This comprehensive guide into sustainable stationery brands goes into deep detail about sources of stationery supplies, helping you to know exactly the ethical and environmental cost of products for the office or school.
This article contains affiliate links. See our full disclosure here.
By Ana Yong
Introduction to the Environmental Effects of Stationery
Some people say “a pen is a pen” but connoisseurs of stationery beg to differ. My research on the Stationery Industry has highlighted some startling facts, for example, the United Kingdom bought in excess of £3.52 billion worth of stationery products in 2020.
This shows that the type of pens a person uses matters to many people and these people are willing to pay top dollar for high quality stationery products. In addition, these are perceived to be prestige commodities which make people feel good while using them.
Along with the ‘esteemed status’ that an item commands, buyers are also becoming more aware that procuring stationery brands that are environmentally friendly adds a social dimension to their purchase decision.
The Sustainability of Office and School Product Suppliers
As there are many stationery products/brands in the market professing to be sustainable, ethical and practice fair trade policies, here is a list of certifying bodies related to these items.
Certified B Corporations are business establishments that have been verified to adhere to the most supreme principles of social and ecological operation, communal clarity, and legitimate culpability to equalize profit and goals. Now, being a successful enterprise does not mean doing well for the bottom line only but also includes building a more comprehensive and ethical business.
B Corp Certification Factors
The certification process does not only assess a merchandise or service. The procedure authenticates the total positive effect the business has on the society (environmental, social, financial, and legal) in which it operates.
To be certified, an organization must attain a minimum confirmed score on the free ‘B Impact Assessment’ which examines the business’ effect on its employees, clients, community, and the ecology. The result achieved for the ‘B Impact Assessment’ will be made available on bcorporation.net. After being certified, the organization must revise its legal binding documents to compel its Board of Directors to level up profit and purpose. Click here for the Certification Requirements.
Whether you are an individual or a business, you can make a tax-deductible donation to support carbon sequestration projects headed by Carbonfund.org. The donations are segregated into these categories: Lifestyle, Vehicles, Air Travel Offsets, Homes, Events/Gifts, Water and Plant Trees. Click here to find out more.
The infographic below shows Carbonfund.org’s guiding principles in tackling climate change:
Carbonfund.org finances projects in these three areas:
(a) Energy Efficiency
These projects decrease current power usage by promoting the most economical ways to cut carbon emissions and save money at the same time. For more details on these developments, click here.
As forests eradicate carbon dioxide and this process benefits native communities and the environment, it is advantageous to invest in forest conservation schemes. Currently, deforestation makes up 20% of worldwide carbon releases. Click here to look at these projects.
(c) Renewable Energy
Renewable energy projects make use of wind, solar, hydro and the reduction of methane gas in the atmosphere. In other words, capital spending in clean technologies is the focus here. Here are the renewable energy projects.
This organization operates on the belief that since businesses extract resources from Mother Earth to make a profit, it is only reasonable to expect these establishments to give back to environmental charities in the form of donating 1% of their sales annually, whether they make a profit or not.
So far, One Percent For The Planet has achieved the following successes:
One Percent For The Planet has two operating models, one for businesses and the other for individuals.
(i) For Businesses
Organizations join and pledge to contribute the comparable amount of 1% of sales by a mixture of financial, in-kind and permitted promotional backing directly to environmental charities. The membership process is dependent on the recommendations by One Percent based on the businesses’ mission, vision, and values with the intention of pairing up charities with common goals and objectives.
Contributions are made directly to the charities concerned and One Percent will assess and verify member contributions. Currently, members have funded more than $250 million related to ecological solutions.
(ii) For Individuals
Here, the only difference is that persons guarantee to donate 1% of their annual salary. The other processes are the same. As 1% of one’s salary is a huge amount, individuals can choose to honor partially or fully their commitment by volunteering at the selected charities.
The FTF is a commerce association of fair trade establishments which are dedicated to fair, balanced and feasible trading collaborations. It was founded in 1994 and is formerly known as the North American Alternative Trade Organization (NAATO) but changed its name to the Fair Trade Federation after one year.
FTF’s vision is to bring about fair wages to workers, artisans, farmers, producers, suppliers, and craftspeople so that they can enjoy an improved standard of living for their families and themselves. Click here for FTF’s Strategic Plan.
