eco Council

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 forests 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.

The following list of Green power electricity retailers is ordered with the Greenest at the top and dirtiest at the bottom. This ranking comes from The Green Electricty Guide, a collaboration between CHOICE, the Total Environment Centre (TEC), Greenpeace and the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

To switch, just call the number on your latest electricity bill (or from the table below) and tell them you want to switch to 100 per cent renewable electricity (or a percentage).

If you are in the mood for a change, here is the list (greenest at the top).

Electricity retailerPhone No#ACTNSWNTQLDSATASVICWAScore*
Powershop 1800 462 668   -   ✔   -   -   -   -  ✔   -    86%
Diamond Energy 1300 838 009   -   ✔   -  ✔  ✔   -   ✔   -    85%
Momentum Energy 1800 794 824   -   ✔   -   -  ✔   -  ✔   -    69%
Aurora Energy 131 002   -    -   -   -   -  ✔   -   -    65%
Red Energy 131 806   -   ✔   -   -  ✔   -  ✔   -    60%
Lumo Energy 1300 115 866   -   ✔   -  ✔  ✔   -  ✔   -    59%
ActewAGL 1300 115 866  ✔   ✔   -   -   -   -   -   -    58%
Origin Energy 13 24 63  ✔   ✔   -  ✔  ✔   -  ✔   -    57%
AGL 131 245   -   ✔   -  ✔  ✔   -  ✔   -    51%
Dodo Power & Gas 133 636   -   ✔   -  ✔  ✔   -  ✔   -    49%
Energy Australia 13 15 02  ✔   ✔   -  ✔  ✔   -  ✔   -    49%
Click Energy 1800 775 929   -   ✔   -  ✔   -   -  ✔   -    47%
Power Direct 1300 307 966   -   ✔   -  ✔  ✔   -  ✔   -    47%
Ergon Energy 13 10 46   -   -   -  ✔   -   -   -   -    46%
Synergy 13 13 53   -   -   -   -   -   -   -  ✔    42%

* Retailers are scored on:

  • The carbon emissions intensity of the power stations some retailers own – 20%
  • Renewable energy policy position and new investments – 10%
  • Support for GreenPower – 20%
  • Offers to solar customers – 15%
  • Policy positions on and investment in fossil fuels (coal and coal seam gas) and burning native forests – 15%
  • Energy efficiency performance and promotion – 10%
  • Transparency in sustainability reporting – 10%

Source: The Green Electricity Guide Report.

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.

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.The benefits of making our work spaces healthier and more environmentally friendly are significant – including engaging all levels of staff in something positive and productive, working more closely with local communities and improving morale around the office. This action will help us all to feel proud to be a part of the organisations in which we work!


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