Environmentally Friendly Office Supplies


What It Is

Environmentally friendly office supplies go beyond recyclable paper or toner cartridges. A wide range of products are now available, ranging from desk supplies and flash drives to packing materials and calculators. A burgeoning market of office products manufactured using environmentally safe methods and renewable resources is thriving, providing reliable and improved alternatives to older, less sustainably made office supplies.

Environmentally friendly products often include recycled content, have environmental certifications (i.e. ENERGY STAR, EcoLogo), and incorporate environmental design elements.


Why It Matters

Environmentally friendly office supplies reduce long-term costs, enhance corporate image, and improve sustainability. Making the switch to environmentally friendly office supplies requires only a few small and simple steps.

While eco-friendly products might cost slightly more than regular products, prices have been driven down significantly as products continue to increase in popularity and competition intensifies. Despite some higher upfront costs, green products often have a very fast return of investment (ROI) and can save organizations money. Using ENERGY STAR certified printers, shedders, and other office electronics requires less energy than non-certified products, thus reducing company utility costs. In fact, simply switching to an eco-friendly surge protector that costs $29.99 can lead to an average annual savings of $25 per year.[1]

Customers and employees alike value organizations that put an emphasis on environmental sustainability. The knowledge that they are contributing to a company that is socially aware has innumerable influences on individual preferences.  According to a study conducted by McKinsey, large corporations have recognized this preference, and this has driven their initial steps toward improved sustainability.[2] Investing in environmentally friendly office supplies would most certainly be categorized as taking steps toward a more sustainable future.


Getting Started

To cut costs and improve sustainability within the office:

  1. Step One: Identify office supply products in your office that could be replaced with sustainable alternatives.
  2. Step Two: Research product options online or through retail catalogs.
  3. Step Three: Develop criteria and a transition plan for replacement products.
  4. Step Four: Make well-informed purchases.


Step One

Create a list of office supplies that organizations should consider replacing with environmentally friendly office supplies. Pay particular attention to office supplies that are purchased frequently (like paper and ink cartridges), are constantly turned on (like computers, printers, surge protectors, and small electronics), or have a low cost to begin with (like desk supplies).

Step Two

Investigate environmentally friendly replacement options for office supplies identified in step one. Compare costs of products and possible savings differences. An internet search of “environmentally friendly office supplies” will yield a number of results, and you can usually find different options on an office retailer’s website or in its product catalog.

Step Three

If operating on a tight budget, rather than switching over to environmentally friendly office supplies all at once, it may be more manageable to make the transition slowly. Therefore it is important to identify which office supplies should be replaced more quickly to produce the most savings at the lowest cost. It could be helpful to create a transition map and timeline to guide what should be replaced at what point in time.

Step Four

Follow the plan created in step three to implement change to environmentally friendly office supplies. A majority of office supplies stores carry a wide range of environmentally friendly products so be sure to find the product that best suits your business’s needs.    


Going Further

  • Step One: Inform suppliers of change.
  • Step Two: Change cleaning supplies. 
  • Step Three: Go paperless. 


Step One

Inform your suppliers that you are making a concerted effort to purchase environmentally friendly products and desire updates when new environmentally products are available.

Step Two

Replace office-cleaning supplies with non-toxic environmentally friendly options. A number of brands are available in most retail stores.

Step Three

See the Green Plus Environmentally Friendly Printing Guide for more information.


Case Studies

Balfour Beatty

Balfour Beatty, an infrastructure services business, has taken a number of steps to improve its environmental sustainability. Combined with cutting air travel and implementing a double-sided printing policy in its offices, Balfour Beatty has also switched a number of its office supplies to environmentally friendly products. The company found that the new supplies were surprisingly more competitively priced than expected. The head of the sustainability group said, “this dispels the myth that recycled and eco-friendly products have a cost premium attached to them.”[3]


According to UBS’s “Environmental Report 2004,” the company has made a concerted effort to increase the use of environmentally friendly office supplies. Employees who are responsible for purchasing office supplies were given descriptions of products along with ecological labels to encourage its purchasing decisions.[4]


Resources for More Information



Using environmentally friendly office supplies is an easy and effective technique to begin to improve your businesses sustainability, cost savings, and public perception. Switching to eco-friendly products help your business and your customers simultaneously.


[1] “Staples 7-Outlet 2250 Joule EcoEasy Surge Protector with Dataline Protection,” Staples, http://www.staples.com/Staples-7-Outlet-2250-Joule-EcoEasy-Surge-Protector-with-Dataline-Protection/product_764398?#desc_content, accessed 6 August 2013.

[2] “The Business of Sustainability,” McKinsey & Company,  October 2011, http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/energy_resources_materials/the_business_of_sustainability_mckinsey_global_survey_resultse, accessed 6 August 2013.

[3] Adam Leach, “Sustainability that pays,” Supply Management, 4 October 2011, http://www.supplymanagement.com/news/2011/sustainability-that-pays/, accessed 6 August 2013.

[4] UBS, “UBS Environmental Report,” 7 April 2004: 35. Available in PDF form at: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=12&ved=0CGAQFjABOAo&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ubs.com%2F1%2FShowMedia%2Fabout%2Fcorp_responsibility%2Fcommitment_strategy%2Freporting_assurance%2Freports%3FcontentId%3D99317%26name%3DEnvironmentalReportPrintVersion.pdf&rct=j&q=case%20study%20%22environmentally%20friendly%20office%20supplies%22&ei=OyKTTtrEKYPY0QHjiJlY&usg=AFQjCNET9ThgVJprTIErJY_GMTqLefHJ3Q&cad=rja,

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