For Earth Day: 5 Tips To Green Up Your Office

Two weeks ago we did a blog post on how to green up your home and today I’m going to give you some tips on how to green up your personal office. A lot of the household green tips can transfer over to greening up your office as well.

One step at a time is always the best approach when changing what you typically purchase to something more environmentally friendly.

Usually purchasing greener products like ‘Energy Star’ products are a great way to save money and energy but if you’re not able to purchase new electronics, keeping your old ones is okay too.  All you have to do is change some small habits, like if you leave your computer on at night in your office then shut it down.

1.)    Power Strips

If possible buy a power strip, connect all your electronics in your office to the power strip and just switch it off when you are heading out for the day and switch it back on in the morning.

2.)    Recycle

Buy a small recycling bin, if you don’t already have one, for your personal office and recycle everything that can be recycled!

3.)    Paperless

In certain jobs I’s simply impossible to go completely paperless, especially if your job requires you to constantly print things out. What you can do is switch out what you typically purchase and buy post-consumer recycled paper, its way better for the environment!

Also opt for printing on both the front and back or using the non-printed side for notes, etc.

4.)    Remanufactured Ink and Toner Cartridges

If you are in charge of purchasing office supplies, consider buying remanufactured ink and toner cartridges.  All newly manufactured toner and ink cartridges require about 1 pint of oil for production, estimated that 900 million ink cartridges and 500 million toner cartridges are made each year, that’s a lot of oil!

Don’t forget to recycle your ink and toner cartridges! Dolphin Blue offers free pre-paid shipping labels for empty Inkjet & Toner Cartridges. We do not accept toner tubes or toner bottles.

5.)    Plants!

Literally green up your office by putting plants on your desk or some place near you where you can see it. They can improve your air quality and increase your work productivity.

Check out this list of great indoor plants, although majority of them are rather big, you can probably find a smaller version of the plant at your local nursery.

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Ecofriendly Holiday Decorating Tips

It’s easy to go overboard buying new decorations when the excitement and anticipation of Christmas sets in. Instead of purchasing new decorations that may be thrown out after Santa returns to the North Pole, check out our eco-friendly holiday decorating guide for simple tips to make the season extra green.

Keep It Real
When it comes to your Christmas tree, just say “no” to artificial firs. Artificial trees can’t be recycled, are often made of harmful chemicals, and take up a lot of unnecessary space in landfills. Try a pine tree from your local tree farm instead. These trees are replanted every year so you’re not negatively impacting the forest. And many counties offer tree recycling locations where your retired tree can be turned into mulch or wood chips for gardens and hiking paths.

Living trees are another great option for the eco-conscious decorator. Many local nurseries keep a variety of evergreens on hand to be kept in a pot during the holidays and then planted in the yard afterwards.

Let LED Light the Way
Switch out your old strands of incandescent bulbs for energy efficient LED lights! LED lights can last up to 25 times as long as incandescent bulbs! They’re also extremely durable and don’t emit any heat, thus eliminating the holiday fire hazard. Although LEDs have been expensive in years past, prices have decreased and many styles of LEDs are now available from most local hardware stores and retailers.

Don’t forget about LED candles to add that special touch to kid and pet friendly holiday centrepieces. Lightweight and reusable LED candles are made from wax just like a real candle. Some even flicker without the flame and can last up to 1,000 hours.

Homemade is the Best Adjective
Instead of buying a wreath that might get tossed in trash later, create your own with old fabric by following this simple DIY guide. You can also make your mantle look fabulous with a homemade stocking! Check out these cute DIY Christmas stocking projects using recycled materials. But don’t stop there! Why not create your own ecofriendly ornament? Browse these creative, ecofriendly ornaments for inspiration and start crafting your own.

Look Local
Ditch the typical big box retail stores and opt to buy your holiday decorations from a local source. Check out a local craft show or swap meet. Browse your classified listings for holiday decorations or check esty.com for nearby artists.

