10 Great, Cheap, Green Office Supplies

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In the past I’ve written about how you can save money by reducing the amount of paper you use and the 7 basics of green procurement (which includes defining office supplies standards). Now, let’s talk about basic office supplies that are great, green and cheap.

It’s easier to buy green office products than ever before. The three largest office supply retailers, Staples, Office Depot and Office Max each carry thousands of reasonably priced products with recycled content and other environmental attributes.

Some even innovate. Take Office Max, they were one of the first national retailers to carry TerraCycle products and they now sell a range of their products from notebooks made from used potato chip bags to juice pouch pencil cases.

There are also a number of green office suppliers online such as Green Line Paper.com, TheGreenOffice.com or Green Apple School Supply that offer thousands of eco-friendly products. And green promotional item companies like John Simonetta’s ProformaGreen.com and EcoPromotionsOnline.com are also good places to find green office supplies.

I found ten awesome green office supply products under $10 because no matter how small every single purchase has an impact on the environment. Whether you’re buying copy paper or forklifts, that purchasing decision is an environmental decision. So, if you want to start with some small stuff, basic office supplies are a great place to start.  Here are my favorite cheap, green office supplies:

#1. on my list is reasonably priced private-label recycled content copy paper from office supply retailers. A scan of websites today (July 2, 2009) revealed the following prices for a 10 ream case (5,000 sheets) of 30% PCW 20 lb. 8.5″ x 11′ copy paper:

Office Depot: $3.30/ream (for a limited time until stock lasts; regularly $4.00/ream)

Office Max: $4.00/ream

Staples: $4.10/ream

2. & 3. The TerraCycle E-Waste Recycling Can is made from 100% e-waste (such as crushed computers and fax machines) that would otherwise have ended up in landfills. It comes in both blue and green, holds 28 quarts and costs $9.99 (www.officemax.com).  For a more funky and slightly smaller version, the TerraCycle 12″ Urban Art Recycled Trash Bin (its that groovy one above) also costs $9.99 (ShopOnlyGreen.com).

4. Rebinder’s line of binders are the world’s only FSC Certified binders. They are made from 100% recycled chipboard and come in a range of sizes from 1/2″ to 4″. The 1/2″ ReBinder costs $2.80 each (sold by the case; 30 per case; www.rebinder.com).

5. & 6. Marcal 100% Recycled Toilet Tissue is a personal favorite. If you buy it by the case (which leads to less unnecessary shipping boxes) it costs about $0.69 a roll. While my husband doesn’t think its the softest toilet paper in the world, my three daughters and I—who arguably use more of it—are fine with it. I also use the Marcal 100% Recycled 2-Ply Paper Towels. They come in a case of 15 rolls at a cost of $1.33 a roll. (Both available at most of the retailers mentioned above.)

7. Here’s a no brainer: recycled paper clips.  You can find a box of 100 ACCO brand clips (100% total recycled/50% PCW) for $0.49 a box at Office Depot and Staples. Office Max has a recycled 4-box (400 clips) package for $0.63 a box and if you buy before July 18 you get a bubble envelope 6″x9″ 5 pack for free. Update: A number of online green office supply retailers have come forward that sell 10-packs (1,000 clips) of ACCO recycled paper clips including SB Office Supplies ($0.37 a box) and osupplies.com ($0.49 a box).

8. #7 really leads to the fact that you can do totally without paper clips. A staple-free stapler punches a small tab in up to 7 sheets of paper, then tucks the tab into the slice in the paper. Also, there’s no need to remove pesky metal staples before shredding or recycling documents. $6.99 at Green Apple School Supply.

9. & 10. And last but not least, is Pentel Recycology pens. I am a big fan of this line of pens, not only because the folks at Pentel like my book and we are working on a cross-promotion for its launch in November (full disclosure), but because they really are inexpensive and green with no compromise in quality.  All the Recycology products or containers are made from a minimum of 50%, and up to 100%, recycled content or post-consumer recycled content (excluding consumable content and refills).  The recycled R.S.V.P.® Retractable Ball Point Pen is a great all around pen and sells for $1.08 each (sold by the dozen at Staples). And, if you like eco-whimsy, the Recyclogy Desk Top Bin is good fun. Made of 35% recycled material, the least expensive desk bin (there are three options) comes with 16 Handy-line S Highlighters (each Handy-line S Highlighter is made of 54% recycled plastic) at a cost of $1.57 a marker and the desk bin is included.

Bottom line is that greening your basic office supplies is an area where small businesses can have an enormous impact. Given our tremendous collective purchasing power, small businesses can actually move the dial on the demand for environmentally friendly materials and products. If small businesses across the country increase demand for these products, it will promote innovation and expand the market for green products and materials; that, in turn, will reduce prices and allow a greater number of people to adopt environmentally friendly products and services. If that can happen, small business will be in a position to have an incredibly powerful, long-term impact on the environment. It will lead to an environmental paradigm shift in this country for which small businesses can take at least partial credit.

Next week: Ink & Toner.

Photos courtesy of (in order of appearance) TerraCycle/Dara Seabridge, Office Max, TerraCycle/Dara Seabridge, Sustainable Group, Office Max (x2), Red Apple Office Supply and Pentel of America.

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