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The World of Green Office Products

Businesses are increasingly doing their part to contribute to a greener world through the use of green office products. As we mark the 40th anniversary of Earth Day this year, companies are increasingly using green business products that can make an office as efficient, clean and productive as ever, while enabling them to use fewer resources and save money.

Going green has turned into big business, with annual sales of green business products growing from some $80 billion in 2008 to an estimated $400 billion this year, according to A.C. Nielsen. This sales growth is driven by the commitment of office products purchasers to purchase environmentally responsible products and the wide array of high-quality green office products offered by local office supply dealers. These dealers are backed by smart and committed manufacturers who are responding to the growing appetite for green products.

Manufacturers and dealers offer businesses real choices -- not just between a few products in narrow categories, but from among thousands of products in dozens of categories. These include paper, envelopes and folders; rechargeable batteries; remanufactured ink cartridges; biodegradable cleaners; office furniture and much more.

Vision Business Products has made a significant commitment to providing environmentally friendly office supplies. Here are some of the main categories of green products, supported by top-tier manufacturers, which offer real choices in sustainable supplies.

Consumables – The Most Used Products

Consumables are products used every day that are essential to run a modern office. Paper is the most common consumable, used for everything from printing and correspondence to products in office kitchens and bathrooms. Altogether, even a modest-sized office consumes hundreds or thousands of pounds of paper each year. Manufacturers have responded with numerous green selections for specific uses.

Paper requires bright color, substantial weight and the ability to accept clear imprinting of ink. Technology now makes it possible to get crisp printed pages using paper stock with high recycled-paper content. Documents for submission to customers can easily use paper with 30% recycled content that features bright white (92 to 96 GE brightness) or a choice of bright colors. Available from well-know suppliers such as Boise, Hammermill, Mohawk, Oxford, Strathmore, Universal and Wausau, paper is available in quantities up to 10-ream/5,000-sheet cartons. The carton themselves are made with recycled cardboard, an additional green benefit.

For less sensitive documents, printer and copier paper with up to 100% recycled content is available, as is cover stock for report covers.

Miscellaneous paper products for everything from note-taking to file storage offer high levels of recycled content. Here are some examples:

  • Note pads can easily utilize 40% or 50% recycled-paper content
  • Self-stick notes in every imaginable color range from 30% to 100% recycled content
  • Envelopes, notebooks, easel pads and adding-machine paper also range from 30% to 100%
  • Index cards, heavy-duty mailers, hanging binders and calendars/planners are widely available with 10% to 30% recycled-content
  • File folders, manila folders and pressboard classification folders (with tab-cut dividers for permanent document protection) exceed 30%
  • Super-strong products such as "accordion" files (up to 100%), heavy-duty corrugated storage boxes (65%), and stackable reinforced-paper storage drawers (35%) round out the product selections

These products come from names that are second to none, including Bankers Box, Post-It, Smead, Pendaflex and Universal.

Many other paper products, such as hand towels, kitchen-towel rolls and toilet tissue provide additional opportunities for offices to go green. Single-, C- and multi-fold towels with 40%, 80% and even 90% recycled content make a difference. So do towel rolls with 40%, bath tissue with up to 90%, and facial tissue with up to 45% recycled content. Plus, there is no need to be concerned about quality, with names like Kimberly-Clark and Windsoft on these products.

Everyday Products

Plastic products intended for repeated use can range from 20% to 100% recycled content. Round-ring binders and D-ring binders, for example, can have up to 45% recycled content to help reduce plastic consumption. Letter trays with 25% and other desktop accessories with 30% are readily available. Some desktop organizers have 50%; one type of clipboard has 96%. There is even a plastic-and-metal stapler that is made of 100% recycled content. Among the trusted names producing recycled-plastic accessories are Rubbermaid, Saunders and Scotch.

Writing instruments from Bic, Pentel, Sharpie and Wilson Jones provide a number of options. There are numerous types of smooth-writing pens and highlighters with as much as 18% to 82% recycled plastic content, plus they use acid-free nontoxic ink.

