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.

Good swag at D.C. Google office

And by good swag I mean promotional goods not made of plastic, and are actually well-designed and useful things that I will actually use.

One is a cotton tote bag with a cute graphic. The other is a glass water bottle. The glass water bottle has what appears to be a silicone thread and was packed in a box with — headslap! — bubblewrap. But I’ll ignore the one and reuse the other. It makes tap water cute, and that’ll be an appeal that saves plastic bottles. So not perfect, but good quality and not prone to be pitched.

Bag and glass bottle

Got these at a launch of new Google tools for nonprofits, so a link is only fair. (Overseas nonprofits, too.)

Transit vouchers go from plastic to paper

I imagine a costs-savings over a plastics-savings, but the word from Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is that plastic SmarTrip vouchers were being replaced with paper ones, beginning last month.

We don’t get vouchers — among other things, I administer transit benefits for work; this information is behind a login — and WMATA will use the plastic until the stock is exhausted, so I don’t know if the change is in effect.

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: manila folders

Over the last couple of decades I have used, revised and rejected more document filing systems than I care to recall. While I never plan to go paperless, I do hope to convert many of my less useful files to PDFs and leave current and active files or vital documents as paper.

And I plan to keep them in plain old manila folders. It’s easy to find them packed in cardboard boxes and recycled fiber content folders are available. (I’ve given up on bulky hanging file folders; I hate how they snag on anything and everything. They also have plastic waste: the tabs.)

Sometimes the solutions can be found in the ordinary and familiar.

Low plastic office: erasers

Some of my favorite erasers are proudly and plainly “plastic” — so once they’re used up I’ll get no more. Natural gum rubber erasers are available and presumably biodegradable. The last one I got wasn’t even packaged but a promotional piece from an arts supply store.

Dishwashing powder in a box

Here’s an easy one: if you use an automatic dishwasher, use powdered detergent — packaged in a pasteboard box — instead of a gel in a plastic bottle or those plastic bags filled with those preportioned plastic pillows. (What exactly happens to the plastic that “disappears” in the wash cycle?)

I know, I know: I should be using something environmentally sensitive. But none I’ve tried has really ever worked well, most come in big plastic bottles and, if you have to wash something two or three times is it that good for the environment? For those reasons — and domestic tranquility — I’ll stick with the name brands.

Ah, but this a good opportunity for a little plastic reduction in the office. Many workplaces have dishwashers, and someone has to buy the detergent . . . .