If you want to keep it local and save a lot of money, take a walk outside. Pine cones, cinnamon sticks, pumpkins, gourds, fallen branches, pomegranates, cranberries and citrus fruits are all beautiful, seasonal items that you can use to decorate your home with.

Let us know what your favorite ecofriendly holiday decorations are and keep making green waves!

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Everything old is new again

Plastics recycling can have a big impact on our resources.
Shopping bags, liters of soda, cereal box lining, and lots and lots of water bottles — it’s easy to amass plastic in today’s world, given its omnipresence in the products we use. Most of that, though, goes straight into plastic trash bags and heads to a landfill. (The rate of recycling plastic bottles has held steady since the 1990s at about 24 percent.)

Why Recycle Plastic?
When contemplating whether recycling plastic is really worth it, consider the following:

– It costs more money to drink bottled water than to put gas in your car — up to five times more — due mainly to its packaging and transportation, says the Earth Policy Institute.

– Recycling 1 ton of plastic saves 7.4 cubic yards of landfill space.

– The energy we waste using bottled water would be enough to power 190,000 homes.

– More than $1 billion worth of plastic is wasted each year.

– Recycled plastic can turn into a whole host of new and useful products, including durable building and construction products, fiber for carpets, tote bags, beverage bottles, recycling bins, shipping envelopes, and tableware (cups, plates, and utensils). Dolphin Blue carries a complete line of post-consumer recycled plastic tableware, which you can find here.

How to Recycle Plastic
Fortunately, 80 percent of Americans have access to a plastics recycling program, and more than 1,600 businesses are involved in recycling post-consumer plastics. There are seven types of plastic, and not every community’s curbside program recycles all of them, so first, learn what’s what with the handy chart from the American Chemistry Council, found here. Most likely you have #1 (water bottles, peanut butter jars), #2 (plastic bags, shampoo bottles), and #6 (packing peanuts, yogurt containers).

Many stores will recycle plastic bags for you, so check with your favorite grocer, or visit PlasticBagRecycling.org for a list of locations in your state that offer drop-off bins for recycling plastic bags.

When it comes to water bottles and other containers with lids, take the tops off before throwing them in a recycling bin. Lids are usually made of a different type of plastic than bottles, and the recycling facilities aren’t going to take the time to take off billions of lids — and likely will reject the bottles for recycling.

For more information, watch a short video here about the process of recycling plastic.

The DIY Guide to Reusing Plastic
There are ways to make good use of plastic once you’re done with it other than sending it to a recycling facility. Keeping plastic bags on hand and reusing them as long as they’re functional is a great way to reduce your impact. To make it convenient, try storing bags in empty tissue or garbage-bag boxes. This keeps the clutter at bay, and it makes the bags accessible when you need them. Just pull a bag out of the parachute hole and go.

For those with an artistic side, look at plastic products in a new way and see what you can come up with. You might just end up with something as fun and elegant as these cascade chandeliers. And although crocheting is usually done with yarn, when plastic bags are the material, it’s environmentally friendly and pretty darn cool. Check out one woman’s creations here.

Last but not least, it’s simple and easy to stock your office kitchen or home pantry with Preserve Tableware, made of post-consumer recycled yogurt cups, available on Dolphin Blue’s site here.

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Infographic Friday: Aluminum Cans & Their Infinite Recyclability

Did you know you could keep recycling the soda can you’re drinking out of forever? Well, you CAN (get it?) and here are some reasons why you should:

  • It takes the same amount of energy to create 1 new can as it does to create 20 recycled cans
  • Even though it accounts for less than 2% of the weight of USA’s recycling stream, aluminum generates 40% of the revenue needed to sustain all recycling programs – about a $1 billion a year
  • Recycling aluminum cans diverted 1.7 billion pounds from landfills
  • Used aluminum cans are recycled and returned to store shelves in as few as 60 days
  • Aluminum never wears out and can be recycled forever

So make sure the next can you drink from ends up in a recycling bin and keep the infinite aluminum recycling process going strong!

