From paper to pens; how to run a zero waste office

Filed in Blog by on May 10, 2013 2 Comments
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zero waste officeHere at zero waste towers, we work from home which means we get to set our own green environmental policy at work – yyipee!

But recently I’ve fallen into bad habits.

I’ve realised I’ve been printing more documents than necessary and we’ve got through our fair share of printer toner.

It’s time for an audit and here’s what we are planning:

Wants and needs

Do you want it or need it?

It’s a simple question to bear in mind when shopping for anything from a 3 for 2 offer on something that will go off before you use it to a gadget that seems like a good idea at the time…

Stock control

Organisation (or lack thereof) can make or break a zero waste office.

You might find yourself buying new products when you already have them in the back of a drawer.

This month I’ll be declutering the filing cabinet, going through my desk drawers and seeing what pens, reams of paper and other consumables I find.

Inkjet and toner cartridges

There are refillable cartridges available for our printer. We’ve got a laser printer which uses less ink and energy to run, but I still get through a lot of ink despite trying to run a paperless office.

With companies like Phoenix Direct you can sell empty ink cartridges for them to recycle; so it’s easy for you to do your bit for the environment AND make some money!


I’m going to quiz suppliers before I order from them about their packaging policies.

I’ve seen some horrendous packaging recently where companies use swathes of plastic and bubble wrap unnecessarily.

Conversely, I received something this morning in a cardboard box with paper as the filler and even old cardboard inners from packing tape were used to stop things moving inside the box!


I’ve learned the hard way with computers. My last laptop, bought brand new, lasted two weeks past the warranty before dying on me. Is that a case of built in obsolescence or a mere co-incidence I ask myself!

My latest beauty was bought from eBay, cost just over £100 and works like a dream. I was even able to buy a three year warranty with it to prevent it becoming obsolete (I hope!).

Apple are in my bad books at the moment because my old iPad 1 can’t be upgraded to the latest operating system. In addition you cannot replace the battery or upgrade the memory easily; so do your homework before making big purchases and suss out the longevity.


Lots of packaging can be reused which is great for your bottom line as well as the environment.

I have been reusing jiffy bags and boxes for several years which means my stationery bill is virtually zero. If you’re inundated, offer surplus packaging on Freecycle – eBayers will love you for it!


Fortunately I live with Robinson Crusoe, so repairs and refurbishment are his middle name. Makes an interesting name dontcha think?

Instead of throwing out furniture or printers can they be repaired or refurbished? Sometimes all it takes is a couple of hours of creative input to give something a new lease of life.


Here’s where I could do better. So practice what I preach, not what I do:

It’s estimated the average office worker prints 45 sheets of paper per day of which over half is waste.

The solutions are to print double sided, buy 100% recycled paper and only print where necessary. Reduce margins, and use draft quality except for your best letters that are going out to important clients.

When you’re shredding documents you no longer need, see 7 ways to recycle shredded paper.

Junk mail

Why is that that when you order something most companies automatically think it’s ok to send you crap in the post afterwards?

I’m sure I get catalogues, flyers and sales letters even when I’ve checked the ‘do not add me to your mailing list’ box.

Call companies and get yourself remove from their database – they are legally obliged to do so. And remove yourself from the Mail Preference Service.

What about you – do you run a zero waste office?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (2)

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  1. ah, now if i could just send this article to each teacher in our educational system, the waste management team would be relieved and i could breathe easier as well as save’ s pervasive, pernicious and a precarious imbalance in all of our office practices..a cultural debacle at the most tender stage of ethics–two generations late..
    but i smell some success coming in the severe cut backs to organizations and governments all over..we are learning by financial squeeze if not by earthy conscience..

  2. Julie Day says:

    I reuse my paper that I print on, and only recycle it or shred it when both sides have been used. Cartridges, I always send off somewhere to be recycled.

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