Art store run!

Went by the Utrecht art supplies store. Loose pencil (also china markers and colored pencils, in lieu of markers), gum erasers, metal rulers, gummed paper tape and a wide variety of paper supplies — all without additional plastic or extra packaging.

Which is why I think of the art stores as good office supplies stores.

Brass brads keep papers together

OK: three posts in the last 2 years is a pretty poor result. I’ll try to do better.

Now some plastic reduction. I bought these brass brads to keep papers together. They’re fun and remind me of elementary school book reports and high school plays. Inexpensive, reusable and not a bit of plastic.

Low plastic? Shop on campus

I was in Athens, Georgia last weekend for a University of Georgia alumni event. One fun thing about being in a college town is shopping for items unavailable elsewhere. (Metro D.C. is — what? — thirty times the size, but it’s easier to get beer-making supplies in Athens, for instance.)

One such product line is green office supplies, or rather school supplies. I was taken with the recycled paper blue books — dubbed and colored as “green books” — plus recycled-plastic-content pens (I prefer my fountain pen) and corrugated-cardboard ring binders. There was even a aluminum-cased USB stick in all-cardboard packaging. Other things — one I bought and will describe later — too.

Some were marginally more than their non-recycled-content companions; others, like that USB stick, were quite a bit more. Bit it’s nice to have the options and I saw it at every bookstore I visited.

Low plastic office: Hollinger boxes

A truly paperless office, even if desirable, is very hard to organize. Paper is just too useful a product and paper printed quickly becomes paper stored. There are many metal filing tools for those who want to avoid plastic, but these are often packed in plastic or are simply too large or unwieldy for the task.

For this middle ground, I like the cool aesthetics and fiber and metal construction of Hollinger boxes. To me, they’re the visual language of archives, and thus research and storage. They even have boxes for human remains — think archaeology — so one might also be my final, er, storage place.

Until then, I keep manila folders full of files in flip-top boxes. Attractive enough to keep out, and no plastic. I keep rare books and papers in a lidded variety. I’ve had mine for years, but I recall them being shipped in cardboard cartons with kraft paper packing. (And D.C.-ites, one of their two factories is in Fredericksburg, Va. Loco-storage?)

Order them online here.

Getting rid of phone books

Today, NPR had a segment (“The Phone Book’s Days Appear Numbered”) about a California bill to make white page directories opt-in, the problems associated with their production and disposal and about the overall decline of the utility of phonebooks. (These are, of course, mostly paper — a valuable resource in its own right — but sometimes they’ve wrapped in plastic.)

A phone book trade group obviously sensing pressure — other state bill have failed, but for how long I wonder — have created an opt-out service. Not so useful, but worth promoting if your goal is to reduce useless giveaways. (Catalog Choice is another.)

Go to for details.

Low Plastic Office: rubber bands

I’ve been thinking about reducing plastic use in the office which — after home — is the place it makes the most sense for me and for many others.

I want to point out the obvious: rubber bands are really handy. I use them to bundle papers, including files. I use them to cinch cables — plastic-covered! — to protect them from wear. I use them to affix a note to an odd-sized object. I even use one in place of a wallet.

Being made of rubber, they biodegrade — indeed, how many times have we run across one that’s brittle and about to crack? And they can even be had without plastic packaging. Some are boxed, true, but I get mine from the letter carrier, holding together mail. But I only keep as many as I use. The rest I collect and return. Better, after all to reuse than recycle.

Keeping packing peanuts out of landfills

We can agree that plastic packing peanuts are best avoided, who actually seeks them out? Indeed, they seek us in the goods we order or gifts we receive.

We get many at work, and they’re not recyclable through the usual waste streams. But shipping companies will sometimes take them and reuse them.

The Plastic Loose Fill Council has a zip code based finder for places that will take packing peanuts, but even in D.C. none were close enough to justify the effort, when work time is considered. (I try only to model behavior a reasonable person would imitate.)

But since I saw the D.C. participants were USP Stores, I called the closest one and even though they weren’t on the list, they gladly accepted them.

A note on my workflow: I test packing peanuts with a drop of water. The still-rare starch-based ones get sticky and dissolve and so I dispose of them in the breakroom sink. best not to mix the kinds in case the plastic reaches an area where they really can be recycled.

Low plastic office: alternative to highlighters

What would a low-plastic highlighter — a felt-tipped pen for accenting text passages — look like? And why do we need them. Half the time, when I want to highlight a few words or lines on page, I just circle or underline them.

With what? My red pencil, of course. (Call it a carry over from my grad school assistant days.) I don’t know what the lead is made of, but the pencil is wood and I’ve seen them available loose. Once I made that connection — I also use green and non-photo blue — I stopped using highlighters. And my pencil cup has thinned out, too.

Lowish-plastic computer followup

I still love the little Ubuntu Linux computer from Zareason I wrote about in December. So much that I’ll spill the beans and note that I didn’t get for myself, but for my employer. (Hi gang!)

And we’ve gotten more since.

What I didn’t mention then is that you only get the computer: no mouse, no keyboard. So if you have a working mouse and keyboard, that’s some plastic you don’t have to rue.

And if you get four computers at one time, they come in the original cardboard carton from the case manufacturer, with only enough plastic tape to seal it. Nice.