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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2005 10:08 am

Earth Talk

From the editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear “Earth Talk”: Where can I find green-friendly office products and back-to-school supplies?
— Taylor Howe, San Francisco, Calif.

Environmentally friendly school and office products have been available for decades from specialty suppliers, but in recent years many recycled kinds of papers, pens, pencils, toner cartridges, binders, folders, and desk accessories have become ubiquitous in mainstream office-supply stores.

Paper continues to be the largest source of waste generated by office workers and students, and several paper manufacturers have risen to the challenge of providing recycled and even “tree-free” papers at competitive prices. New Leaf Everest, Badger Envirographic, and Eureka! 100 are some of the leaders in recycled paper, and Dolphin Blue makes tree-free paper from recycled scraps of denim, old money, and the plants hemp and kenaf. Buyers can order these papers from online vendors including GreenLine Paper and Treecycle, although retail office-supply stores also now carry a wide array of 100 percent post-consumer-waste recycled papers.

Meanwhile, materials such as biodegradable cornstarch and recycled plastic and cardboard are starting to replace virgin plastic and vinyl in pens, binders, notebooks, and desk accessories such as rulers, pencil cases, and staplers. Also, pencil manufacturers such as Pentel, Autopoint and ForestChoice have gotten serious about crafting their products from sustainably harvested timber and other green materials, including old currency. Online vendors such as Green Earth Office Supply, the Recycled Office Products Company, Real Earth Environmental Company, and Mama’s Earth stock these products. Meanwhile, Discount Inkjet Printer Ink Cartridges sells a wide range of recycled inkjet toner cartridges and ink refills compatible with all major brands of copiers and computer printers.

Many of these companies offer special price breaks for nonprofits, local government agencies, schools, and universities and donate a portion of proceeds to environmental nonprofits. Consumers who shop at these stores can rest assured that they are minimizing their impact on Earth while supporting small, innovative companies. But those in need of a quick green fix might be surprised at how good the selection is these days at places such as Office Depot, Staples and OfficeMax, too.

Although individuals often feel powerless to help solve the world’s environmental ills, they can make a difference through their consumer choices. Buying only environmentally friendly office and school supplies is a great place to start.

Contact info: Treecycle, www.treecycle.com; Mama’s Earth, www.mamasearth.com, Green Earth Office Supply, store.yahoo.com/greenearthofficesupply; Discount Inkjet Printer Ink Cartridges, www.discount-inks.com; GreenLine Paper, www.greenlinepaper.com; Recycled Office Products Co., www.recycledofficeproducts.com; the Real Earth Inc., www.treeco.com.

Send questions to “Earth Talk” in care of E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881, or e-mail earthtalk@emagazine.com.

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