If you’re looking to add more green to your life, check out www.dolphinblue.com today.
Aluminum can be recycled an infinite number of times.

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Challenge to the US Chamber of Commerce: What One Small Business Is Doing


Dolphin Blue, Inc
., is just one small business among millions of small businesses, but it is unique. It is the only online supplier of 100% environmentally responsible office supplies. Supplies that are not environmentally responsible are simply not available from Dolphin Blue.

Dolphin Blue is unique in another way. It has challenged the national US Chamber of Commerce to…

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Petition-Blog.html 

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Heroes of Sustainability: George Washington Carver

                                                                      
In an era long before green, eco-friendly, and environmentalism were buzzwords, George Washington Carver advocated for organic farming and plant-based products.

An early trailblazer in the concept of reducing, reusing, and recycling, Carver was born into slavery, likely in the early to mid-1860s.

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Heroes-of-Sustainability-George-Washington-Carver.html

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Just Plant a Piece of Paper, and Watch it Grow.

         

The whole concept sounds like our grade school experiments with avocado seeds and toothpicks and a glass of water . . . or a bit of slow-sleight of hand.  What is seed paper?  It’s just what it says – paper embedded with seeds.    Put it in the ground and with luck and good weather you’ll have a small garden of annuals or wildflowers.

 

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Just-Plant-a-Piece-of-Paper-and-Watch-it-Grow.html

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Governmental Buying Practices and Sustainability

Recently, the staff at Dolphin Blue began questioning the buying practices of our government, and evaluating their overall impact on sustainability.  As more corporations continue to manufacture their goods in foreign countries, many tax-supported agencies have jumped on the “low-cost” bandwagon, creating a governmental bidding system with little regard to sustainability.  To answer some of our questions, we consulted with our in-house expert, Dolphin Blue  Founder & President, Thomas Kemper.

  

How does corporate outsourcing hinder the environmental health and welfare of our economy?

When we support the manufacturing of low-cost goods originating from distant places (i.e. China, Malaysia, Vietnam, India), the costs we ultimately incur are numerous, and detrimental to our natural world, local economies, and to the long-term health of our economy.  Every time a tax-supported entity procures an item provided by giant conglomerates, we continue to chip away at the sustainability of our planet (incurring a heavy carbon footprint), our communities (by eroding the local, regional and federal tax base), and our economies (local, state, and national).  Have you ever wondered why our roads, bridges, highways, school systems, county and state hospitals and park systems are in such disrepair, while the tax-supported jurisdictions responsible for their upkeep and maintenance are screaming that they are broke? How much longer can we continue to provide Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and favorable treatment to our largest corporations, so they can continue providing inexpensive foreign goods to the very tax-supported agencies that are responsible for maintaining the infrastructure and systems that are paid for, by us, the tax payers? As we, the payer of the taxes, continue to see unemployment rise, factories close due to unfavorable treatment, and the degradation of our natural resources’ health (clean air, fresh water, soil quality, forest and food stocks), while our very own taxpayer dollars continue buying cheap, resource-depleting foreign goods, creating a huge burden on the sustainability of our planet.

 

Corporate outsourcing clearly damages our nation’s infrastructure, but how do low-cost supplies produced in foreign countries harm our environment?

Products being procured with no understanding of our environment, affect our human health and global ecosystem in ways we are only beginning to understand.  The use of chemicals, such as chlorine and chlorine-containing compounds, affect the human endocrine system, and compromises the immune system’s ability to do what it was biologically designed to do.  The havoc being wreaked upon the health of our children is a cost seemingly hidden in our out-of-control healthcare system, which continues to grow as the fastest sector of our economy.  I saw this issue arising back in 1994, and made a personal and business decision to provide papers that are processed chlorine free, as well as being derived from 100% post-consumer recycled fiber and made in the USA with Green-e certified renewable wind energy.  Thus, it is incumbent upon all of us, as citizens of our local communities first and foremost, to get involved in the decisions being made by our tax-supported government representatives, and demand that they purchase only socially and environmentally responsible products.

