Category Archives: Office

Paper Mate Biodegradable Pens and Mechanical Pencils

Papermate biodegradable pens

I just got back from a walk in the park. It was a beautiful day and the walk was lovely, but I was a bit dismayed to see litter on the ground – especially plastic litter. That’s because plastic typically takes so long to decompose that the trash will be around for a long time, perhaps posing some danger to animals and certainly making the environment less attractive.

That’s why I was happy to see these new biodegradable pens from Paper Mate. I’m not encouraging anyone to litter, but it’s heartening to know that if someone does leave this pen in the great outdoors, at least the body of these pens is made from a corn-based material that can biodegrade in soil or compose within about one year (according to the manufacturer).

Even better, the pens come in recyclable paper packaging. And on the back of the package is a handy diagram showing how to disassemble the pen when it reaches the end of its useful life, which components should go in the trash and which can be composted.

It’s not often that you buy a product that specifically asks you to ‘dispose of these in yard soil or home compost’, but that’s the advice here from the manufacturer.

Plus it’s nice to know that the pen’s packaging is made from a renewable resource (corn) rather than from a petroleum base.

FYI, Paper Mate also makes a nifty biodegradable pencil.

In terms of quality, I have to say that I think these pens and pencils are very comfortable to hold and seem well built. They’re also affordable and attractive. In my opinion, the writing quality is even better than a more expensive (non-biodegradable) Parker pen that I bought recently.

Bravo to Paper Mate. I’d say this is a Green home run.

Where to Buy: sells 4-packs of the Paper Mate Biodegradable Pens for $6.99. You can also get a 2-pack for $3.59.

As for the mechanical pencils, you can find a 2-pack of those for $5.99 at Office Depot.

Disclaimer – Paper Mate did give me some biodegradable pens and pencils for testing purposes.


Bamboo Tornado pen by Retro 51

Bamboo Tornado™ pen by Retro 51

Bamboo Tornado™ pen by Retro 51

Super convenient but environmentally problematic, plastic is a difficult material to eliminate from our lives because it is so ubiquitous.

Why even bother trying to reduce our plastic use? Apparently, both the manufacture and disposal of common plastics involves the use or release of chemicals that are harmful to both the environment and humans.

Also, while plastic is useful precisely because it is durable, this durability makes it resistant to biodegradation. As a result, it tends to stick around for a very long time, mucking up the oceans and clogging landfills. You may not be able to see the effects of the hormone disrupting plasticizers with the naked eye, but anyone can see the lasting impact of plastic on the environment from the clutter of plastic trash that accumulates and persists beside highways and in urban gutters.

Still, as mentioned, it’s hard to get rid of plastic. The computer on which I am typing is encased in plastic. So is my TV, my stereo, the bottles of cleaning products across the room, the suitcase by the doorway.

And even if I were writing this post on paper, I’d most likely be writing with a plastic pen — although hopefully a pen made at least from recycled plastic.

But today I have a new option – a pen with a barrel made from solid bamboo. The Bamboo Tornado™ by Retro 51 is not only a beautiful writing instrument, it’s made from an incredibly fast-growing renewable and biodegradable plant resource.

(The only place that Retro 51 obviously fails from a Green standpoint is with the Bamboo Tornado’s packaging. There’s no indication that the handsome box is made from recycled paper and it’s hard to believe that the foam insert holding the pen securely in place is made from eco-friendly materials either…)

What’s more, Retro 51 says it will make a donation to the Arbor Day Foundation to save 250 square feet of rainforest for every Bamboo Tornado pen sold. According to the Retro 51 website, the company has already helped Arbor Day Foundation save more than 1.6 million square feet of rainforest, saving valuable and endangered habitats.

Now the impact of one pen might not seem like a lot, but consider that humans use billions of pens every year. All that plastic — or all that rainforest – can really add up.

Also, unlike with many disposable pens, the Bamboo Tornado (like other Retro 51 Tornado products) is refillable. Which means one pen and the bamboo from which it is made should last a long time.

Where to Buy:

Check the Retro 51 website to find a Bamboo Tornado (MSRP $40) dealer near you.

You can also find the Bamboo Tornado online at websites like Barnes & Noble ($35.95) and ($39.99).

Disclosure – Retro 51 provided me with a complimentary Bamboo Tornado pen to test and review.

Adesso Eternity LED Desk Lamp

Eternity Flat Head Desk Lamp by Adesso

Eternity Flat Head Desk Lamp by Adesso

As prior posts indicate, I’m generally a big fan of LED lighting products.

Compared to incandescent and even CFL bulbs, LED lights tend to last much longer and use much less energy.

That’s why I was excited to try the Flat Head version of Adesso’s popular line of Eternity LED Desk Lamps.

Although the lamp didn’t cast quite as wide a zone of illumination as I would have liked, the Eternity Flat Head Desk Lamp does definitely live up to its billing as a stylish, cool, portable and energy-efficient lighting option.

When I say cool, I mean that you can literally leave the lamp on for hours and still place your hand flat against the metal head without risk of burning yourself. In fact, you’ll feel hardly any warmth at all. That’s because LEDs are super-efficient at turning electricity into light without generating much heat.

