Stationery is a bit of a weakness of mine and having this particular affliction at the same time as striving to be sustainable can be a challenge. Within the walls of any large stationery store there are literally thousands of bright and colourful, incredibly useful, but plasticky, eco-unfriendly and (often) single-use items. The good news is that, while they are not the majority, sustainable and environmentally conscious stationery and office supplies exist.
Before we look at some of the alternatives available, let’s first look at factors you should consider when buying stationery.
Check you don’t already have what you need, even if what you have isn’t particularly eco-friendly it still beats buying a new product.
Opt for quality items what will have a longer lifespan. The materials used can be as eco-friendly as you like, but it is still unsustainable if they are single-use or have very short lifespan. For example, if you consider a refillable pen as an alternative to a disposable ballpoint pen, they are typically more cost-effective in the long term. Plus, they reduce ongoing plastic waste and all the resources that go into manufacturing, packing and shipping the disposable product. Another example is a heavy-duty metal ruler — I have one and I’m pretty confident it will outlive me.
Choose products with recycled content. Many products have an option made with post- or pre-consumer waste, such as office paper. Planet Ark’s office paper is made from 100 per cent recycled paper and a great alternative to virgin paper.
Aim for minimal packaging and, where there is packaging, aim for the most recyclable packaging options, for example cardboard rather than moulded plastic.
Aim for alternatives to plastic, like natural rubber, PVC-free erasers or recycled-board ring binders.
Aim for waste-less options, like staple-less staplers.
Aim for items with minimal materials like a standard pencil, rather than a mechanical one which may have extra metal springs and clips. Retractable pens with springs are also less ideal than simple ballpoints.
Now for some alternatives. The good news is that, while the range isn’t as broad, the functionality, quality and appearance of more sustainable items absolutely rivals that of their less eco-friendly traditional equivalents.
These are one of the biggest stationery related problems, and while fountain pens are the best alternative environmentally, they aren’t ideal for kids. Instead, look for simple ballpoints made with recycled or sustainable materials. And remember that Terracycle can take your old pens for recycling.
Many cheap pencils in Australia are made with unsustainable materials, but there are sustainable alternatives available. For example, pencils made from recycled newspapers use up old newspapers and save trees at the same time. Plus, the shavings are compostable. You might even consider plantable pencils, which contain seeds that can be planted when the pencil can no longer be used.
Skip the paraffin-based cheapies you can pick up for next to nothing, and instead look for recycled rubber or, at least, PVC-free erasers.
The majority of notebooks and notepads on the market use virgin resources. However, there are options available online that are made with 100 per cent post-consumer recycled paper, and many of them feel lovely to write on.
This is just a smattering; a quick online search shows there are eco-friendly options for everything from post-it notes to calendars, including, and this is my favourite item to date, pencil highlighters to replace plastic options. These feel better in the hand than the standard stubby plastic pens, there is no plastic in sight, they will never dry out because I left the cap off (again) and I can use them right down to nothing. Win!
Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.