Tips: Setting Up An Environmentally Friendly Home Office, Part 2

If you're one of the many Americans with a home office, you know that perhaps one of the greatest benefits is that you're in charge. Whether you run a business, telecommute, take classes, or simply manage household finances, the day-to-day choices you make about office supplies and equipment can have a big impact on the environment. As the decision-maker, you can make a difference by choosing to conserve resources and reduce waste and pollution.

Writing Tools

All too often pens, pencils, crayons,and other writing tools eventually end up in the garbage, be sure to consider some the following alternatives to extend their use and reduce waste:

  • Buy refillables. "Mechanical " pencils and ballpoint pens can be refilled hundreds of times, as long as the pen pencil casing does not break.
  • Choose recycled products. Several pencil and pen manufacturers now make their products from recycled plastic, newspapers, and fabrics -- even old money. Read the label on the package before you buy.
  • Avoid toxics. An increasing number of pens and markers are available in nontoxic ink. Crayons are now made from soybean oil instead of more dangerous chemicals.
  • Buy in bulk. Buy pens, pencils, and markers in multi-packs rather than single packages to save on the resources used for packaging.


The choices for buying eco-friendly desks, chairs, cabinets, shelves, and other office furniture are plentiful. Here 's where you can start when making a new purchase:

  • Buy recycled furniture.
    • More and more shelving and countertops are being made from recycled alternatives to conventional wood or fiberboard products.
    • Consider furniture made of "wheatboard." This alternative material is manufactured from straw that is normally discarded when wheat is harvested. Wheatboard is a sturdy fiberboard that is more economical than standard wood particleboard.
    • Seek out one of the many manufacturers that incorporate recycled steel or aluminum into their furniture designs.
  • Refurbish old furniture.
    • Before you buy new furniture,consider the possibility of recovering or refinishing your current stock. Wood can be restained or repainted, and cushions can be recovered.
    • Donate old furniture. Contact community groups, churches, shelters, schools, and even senior centers before discarding used desks, filing cabinets, and other office furnishings and equipment.


For more information on ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle every day, visit:

Care2, an environmental network connecting consumers with nonprofit organizations and eco-oriented corporations --

Earth911,providing environmental information and ideas for your local area --

EarthShare, a nationwide network of America's leading nonprofit environmental and conservation organizations --

EPA Office of Solid Waste --

For information on purchasing recycled products, visit:

Eco Mall provides an array of information about environmentally preferable products, including office supplies --

GreenDisk --

Green Earth Office Supply sells a wide range of environmentally friendly office and school supplies --

Recycle Store, which showcases recycled-content products and puts you in touch directly with its manufacturers --

EPA Office of Solid Waste: Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines --

For information on ways to reduce waste when constructing new spaces, visit:

EPA Office of Solid Waste: Construction and Demolition Debris --

For information on rechargeable batteries or to find a dropoff site near you, visit:

Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corp., a nonprofit public service organization --

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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