The  weighs only a smidgen over 2 lbs., making it a snap to carry the Eternity Flat Head Desk Lamp from room to room as needed.

In terms of energy efficiency, the Eternity Flat Head lamp is advertised as requiring only an amazing 2 watts (!) of electricity. Apparently, that’s too little to even register on my trusty Kill-a-Watt EZ electricity meter (which showed the lamp using zero watts of power even while shining brightly). Again, LED technology turns out to be mighty impressive.

Where to Buy:

You can order an Eternity LED Desk Lamp ($75-125) directly through the Adesso website –

As a special bonus for readers, Adesso is offering a 20% discount to shoppers who use the coupon code “1GREEN”. The code expires on August 31, 2009.

For more eco-friendly lighting options such as bamboo lamps, check out Adesso’s Green Living section.

And keep a lookout for the new and improved next generation of Adesso LED lamps scheduled to debut this autumn…

Compaq Presario CQ2009F Desktop PC

Compaq's energy-efficient CQ2009F desktop computer

Compaq's energy-efficient CQ2009F desktop computer

There are lots of websites that will talk about the exciting scientific research moving forward on powering our homes with fuel made from algae or other exotic substances.

Hey, I like algae as much as the next guy, but in the meantime, we get most of our energy from ‘dirty’ sources like oil, coal and nuclear.

So…what really gets me in a tizzy is when manufacturers makes quantum leaps forward in terms of efficiency, materials and affordability.

My last desktop computer was a Compaq. I bought it around late 2001 or early 2002. I spent around $1000 on it. It weighed approximately 27 lbs and (as I found out when I reviwed the Kill-a-Watt last year) used between 70-109 watts of electricity.

That old Compaq performed admirably for a while, even if it did look clunky and take up a significant chunk of my workspace. But then it started suddenly turning itself on and off without warning. And this thing was loud. It’s not fun to be wakened in the middle of the night by the giant ‘whoosh/click/whirrr’ of your computer coming to life.

I had two choices – hire a computer exorcist or buy a new machine.

After looking high and low, I surprised myself by settling on another Compaq.

Compaq doesn’t get much respect these days. Businesses are focused on brands like Dell and Lenovo. The hipsters all love their Apples or maybe their Acer eee box.

But I think the Compaq CQ2009F surpasses them all. Here’s what I like:

1. Energy efficiency. My old desktop needed 70-109 watts of electricity. As measured by the Kill-a-Watt, the CQ2009F so far seems to draw only 29-32 watts no matter what it’s doing. That’s an efficiency improvement of approximately 60-70 percent!

Another view of the compact CQ2009F desktop computer

Another view of the compact CQ2009F desktop computer

2. Size/materials. As mentioned, my old desktop weighed approximately 27 lbs and took up a massive amount of desk space. The CQ2009F is much smaller (4.41″ x 10.71″ x 9.69″). It weighs only 7 lbs and requires much less space on the desk. That’s a 74 percent weight reduction! So this desktop obviously needs much less in the way of raw materials – and since those raw materials tend to be made of plastic (oil) or metal, less is certainly better from an environmental standpoint.

3. Noise pollution. The CQ2009F is much quieter and unobtrusive than my old machine. Less noise pollution is always a good thing.

4. Features. Energy efficient machines are always great, but they’re especially impressive when their feature set matches what other machines can do. In this case, I really wanted the ability to read and burn DVDs. The Asus eee box and some of the other tiny desktops don’t have any DVD/CD drive, but the CQ2009F has one built in. It also has a handy little card reader so I can take the SD card right from my digital camera and plug it into the desktop without worrying about finding a USB cable.

5. Design. Remember when PCs used to be boring beige or grey boxes? The CQ2009F is sleek and sexy, slightly curvaceous, but not outrageous.

6. Price. It’s nice when someone builds a great eco-friendly product, but if that product is out of reach for all buy a few millionaires (i.e. the Tesla electric car), then the practical environmental benefit is minimal. What’s so beautiful about the CQ2009F is that it costs less than $300 (not including monitor)! That’s a very competitive price these days and far less than I paid for a much less efficient machine just 7-8 years ago.

Why would anyone in the market for a desktop PC buy any other machine? I can think of just a few reasons:

– You’re a serious gamer or video producer and need more RAM/power for your PC. (The CQ2009F has plenty of juice for typical home word processing and Internet browsing, but probably not enough for heavy gaming or video editing.)

– You want the smaller size and more efficient energy use (20 watts, according to Asus) of the eee box and you don’t care about having the DVD drive.

– You’re a Mac user, in which the Mac mini is probably your best eco-friendly bet (as discussed on Metaefficient).

Incidentally, the Dell Studio Hybrid also looks like a good eco-friendly option for PC fans, but it is a bit more pricey than the Compaq CQ2009F and according to the same Metaefficient article, a bit more power-hungry (26-44 watts).

Where to buy:

You can purchase the Compaq CQ2009F through various only retailers including Compaq’s own website ($279.99 with free shipping) and ($269.99 with free shipping).