 

Many governmental agencies purchase their supplies at a low-cost from large corporate conglomerates.  How does this practice create an unfair advantage for small businesses of all types?

Many of the corporate giants (whose supplies produce an annual revenue of $15 BILLION and upward ), have the financial ability to provide a catalog with as many as 45,000-50,000 items, of which only 5-10% of those products are actually certified as “green”.   Although Dolphin Blue  has the capability to provide a catalog containing approximately 4,000 items, ALL made in the USA, and ALL made with post-consumer recycled materials, other small businesses are unable to offer such a catalog when a tax-supported entity (municipality, county, state, or federal government) requests pricing from the vendor community.  Consequently, if a small business responds without providing a full catalog, that small supplier is deemed non-responsive to the government agencies’ Request for Quote (RFQ), giving the large giants a tremendous advantage in the marketplace. 

When governmental agencies purchase products and services from corporate giants moving goods globally, with little regard to anything but profitability, the tax-supported entity is doomed and destined for failure.  In my experience, very few government agencies leave the door fully open for those who qualify through the GSA contracting system, where buyers can select goods and services through a “best value” contracting criteria.  While it is regrettable that some agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have granted monopolistic exclusive contracts to some suppliers, a true environmentally conscious buyer will go shopping elsewhere, seeking the products and services truly aligned with the EPA’s stated, charted mission. 

 Is there a “Watch Dog” system in place to monitor and measure the environmental degradation, loss to society, or economic erosion of such “full service” catalog purchasing relationships? 

Unfortunately, there is no program in place to monitor these relationships, and if governmental agencies continue to support the taxpayers who fund its existence, the tax-supported agencies will continue to thrive in the marketplace, while we continue seeing our planet’s health degrade.

 Yes, but don’t some of the larger corporations offer “green” products?

Many “green” items being offered by the giants are not certified for the environmental attributes being claimed, and many of the so-called “green” products are not green at all.  They are usually being shipped many thousands of miles to gain business at a very low invoice expense, which further degrades our planet’s sustainability by imparting a very heavy carbon footprint on the health of our planet.  What might that cost be, to our society, our planet, and, to future generations? We’ve already keenly aware of those costs. We see them around us every day. The longer we bury our heads in the sand, the more devastating the costs.

Additionally, many of the purchasing contracts do not require the products to be made in the USA, thus sacrificing American jobs for a few nickels.  While these large “full service” catalog transactions are rampant among many levels of our government, there are many buyers within these agencies that truly understand the meaning of sustainability (meeting the needs of our generation, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs), and practice responsible procurement methods.  For these buyers, I applaud and acknowledge your pioneering spirit.  Thank you.  You understand that we are all in this together, and without us working together to achieve a sustainable planet, we will only be continuing to paint ourselves into a very precarious corner.  As citizens of our neighborhoods, local communities, country, and planet, we must be good stewards, and be responsible with all items, goods, and services we purchase.  We owe it to our children.

Tom is founder and CEO of Dolphin Blue, an online retailer of environmentally sustainable green office supplies and green printing products.

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Greenstar and the State of Recycling

Tom Kemper is the president and founder of Dolphin Blue.

On April 6, 2010, almost seventeen years to the day, from the date Dolphin Blue began doing business, I had a personal tour of Greenstar North America’s Dallas MRF (materials recovery facility).

Wow, has the state of recycling changed!

Dolphin Blue was founded after I conducted the first-ever public recycling program in Dallas, in 1992.  I was busily collecting, sorting, bagging and preparing for processing, 350, 50-gallon bags of recyclable commodities for three-and-one-half weeks of the Dallas Summer Shakespeare Festival.  Unbeknownst to me WFAA TV’s environmental reporter was reporting on the evening news that the recycling collection trucks were picking up Dallas’ igloos of recyclable materials from public locations and delivering the materials right to the landfill.  That became for me an awakening that inspired me to begin a business that would provide only office supplies made from post-consumer recycled materials.  To this day Dolphin Blue is the only retailer that provides ONLY office supplies made from post-consumer recycled materials.

