Anyone who works in an office – be it in a company or at home – consumes resources such as paper, printing ink and electricity, which gives rise to operating costs. Green office technology and green office materials help to protect corporate and household budgets as well as the environment. Read on to find out how!
In 2018, paper, office supplies and stationery worth almost €13bn was sold in Germany alone. The buyers of office technology and office supplies are companies as well as private households – especially since more people have started working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. According to Statista, in 2019 alone, private consumers in Germany bought 3.9 million printers. After packaging paper (53%), the proportion of printing and writing paper in terms of German production volume comes in second place (34%). According to the news programme of German TV channel ZDF, Germans are even the world champions when it comes to paper consumption, with almost 242 kg being used per capita.
Countless trees are felled around the world to produce paper: according to estimates, 18 trees for every 10 office workers every year. Moreover, vast amounts of water and chemicals are required – including environmentally harmful chlorine – to bleach the paper. Anyone who consistently buys office materials made from recycled and chlorine-free bleached paper (trade mark: PCF for "Process Chlorine Free") leaves trees alive and saves the environment a great deal of pollution.
But folders, loose-leaf binders or envelopes made from recycled paper and printable recycled paper alone do not make offices green. All the processes in one‘s everyday office life have to be reconsidered and designed so to be as paper-free as possible: digital storage is more climate-friendly than printing, an e-mail is more climate-friendly than a letter by post… The path to achieving the paperless office is a gradual process and can start with getting into the habit of printing and photocopying on both sides of the sheet of paper by default. And environmentally friendly printer ink (ink and toner) also plays a major role.
Purchasing climate-friendly office technology can cut corporate or household expenditure in the long run. Reliable information about whether computers, printers and lamps function in a way that conserves power and resources and do so without any problems over a long period of operation is provided by environmental labels such as the "Blue Angel". The reparability of office technology is also becoming an increasingly important sales criterion. And rightly so, since it is a resource-saving measure against built-in or planned obsolescence, i.e. the length of the useful life of their products that many manufacturers still deliberately keep short in order to tempt consumers to throw away irreparable models and buy new ones.
Office supplies and stationery made of plastic can nowadays be easily replaced with products made of recycled paper. In the meantime, there are even "vegan products for the office", such as the "Ordner Pure vegan" ("Pure vegan folder") from Falken.
Writing instruments made of recycled plastic and paper or cardboard as well as wood also improve the ecological footprint of offices. Examples include the product lines of "Line-Up" and "Like" from the manufacturer Schneider or the "2nd Life" series from Online Schreibgeräte GmbH.
However, environmental protection does not stop with pen casings: instead of using short-lived disposable products, writing should be done with writing tools whose refills and cartridges can be repeatedly refilled. If adhesive tape is required, it should at least be made of recycled material, e.g. "Tesa Klebeband eco + clear".
In a research project funded by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the University of Würzburg found out that 85.3% of buyers purchase ecological office supplies because they are aware of the finite nature of fossil resources. Among the buyers, 81.8% of them hope to improve their company’s public image and 51.3% deliberately back regional suppliers (source: cebra.biz 01_20).
The Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) provides buyers with a free downloadable guide to purchasing environmentally friendly office materials at the Internet address..
About the author
The freelance organic journalist and #motherof4 Doreen Brumme blogs at doreenbrumme.de about the organic lifestyle for work, school and family.