News Flash – DCI I Am Not a Paper Cup

When I was in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago, a ticket agent at the train station told me that she had noticed fewer customers toting cups of coffee from Starbucks since the recession began.

More people were economizing by bringing refillable cups of coffee from home.

Has the recession forced you to eliminate the double-mocha latte habit from your life?

Firing up the coffeemaker at home but longing to maintain the illusion that you can still afford to buy takeout coffee?

DCI rides to the rescue with I Am Not a Paper Cup – a refillable, reusable, dishwasher-safe double-walled porcelain cup inspired by the paper cup. A silicone lid keeps all the hot liquid where it belongs (in the cup).

Reduce landfill waste while keeping up appearances. What’s not to like?

Where to Buy:

Find the I Am Not a Paper Cup on sale at for $18.95.

Naked Binder

Sometimes the best green products are the ones that strip away all the frippery and bring out the essence of an object.

That’s the approach that Naked Binder has taken with its 3-ring binder made from 100% recycled board, which itself contains 97% post-consumer content.

For just $8, you can own what Naked Binder calls perhaps “the greenest, most eco-friendly binder on the planet.”

Naked Binder makes some bold claims on the durability of the binder’s hinge, supposedly made to last for at least 50,000 flexes.

We can’t verify that the product actually lasts through 50,000 flexes (because we have a life, one that does not involve sitting around for days opening and closing a binder), but we can say that the binder seems plenty durable — certainly more durable than other less eco-friendly binders you might find in a typical office supply store or drugstore.

You can tell that Naked Binder really cares about the materials that go into its products. The company’s website has a really nice informational section about the “Not So Raw” materials used in making its binders.

We actually didn’t get a chance to sample the bare naked binder. Instead Naked Binder sent us two slightly clothed versions of its basic binder – the Project Binder ($10, naked binder with 100% cotton book-binding cloth covering the spine) and the Wrapped Binder ($10, naked binder covered in 30% post-consumer embossed grey paper and lined with white FSC-certified acid-free book end paper).

IOHO there’s something slightly oxymoronic about selling a Wrapped Naked Binder. I mean isn’t that like saying that we’re all naked under our clothes?

The Naked Binder certainly seems like the eco-friendliest choice, but we recognize that not everyone can walk into an important business meeting carrying such a raw, utilitarian object. The fact is that appearances do matter and that both dressier binders – the Project and Wrapped Binders – offer an impressive blend of style, substance and eco-friendliness at a reasonable price.

We do wish that the Project Binder was wrapped with organic cotton. And we’d love to see the Wrapped Binder use paper on both the outside and inside with a higher percentage of post-consumer recycled content.

But a critic can always find fault. The bottom line is that all the Naked Binders are praiseworthy – even beautiful – products.

Where to buy:

At this time, Naked Binders are available exclusively online through the Naked Binder website.

Congratulations to Embrace Only Love Sweepstakes winner #1 – Joanna from Rochester, New York.

We’re still waiting to hear back from the #2 winner of the Embrace Only Love Sweepstakes. Per the contest rules, he/she has another few weeks to respond before we hold another prize drawing to choose an alternate winner.

Zebra Eco Pens

OK, sometimes we feature frivolous, fun products. But what really gets our motor going is when we have a chance to feature companies that are making greener alternatives to products we use everyday.

Consider the humble pen.

Although overshadowed by the computer as the primary writing tool for longer documents, millions and millions of pens are still used in the U.S. every day to take notes, write love letters, doodle, draw pictures, jot reminders and so forth.

Wouldn’t it be great if all those pens could be part of the environmental solution rather than part of the problem?

The Zebra Pen company apparently had the same thought, which is why they recently introduced a new Eco Line of pens here in the U.S. The materials used to manufacture the pens, mechanical pencils and highlighters comes largely from various post-consumer sources – old cell phones, headlights, shopping baskets, CD cases and more. Even the product packaging includes post-consumer content.

The Eco-Line has a full assortment of writing instruments such as:

– The Jimnie Clip Retractable Ball Point Pen (contains more than 75% post-consumer waste)
– The Jimnie Mechanical Pencil (more than 72% post-consumer content)
– The Sarasa(TM) Clip Retractable Gel (more than 81% recycled materials)
– The Double-Ended Highlighter (more than 74% recycled content)
– The 3-Color Clip-On Retractable Pen (more than 70% recycled materials, with nifty design on the deployment and retraction of each color)

A diagram on each pen lists the sorts of post-consumer materials used in the manufacture.

While it’s certainly nice to see Zebra introduce its eco pens here in the States, we are a little behind the times. A Japanese company, Zebra introduced its first eco pens in its home market back in 1995…

Where to buy:

Zebra Pens can be found at many major office supply retailers including, Staples, Office Max, Office Depot, Walmart, K-Mart and other stores. Recommended retail prices on the Eco pens and pencils range from $1.75 to $5.00.

(Note that Zebra makes a wide variety of pens. If you want the eco pens, check to make sure the product description mentions recycled content…)