The FTF assesses and authenticates businesses which incorporate fair trade procedures in all that they do. And this also requires the establishments to create and retain long term business relationships with producer agencies.
Before businesses can use the Fair Trade Certification seal on their products, they have to undergo a worksite audit and contribute a 10% fair trade premium to the farmers, workers, and other crew members involved in the product chain.
Besides financial support, FTF members also supply the necessary technical know-how and technology like market data, business development training and education in financial supervision.
The WFTO is a membership organization whereby member businesses implement and operate fair trade policies. These members are found in 76 countries and are made up of more than 1,000 social enterprises and 1,500 shops. The WFTO verifies that these establishments practice fair trade, help underprivileged communities, and place people and planet first in all that they do. Currently, the WFTO has impacted 965,700 livelihoods, 355 fair trade enterprises with 54% of senior roles being held by women.
To the WFTO, fair trade is not just trading or commerce, it consists of:
- a concept of enterprise and negotiation which positions humans and mother nature before profit,
- battling deprivation, climate modification, gender disparity, and unfairness, and
- bearing testimony to business paradigms of the new economy.
If you wish to know more about the International Fair Trade Charter, click here.
As the WFTO has various labels and marks, click here for their Label and Mark Guide for Members updated in February 2021.
WFTO Guarantee System
The WFTO Guarantee System does not just certify a product, service or supply chain but investigates and evaluates the totality of a business concern, including a review of the establishment’s framework and trading model, operating procedures and delivery chains.
This system merges fair trade and social enterprise certifications into one. The assessment process is based on WFTO’s 10 Principles of Fair Trade. If you wish to obtain more details, click here. To get a copy of the poster, click here.
Fair Trade Accountability Watch
This is an online platform for anyone (member or concerned citizen) to highlight matters pertaining to a WFTO member’s adherence to the certification benchmark. It provides easy access for whistleblowers to keep members in line. To use this function, click here.
Green America is a charity membership association which was founded in 1982. Its mission is to build a socially balanced and ecologically supportable community by channeling economic power through the support of customers, investors, business establishments and the market arena.
Four Areas of Focus
Green America is concentrating its efforts on structure transformation and improvement in these areas:
(a) Climate and Clean Energy
Green America puts pressure onto chief polluters to act on the issues related to climate change by collaborating with buyers, retailers, businesses, suppliers, and other stakeholders. It also provides clean energy alternatives to enterprises and helps them to cut down their carbon footprints. For more details, click here.
(b) Sustainable Food and Agriculture
Traditional farming methods are largely dependent upon the use of toxic chemicals, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), and processes that harm the current social and ecological structures. Green America believes that the food generating framework could be improved upon to become sustainable and at the same time generate healthy native ecospheres. Click here to find out more.
(c) Responsible investing
By financing those enterprises whose operating processes are eco-feasible and socially responsible, investors can show businesses that functioning in a harmful manner would not attract financial support from green patrons. Take a more detailed look here.
(d) Fair Labor
Green America brings global attention to worker exploitation and garners customer support in putting pressure onto businesses to take up fair labor practices. It also directs consumers to environmentally attainable and justifiable shopping options. Click here for more information.
Green American Magazine
Green America has made available, free of charge, the Green American Magazine which contains a huge amount of information on the green economy. To get the latest edition, click here. For past issues, click here.
Green America utilizes their “Innovation Network” approach to identify important and powerful stakeholders who have the ability to lead and change sustainability frameworks. These stakeholders will form a team to analyze and tackle issues related to social, and environmental feasibility systems.
The Center taps on a variety of specialties and approaches; consisting of complexity theory, humanistic modelling, systems reasoning, industrialism and lean startup tactics, polarity deliberating, Key Initiator Networks (KINS) and progressive group enablement methods to create sustainability advances.
FSC’s mission is to endorse ecologically feasible, socially advantageous and financially sustainable administration and supervision of the world’s forests.
FSC members consists of private establishments, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), intercontinental enterprises, native groups, and scholastic institutions with the common goal of improving the condition of the world’s forests. Members can choose to connect with any one of three membership chambers: environmental, social or economic which are then segregated into northern and southern sub-chambers.
Forest Management Certification
Here is a brief highlight of assessment factors that apply to stationery.