What I learned in that first-ever Dallas recycling effort, is that we can place all our discard materials into our blue bins to our heart’s content.  Unless we make purchases of products made from those items we place in the collection bins, all that effort to preserve or sustain our planet for our children is for naught.

Recycling, AND, purchasing products made from post-consumer recycled materials, produces many environmental and societal benefits such as:

  • Conserving the energy and raw materials used to manufacture a product.
  • Retaining healthy forests and ecologically-viable and species-diverse habitats.
  • Landfill-destined waste is eliminated, thereby reducing the need to utilize additional land for dumping our waste.
  • Preventing chlorine compounds and other carcinogens from entering vital water ecosystems reduces the risk of adverse human health effects and chemical influence on fellow species.
  • Almost half of the 83 million tons of paper generated annually still ends up in landfills.
  • When we recycle paper, CO2 emissions are significantly reduced.

As well as papers certified for 100% post-consumer recycled material, Dolphin Blue provides papers that are:

  • Made with Green-E certified renewable wind energy and made carbon neutral.
  • Processed chlorine free (whitened without chlorine or chlorine-containing compounds).
  • Manufactured using only 100% post-consumer recycled waste fibers using no virgin wood pulp.

I honestly expected to see something totally different than what I saw and heard from Trisha Davis, municipal marketing and account manager at Greenstar’s Dallas facility.  I expected to see a processing plant burdened with intake of recyclable commodities of which there is little or no opportunity for re-integration into the market.  I am pleased by what I’ve seen and heard of Greenstar’s success in recycling markets. Great job, Greenstar!

I am convinced that the vast majority of the 300 tons of material taken to Greenstar each year is reintroduced to the market.

So, that brings up a HUGE question…

If all this stuff is successfully being re-integrated into our economy, then why aren’t we seeing products that are more clearly marked, indicating the percentage of post-consumer recycled materials used to make the product?  I see many items and much packaging marked “made of recycled material” and nothing indicating the percentage of material used, or, whether it’s post-consumer or pre-consumer content.  I’ve even seen statements like “third-party certified” with no mention of who the third-party certifier might be, or, what the certification might be certifying!

That question leads me to believe that manufacturers and sellers of products are falling short in terms of stating their products’ actual content and are therefore misleading and misinforming the consumer.

It is the intent of Dolphin Blue to always educate and share knowledge with our customers and suppliers, as well as prospective customers, as to the environmental attributes and ecological value of what we provide, and who is certifying the ecological and social attributes that we so dearly value in sustaining our planet for future generations.

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Communicating the Right Message

Dolphin Blue was founded on the principle that we can all do something to assist in creating a sustainable planet for future generations.

We’ve always provided only office products that, at minimum, are certified for post consumer recycled material content, assuring the buyer that you are getting product that meets your requirements, and, that truly contributes to a sustainable planet for future generations.

It’s not often that, in my almost eighteen years of building the Dolphin Blue business, I receive such striking examples of what an entity is doing to not only contribute to sustainability, but also to articulate their actions in a very effective manner, such as the State of Pennsylvania’s online video. One of the key points discussed in this exemplary video is concerning the issue of greenwashing (a practice whereby a provider makes unsubstantiated claims regarding the environmental attributes of their product or service, such as “Third-party certified”, without naming the certifying organization, or, stating “recycled content”, without mentioning whether the recycled content is pre-consumer or post consumer, or, stating the percentage of recycled material). Without proper education, greenwashing is easily perpetrated on unknowing, unsuspecting consumers.

That is bad for the unknowing consumer and detrimental to the sustainability of our planet. It’s also ripping off our children’s future.

This exceptional presentation came to me through H2E (Hospitals for a Healthy Environment), of which Dolphin Blue is a long-time member. Please share this far and wide, so others may be able to benefit from this great presentation on Environmentally Preferable Purchasing.

Tom Kemper is the founder and president of Dolphin Blue Inc.

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