Green office products are becoming more and more commonplace.
Once the province of a small number of environmental enthusiasts, green office products these days can be found in most of the large office supply chains.
Here are a few tips for making your office green:
For paper products, the best advice is to look for products with the highest percentage of post-consumer content.
According to the Office Depot’s Guide to Buying Green, the acceptable range for cut sheet paper, forms and envelopes is 10 to 100 percent post-consumer recycled content and 20 to 100 percent total recycled content. The latter figure includes pre-consumer recycled content.
In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends using paper that was processed without using chlorine. Chlorine is often used in the paper manufacturing process to help remove lignin, a chemical compound that causes paper to yellow when exposed to sunlight. The process gives paper its white appearance but it also causes toxic chlorinated organic compounds to be released into the environment.
These days, consumers can purchase chlorine-free paper, often referred to as “totally chlorine-free.” The next best thing, according to TheGreenOffice.com, is to buy elemental chlorine-free paper. The elemental chlorine-free paper is considered less harmful to the environment but it still produces some chlorinated compounds during the bleaching process.
At TheGreenOffice.com, the choice of paper ranked the worst is virgin paper. But, the site notes that it is sometimes unavoidable and should be used sparingly.
Ink and toner cartridges
The best choice for ink and toner cartridges is to look for remanufactured cartridges. The Office Depot’s Guide to Buying Green says that remanufacturing one toner cartridge keeps an average of two and a half kilograms of plastic out of landfills. In addition, TheGreenOffice.com notes that recycled or remanufactured cartridges are typically 20 to 50 percent less expensive than virgin cartridges.
You could also buy a refill kit and replace the ink yourself. But, this can be a time-consuming process and, as many websites note, you can be exposed to unhealthy chemicals by trying to refill the cartridge yourself.
For ink, the EPA suggests using soy-based inks rather than ink made from petroleum products. Soy ink, however, is not suitable for all purposes. You can’t use it for ball point pens or personal printers so it’s only good for commercial printing. That said, studies posted on the EPA’s website have noted that soy-based inks contained 30 percent fewer volatile organic compounds, which are chemicals that can cause air pollution and damage human health.
Pens and pencils
The best green office product tip for these essentials is to look for pens and pencils made with recycled materials. The Office Depot’s site says writing instruments can be made from recycled wood, paper, metal and plastic. In some instances, TheGreenOffice.com notes, the casing for writing instruments can be made from old money, jeans and school lunch trays.
It is generally advised that in addition to buying pens made from recycled materials, you should also buy pens that can be refilled with ink when they run out. This helps prevent pens from being thrown away and collecting in landfills.
While we’re on the subject of pens, TheGreenOffice.com notes that using water-based correction fluid is best because the product is nontoxic and contains no volatile organic compounds.
Biodegradable void fill
Using Styrofoam for any purpose leads to a whole host of environmental issues. Thankfully, there are several products on the market that can be used instead of Styrofoam.
For shipping packages, consider using biodegradable void fill. According to the Office Depot’s site, packaging materials made from vegetable-based ingredients, such as cornstarch-based peanuts, are water-soluble and break down more easily in landfills.
In some cases, this material can also be composted at home.
Recycled content scissors and other plastic products
The Office Depot’s Guide to Buying Green recommends purchasing scissors and other desktop essentials that contain a percentage of recycled plastic material. The acceptable range for the recycled plastic percentage is 10 to 100 percent post-consumer recycled content and 20 to 100 percent total recycled content.
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