FSC has devised 10 principles that all potential forest administrators must comply with before the FSC certification is approved. These standards consist of matters ranging from creating and retaining high preservation values to community dealings and workers’ rights to examining and observing ecological and social effects of forest management. Those seeking certification may be interested in these two documents:
“FSC-STD-01-001 V5-2 FSC Principles and Criteria for Forest Stewardship are designed to serve as a common starting point for developing National Forest Stewardship Standards and FSC-STD-60-004-20 V2-0 International Generic Indicators.”
(b) Controlled Wood
This is a material obtained from authorized sources that can be combined with FSC certified materials in items that show the FSC Mix label. Here are five types of non-approved supplies of wood which are not to be mixed with FSC approved materials:
(i) Unlawfully attained wood,
(ii) Wood obtained in infringement of conventional and human rights,
(iii) Wood reaped from forests in which “high conservation values (HCVs)” are under threat,
(iv) Wood that is cleared from forests which are transformed into plantations or non-forest use, and
(v) Wood from forests having genetically-modified trees.
Here are two of FSC’s controlled wood benchmarks:
“FSC-STD-40-005 V3-1 FSC Requirements for Sourcing FSC Controlled Wood – This standard directs businesses to avoid sourcing material from unacceptable sources. You can find our written summary of the important dates and deadlines introduced by V3-1 of the standard here.
FSC-STD-30-010 V2-0 FSC Controlled Wood Standard for Forest Management Enterprises – This standard specifies requirements for forest management enterprises to show that their management practices result in material from acceptable sources.”
PEFC is a globally recognized, non-profit, non-governmental certification body specializing in national forest certification benchmarks. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the PEFC has in excess of 80 members worldwide including general certification agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations, unions, business establishments, trade unions, forest owners, and dedicated private individuals. More than 55 members are national verification bodies which execute the PEFC System in their home countries.
More 330 million hectares of forests (815 million acres) are governed according to PEFC’s sustainability standards and 75% of all certified forest areas are assessed by PEFC.
PEFC Certification Process
PEFC executes its certification process through two distinct but inter-related methods: Sustainable Forest Management Certiﬁcation and Chain of Custody Certification.
Sustainable Forest Management Certiﬁcation
This guarantees that forests are operated in accordance with current ecological, social and financial conditions.
Chain of Custody Certification
This verification process investigates the supply chain for forest-related merchandise to ensure that they come from sustainable sources right up to the final stage where the items land on shop shelves.
If you are interested to find out more on how PEFC developed their standards, click here.
Some of you may see similarities between FSC and PEFC and wonder how some businesses choose to be certified by one or the other. An establishment can decide to be certified by both agencies (which is what Faber-Castell has done: discussed below). The reason for this is that when wood from FSC-certified sources is not be available or enough at any one point in time, supplementary sources verified by PEFC can be used.
Our Detailed List of 10 Ethical and Sustainable Stationery Brands
After we have familiarized ourselves with the types of certifications, here are 10 eco-friendly and ethical stationery brands you might be interested in.
Faber-Castell was founded in 1761 selling graphite and colour pencils encased in natural wood.
Faber-Castell’s Sustainability Practices
Here is Faber-Castell’s comprehensive and impressive sustainability framework:
(i) Carbon Neutral Production
Faber-Castell protects the climate by focussing on assessing, recording and managing their carbon footprint from every manufacturing site. Carbon production is counterbalanced via the appropriation of carbon in their forests in Brazil.
(ii) ISO 9001 / ISO 14001 Management Certifications
100% of Faber-Castell’s fabrication sites are licenced according to the ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 assurance and ecological security standards.
Some facts about ISO 9001 and ISO 14001
ISO 9001 is a quality management system which is recognized worldwide. Businesses use this certification to highlight their capability to reliably deliver products and services that satisfy customers and legal conditions and to display ongoing upgrading efforts.
ISO 14001 is an environmental management system which certifies organizations that seek to demonstrate their commitment to environmental sustainability and enhancement.
Over 90% of Faber-Castell’s global manufactured pencils originate from 100% FSC-certified forests and are assessed to be derived from responsible supplies.
PEFC-certified timber is utilized by Faber-Castell as a substitute for FSC-certified wood as both assessment systems safeguard the feasible administration and application of forest resources.
