It isn’t hard to see that our society’s current way of using the environment is unsustainable. Nearly everyone recognizes that significant change is needed. The problem is that we’re tempted to look to the government or to large corporations for that change, while not recognizing that a sustainable society requires adjustments at every level. We are all responsible for making adjustments in our consumption and other choices, out of concern for the environment and the future. One great place to start is the office. Here are a few basic changes you can make in your workplace to move towards more eco-friendly office supplies.
1. Recycled Paper
There is hardly anything that offices use more often than paper, but thankfully paper also happens to be one of the easiest things to recycle. Choosing recycled paper will add very little to your total costs, but it can have a huge, positive effect on the environment. It can also help your business if your customers know that you are making real, significant efforts towards environmental sustainability.
2. Renewable Inks
Right alongside paper, printer ink is another recurring supply every office needs. Consider buying sustainable options like soy ink from environmentally conscious suppliers. Not only is soy ink more renewable than petroleum-based inks, but it also degrades quicker after being thrown away. Best of all, soy-based ink is easier and cheaper to recycle.
You should also recycle used inkjet and toner cartridges and buy remanufactured or refilled cartridges. Some companies will let you ship the used cartridges back to them for free. Other companies will give you a significant discount on your next purchase if you send in used cartridges. Since these supplies are, technically, examples of e-waste, the benefit for the environment is only magnified that much more.
3. Rechargeable Batteries
An increasing number of devices we use on a daily basis rely on batteries. Wireless keyboards and mice require fresh batteries from time to time and this can add up quickly in an office setting. Why not buy a few sets of rechargeable batteries and a charger and be done with this cost once and for all? Most importantly, rechargeable batteries are much better for the environment. One manufacturer I noticed even offers AA batteries with a built-in USB port to make charging especially convenient.
4. Refillable whiteboard markers
This is a solution for more than just the environment. Have you ever had a great idea you were excited to share, only to start writing with a dead or dying whiteboard marker? Somehow, it seems impossible to keep your markers writing well, no matter how many new packages you buy. The fresh markers seem to disappear. Making your whiteboard markers refillable saves a huge amount on wasted plastics and unnecessary garbage, but it might also reduce some of your frustration by finally giving you markers that actually work.
5. Go paperless Wherever Possible
Going paperless has been a hope for the future for a very long time. For the most part, these expectations haven’t come true so far. But the advent of mobile computing and the growth of the tablet market has finally made some inroads in this direction. Consider making tablets available to your employees and invest in wireless projectors for conference rooms. You may be able to recover the initial cost in technology with savings in paper and printing a lot faster than you think. You will also see an increase in productivity and your decision will definitely be much better for the environment.
I'm the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular clean energy website in the world, and Planetsave, a leading green and science news site. I've been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and I've been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, bicycling, and wind energy for the past few years. You can also find my work on Scientific American, Reuters, Think Progress, GE's ecomagination site, several sites in the Important Media network, & many other places. To connect on some of your favorite social networks, go to zacharyshahan.com or click on some of the links below.