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Buy green office products

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Organisations have significant buying power. Swinging that power around to make the best use of our limited resources is easier than ever.

Our workplaces provide great opportunities to make a real impact through our purchasing choices. Imagine the difference it would make if all organisations purchased renewable energy, used 100 per cent post-consumer recycled paper and recycled or refilled their thousands of printer cartridges.

Often the shift required is minimal (e.g. moving from non-recycled paper to recycled paper), yet the effect from many workers observing this habit over time is profound.

How to do it now!

Audit your office purchases and go green. Compile a master list of all supplies and equipment used by your organisation and identify environmentally-preferred options as well as suppliers for each.

  • Green Procurement Program - Run by the not-for-profit organisation Good Environmental Choice, this program helps train procurement officers to buy green.
  • Environmental Labelling Program - Run by Good Environmental Choice, this program labels and lists pro-environmental products on their database to help organisations that want to buy green.
  • Eco-Buy – This program works with governments and business to help move them towards environmentally friendly purchasing.

Buy recycled paper. Buying recycled paper complements a staff effort to use less paper and recycle it (see our Save paper and forsets action), and significantly reduces the impact on the environment. Some things to aim for when purchasing recycled paper include:

  • 100% recycled content with a high percentage of ‘post consumer’ fibre.
  • Non-recycled content sourced from places certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (see our Buy paper and wood responsibly action).
  • Paper of the lightest possible weight - 80gsm is average.
  • Paper manufactured in Australia (thus avoiding transport energy).
  • Unbleached paper.
  • Non-coloured papers.
  • Water-based adhesives and mailing labels.
  • If you must use bleached paper, choose one that uses the most environmentally friendly production process. The following list starts with the friendliest and works down:

1. Paper bleached using Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) processes is the best. The Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF) is not as good, but OK.

2. Paper bleached using oxygen delignification or extended delignification, and bleached without elemental chlorine.

3. Paper bleached using oxygen delignification or extended delignification, and bleached using some residual elemental chlorine.

4. Paper bleached without using elemental chlorine but not made using oxygen delignification or extended delignification.

5. Paper bleached using only elemental chlorine, and sulphite pulps, even if TCF, should be AVOIDED.

Buy renewable electricity. Switching the organisation's energy from coal to renewable electricity complements a staff effort to use less energy (see our Buy renewable electricity action) and encourages further effort by all.

Electricity Provider Phone No# ACT NSW NT QLD SA TAS VIC WA
AGL 131 245        
Aurora Energy 131 002              
Australian Power and Gas 133 298              
Essential Energy 13 23 91      
Energy Australia 13 15 02          
Ergon Energy 13 10 46              
Green Choice 131 493    
Horizon Power 1800 089 504              
Integral Energy 131 002            
Lumo Energy 1300 115 866        
Origin Energy 13 24 63        
Power Direct 1300 307 966        
PowerWater 1800 245 092              
Red Energy 1300 360 294              
Simply Energy 13 88 08            
South Australia Electricity 1300 360 294              
Synergy 13 13 53              

Alternatively these retailers allow you to remain with your current electricity retailer but offset your carbon emissions through the purchase GreenPower credits.

Carbon Offset Provider Phone No# ACT NSW NT QLD SA TAS VIC WA
CO2 Exchange
03 9805 0728        
Climate Friendly 02 9356 3600        
COZero 02 9011 7804      
Green Choice 131 493          

Buy the most efficient office equipment. Analysing and understanding the lifetime cost of equipment - a cost that includes the cost of operational energy and resource use (e.g. paper) - is essential for making sustainable decisions (and business cases). So, when looking to purchase or lease computers, printers, fax machines, and copiers ensure they:

  • Are Energy Star - certified for energy efficiency, with 'power-down' modes and other energy-saving features.
  • Are able to work with a broad range of plain office papers, including the capacity to reuse paper that has already been printed on one side.
  • Are robust and don't require frequent maintenance.
  • Have two-sided printing capability and the ability to set this as the default mode.
  • Are able to be used with recycled toner cartridges (some copier and printer companies also offer recycled toner cartridges and provide for recycling of spent cartridges).

Purchase recycled ink and toner cartridges. Reconditioned or remanufactured cartridges are available for the following office equipment:

  • laser and inkjet printers.
  • photocopiers.
  • fax machines.
  • dot matrix printers.

According to the Australian Cartridge Remanufacturers Association (ACRA), remanufactured cartridges are now around 50 per cent cheaper than new products. The ACRA site has a database of remanufacturers if you want to purchase recycled ink and toner cartridges.

Reward staff with indoor plants. Encourage and (pay for) staff to deck the office with toxin-absorbing plants. Alternatively, plant rental (and service) companies exist that will fit out and maintain a jungle of indoor plants in your office.

Why is this action important?

Like all elements of our society, organisations need to become active participants in the journey towards sustainable living. In addition, as organisations commit to using less energy, water and resources, they show leadership to their staff. That's not to mention the money to be saved and the improvement to brand, culture and staff morale.