(v) Eco Pencil
Faber-Castell always uses wood from forest supplies that have verified sustainable and ethical.
(vi) Water-based Varnish
Being the first producer to introduce the eco-friendly water-based varnish know-how, Faber-Castell manufactures almost 100% of all writing devices using this technology at their main factory in Stein.
You can rest assured that Faber-Castell erasers are PVC-free.
Many of Faber-Castell’s products are refillable which reduces the amount of waste that enters the landfills.
(ix) Recycled Plastic / Recycled Cardboard
The products are either made with lesser plastics or with recycled resources. Even the packaging is manufactured with salvaged plastic or cardboard.
(x) Recyclable Cardboard
The wrapping is produced from reusable cardboard.
2. My Mojo
My Mojo operates out of New Zealand and supplies ecologically supportable stationery products that play a part in saving the environment. The items, which are budget friendly and easily attainable, allow customers to minimise their ecological footprints.
Kids Mojo Stationery Pack
You do not have to be a kid to try the Kids Mojo Stationery Pack which consists of 10 colouring pencils and 4 pencils made from recycled newspapers, a spiral notebook made from post-manufactured recycled material, a wooden sharpener made from sustainable genuine timber and a PVC-free eraser. Click here to have a look.
Some facts about PVC
According to ecowatch.com, PVC also known as Polyvinyl Chloride, is made from Vinyl Chloride (a carcinogen: cancer-causing agent) which has been identified by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.
An additive called phthalates is added to PVC products to make them soft and bendable but this chemical causes serious health effects which include:
- Learning Disabilities
- Early Puberty
- Reproductive Abnormalities
- Liver Complications
Therefore, whenever we look for stationery products, it is always safer to choose PVC-free items.
The Little Green Paper Shop specializes in greeting cards, wedding invitations and business marketing supplies. Originally using only seed paper, the business has expanded to include paper made from elephant faeces and sugarcane.
Mulberry Wrapping Paper
This is 100% eco-friendly and biodegradable. The fibres are extracted from the bark of a living plant which is thriving and rejuvenating quicker than its fibres can be removed. No plastics are added during the production of this paper. Click here if you wish to order.
Eco-Cotton Range Paper
Your purchases are packed in either a clean and reused box or a simple packet acquired from a local store. This is part of their process to reduce waste, recycle and reuse.
EarthHero was founded by Ryan Lewis who believed that in order to help the Earth, we should also look at the way we do our shopping.
As shopping is about speed and convenience, shoppers can still do so by buying from vendors who sell products that have been sustainably and ethically sourced and produced. Even the way the items are shipped to customers generate the least footprint possible.
How Retailers on EarthHero Help the Ecology
Here is a summary of what EarthHero’s retailers are doing in terms of minimising their carbon footprints and practising environmentally sustainable operations:
EarthHero’s Commitment to Sustainability
Being a Certified B Corporation means that profit is not the only factor that determines a business’ success. How management decisions affect employees, the environment, and how it is perceived in society, etc. are important assessment factors. And EarthHero has been evaluated accordingly and here are the results.
EarthHero contributes 1% of their sales on a yearly basis for sustainability projects and to enterprises which give back to the environment. Every crew member also participates in community eco-friendly schemes to support the neighbourhood.
EarthHero has joined Carbonfund.org to ensure that the transportation of your ordered items bear the least carbon footprint. Using Carbonfund’s various calculators to compute the total amount of carbon released during the shipping and transporting of merchandise and everyday actions. Through Carbonfund.org, EarthHero also sponsors reforestation enhancements. You can see EarthHero’s carbon equalizer certification here.
EarthHero staff employ reusability and recyclability practices in their daily lives, for example, using non-disposable eating utensils and refillable water bottles. One of their most effective operating procedures is to print their labels using low-impact inks and non-poisonous glue on recycled paper. All shipping stickers are printed on FSC-certified paper while the water-proof stickers are printed using PURE Labels (made from tree pulp) which is certified compostable under ASTM D6400 and EN13432.
This is a digital shopping platform retailing sustainable office and school stationery products, and arts and crafts supplies. It is also a division of Ecopaper Pty Ltd (Australian firm dedicated to supplying reutilized and eco-friendly products).
