions of Office Max. Of highest priority are paper and pens. Really? Yes, if you think about it, those are some of the most used resources in an office, and in the case of pens, most disposed of.

Rhino paper: Yes, they are currently working on paper made from the dung of Rhinos. And Elephants. Apparently they make a fine sheet of paper without the stink you might expect. However, Office Max encouraged them to innovate in other ways that people with a lower tolerance for funk would like. Thus, they are now creating tree free paper made from fallen Mango and Banana leaves.

Terracycle recycled twig pensTwig pens: They have found a way to create durable, unique pens that are made from fallen twigs, sealed to prevent splinters, and ready to go. They are also working on pens made from recycled tire rubber and newspaper.

Congratulations to Terracycle for boldly stepping out of the garden and into the office and classroom. Stay tuned for future articles on some as yet to be public partnerships and other things in the works.

Readers: Have you used any of Terracycle’s new products yet? Tell us about them! What other innovative green office products do you use, or suggest we check out?

Additional Resources:

Stocking the Green Office: Sustainable Supplies (Ecopreneurist)

Towards a Paperless Office (Ecopreneurist)

Eco Friendly Finger Paints (Eco Child’s Play)

Image Credit: All images courtesy Terracycle



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About the Author

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations around, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media. Who he has and wants to work with includes consumer, media, clean tech, NGOs, social ventures, and museums. For more on GreenSmith Consulting, see www.greensmithconsulting.com He also writes for Triple Pundit www.triplepundit.com



  • http://blog.jollygreengirl.com Jolly Green Girl

    I am a HUGE fan of TerraCycle and really love how the company started out and grew. I also love their educational program for the children. I think getting children involved in conservation is essential. It good to know that green companies such as these are making an impact on mega conglamorates.

  • http://www.letsgrowgreen.com Daniel Aguilar

    I hope TerraCycle´s green mind helps Office Max move in the right direction.

    The market is responsible for the enviroment since it profits from natural resources, and the market can be changed from inside, we can do it, we must.

    Let´s grow green

  • http://www.greenwerkspro.com Green Contractor

    TerraCycle is one cool company. I remember reading the stories when they were first starting, they were going to business plan competitions across the country to win money to fund the business. It is exciting to see such innovation and the product works well. I use it at home.

    -Chris

  • http://www.greensmithconsulting.com Paul Smith

    Awesome, good to hear, Chris. I spoke to someone at Office Max yesterday, and apparently there’s going to be many more school supply products coming over the summer. Stay tuned…

  • http://www.green-talk.com Anna

    We actually collect yogurt cups for them and anyone who loves worms is a friend of mine! Anna http://www.green-talk.com

  • Pingback: Bringing Truly Green Office Supplies to the Masses : Ecopreneurist

  • Pingback: 10 Great, Cheap, Green Office Supplies : Ecopreneurist

  • http://xrumertraining.info/ Sharepro

    What blog type are you using? I love the layout

  • Helena afonso

    Save the Planet:
    VSM Imaging Supplies introduces soy based toner cartridges.
    Go to http://www.officeddepot.com

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