Buy green office products

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.

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 Electricity 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 retailer Phone ACT NSW  NT  QLD  SA  TAS  VIC  WA  Score*
Powershop  1800 462 668  -  Yes  -  -  -  -  Yes  -  86%
Diamond Energy  1300 838 009  -  Yes  -  Yes  Yes  -  Yes  -  85%
Momentum Energy  1800 794 824  -  Yes  -  -  Yes  -  Yes  -  69%
Aurora Energy  131 002  -  -  -  -  -  Yes  -  -  65%
Red Energy  131 806  -  Yes  -  -  Yes  -  Yes  -  60%
Lumo Energy  1300 115 866  -  Yes  -  Yes  Yes  -  Yes  -  59%
ActewAGL  13 14 93  Yes  Yes  -  -  -  -  -  58%
Origin Energy  13 24 63  Yes  Yes  Yes  Yes  Yes  -  57%
AGL  131 245  -  Yes  -  Yes Yes   -  Yes  -  51%
Dodo Power & Gas  133 636  -  Yes  Yes Yes   Yes  -  49%
Energy Australia  13 15 02  Yes  Yes  Yes  Yes  - Yes   49%
Click Energy  1800 775 929  Yes  -  Yes  -  Yes  -  47%
Power Direct  1300 307 966  -  Yes  Yes Yes   - Yes   -  47%
Ergon Energy  13 10 46  -  -  Yes  -  46%
Synergy  13 13 53  -  -  -  -  Yes  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.

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.