Consumable plastic products offer another opportunity to conserve. Products include drink cups/lids made from recycled plastic or compostable corn-based plastic, and trash bags made of biodegradable plastic. These are practical and cost-effective solutions from "companies that care." In fact, manufacturer Eco-Products goes a step further. Its zero-waste main office is powered largely by solar panels and its delivery trucks use natural gas or bio-diesel fuel.

Remanufactured Printer and Toner Cartridges

Remanufactured cartridges help the environment by getting multiple service lives out of used cartridges. Each cartridge adds up to 3 lbs. of waste to a landfill when finally discarded, after factoring in manufacturing byproducts. With an estimated 500 million laser and printer cartridges produced each year, plus tens of millions of copier toner cartridges, recycling them can have a significant impact on the environment.

Furthermore, recycling office-equipment cartridges is cost-effective, and there is no difference in print quality or page yield between new OEM cartridges and remanufactured ones that use the original OEM cores. Cartridges for equipment from Brother, HP, IBM and Lexmark use as much as 70% recycled content and have the approval of these OEM manufacturers.

Printer Manufacturers Who Support the Environment

Several manufacturers have taken an extra environmental step by offering free, easily accessible cartridge recycling and working to reduce the manufacturing "carbon footprint." Since 1991, HP has offered its HP Planet Partners program for the free return and recycling of Original HP cartridges. HP also re-engineered its handling and packaging of recycled cartridges, which it estimated reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 37 million pounds of carbon dioxide in 2007. Another green innovation is the Brother HL-2140 printer equipped with a "toner saver" mode to extend cartridge lifespan.

Rechargeable Batteries

Many offices use hundreds or thousands of batteries in everything from adding machines and wall clocks to tape recorders, cameras and smoke detectors. From AAs and AAAs to heavy-duty 9V batteries, they add up in landfills unless rechargeable batteries are used. Thanks to Energizer batteries and wall plug-in chargers, which can charge 4 AAs or AAAs in just 15 minutes, dependable NiMH and NiCad batteries can be used again and again.

Cleaning Products

Many cleaning products contain toxic ingredients or "volatile organic compounds." VOCs are the petroleum-based solvents which emit fumes into the atmosphere and office air. Fortunately, there are effective, residue-free natural alternatives to chemicals used in janitorial and sanitation ("jan-san") products. Soaps, hand cleaners, kitchen/bathroom cleaners, degreasers and floor/carpet cleaners are available with lemon oil, coconut-based cleaning agents, corn-based alcohol and neutral-pH surfactants. Cleaners and cleansers are available in scented varieties and in water-dilutable bulk packs, such as economical 800-, 1000- and 1250-ml cartons to refill Gojo hand-soap dispensers. Some other trusted names include Amrep, Clorox, Method, Seventh Generation and Simple Green.

Fluorescent Bulbs

Energy-saving light bulbs offer life spans of up to 12,000 hours each. These compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs with their characteristic "spiral-twisted top") are winning converts in green offices. A great choice is the Mini Lynx model from SLI Lighting, which comes in Cool White and is warranted against early failure.

Steel Products

There is an abundance of metal products in a modern office, including desktop accessories to hold or sort papers, files, folders and books. Manufactures such as Buddy Products, Mirage and Sunset offer accessories such as slant racks, lock boxes, vertical organizers and sorting racks, which average about 30% recycled content. Even higher levels are found in Acco paper clips, which can use 100% recycled metal.

Office Furniture

Chairs, desks, bookshelves and file cabinets can contain sizeable quantities of toxic, odor-emitting materials and VOCs depending on how the furniture is manufactured. To counter this problem, the office furniture industry now has in place a VOC-free certification program called Indoor Advantage. Certified office furniture uses wood and wood laminates with non-VOC stains and finishes. Likewise, there is furniture whose fabrics are non-emitting. Products with superior non-emission characteristics qualify for Indoor Advantage Gold certification that complies with the more rigorous standards set by California. A brand name to watch for when shopping for non-emitting office furniture is HON.


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