Use of BuyEcoGreen’s website is Carbon Neural
You can safely use the website as the carbon releases are counterbalanced by co2neutralwebsite.com which is a Danish Government sponsored carbon emissions reduction plan.
Environmental Criteria of BuyEcoGreen Products
(i) Product Information
BuyEcoGreen explains why ecologically friendly materials are used in the production of their merchandise. You can find out in greater detail by clicking on to each product category.
(ii) Environmental Criteria Glossary
When you order on BuyEcoGreen’s product pages, the relevant environmental icon(s) which apply to the products will appear to guide your purchasing decisions.
Sustainability Policy – Carbon Offsetting
While BuyEcoGreen is striving to diminish 100% carbon emissions, their current practice is to counterbalance all carbon releases resulting from their operations and progressively from the expected life-cycle emissions of the items that they retail and ship to the customer.
Arvee Corporation provides stationery supplies that are environmentally sustainable and ethical. One of their most popular product lines is Bamboo which is actually a grass and not a tree. As such, bamboo is harvested by mowing (as you would mow a lawn). Products manufactured from bamboo do not warp easily from moisture and are highly durable. According to edenproject.com, bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world with a recorded growth of 1.2 meters within 24 hours. With over a thousand species of bamboo, it is one of the most ecologically friendly materials that can be used.
As the name suggests, these are coasters which are made from bamboo. They hardly warp from dampness and can last a long time. This is something every home, office and school should be using. With a unique design, these also make for an exceptional housewarming gift. If you are interested to order, click here.
These are pencils made from recycled paper of every type – newspapers, magazines, printer paper, wrappers, stationery, etc.. The reprocessed paper is cleansed and bound around a graphite core. Below is a summary of the differences between Greenciles® and traditional pencils. Click here to order.
Johann Sebastian Staedtler founded Staedtler but it was his ancestor, Friedrich Staedtler, who first worked as an artisan crafting pencils and was mentioned in historical records in 1662.
By 1835, Johann has already formed the groundwork for what is now known as the STAEDTLER Group. In 1853, he attended the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations in New York to exhibit his products and achieved great success in the years to come in France, Britain, Italy, Russia, America and the Middle East.
Sustainability and Protection of the Environment
Staedtler’s motto, “Efficient for Ecology” is employed not only on its products but on its manufacturing operations as well. By using the latest technology in producing stationery products, the longevity of these items is raised. With fewer raw materials being used and releasing lesser carbon emissions leading to lower levels of waste, this ultimately protects the ecology.
FSC and PEFC Certified
Staedtler pencils are FSC and PEFC certified which ensure that timber comes from sustainably managed forests.
ISO 9001 / ISO 14001 Management Certifications
Staedtler’s manufacturing processes are verified according to ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 14001:2015 benchmarks and centres its method on the codes of European environment planning and the energy policy of the German Federal Government.
Staedtler’s Own Wood Plantation
Staedtler owns its own forest plantation consisting about 1,800 hectares in Ecuador. The trees selected to be grown do not compete for the same resources as the local flora and fauna. Cultivation methods which meet strict ecological yardsticks are adhered to with the intention to retain and improve the biodiversity of the land area.
Contrary to what some people might think, Staedtler does not produce only writing instruments, it also manufactures modelling clay and accessories. Click here to view their products.
GreenVelope allows clients to send digital invitations, announcements, notices, etc. by imitating the emotions of opening an old-fashioned printed message. Here, a product is being sold without physically producing it. There is no wastage or excesses related to sourcing, production, and transportation of the products. And customers can receive their orders through the internet without having to wait for their purchases to arrive.
I am particularly impressed with GreenVelope as they offer a service – in the form of a product – by using the latest digital technology (all done without killing a tree).
GreenVelope’s Impact on Sustainability
Here is an infographic illustrating GreenVelope’s impact:
In November 2014, GreenVelope joined 1% For The Planet where members contribute 1% of their sales for eco-friendly projects, regardless of whether the business is profitable or not.
GreenVelope started collaborating with the National Park Foundation in March 2017 which is tasked to look after wildlife and park properties, conserve history and traditions, teach and involve youths, and communicate the joy of discovery of parks with all peoples.
Types of Digital Cards
Here are the various categories of e-cards offered by GreenVelope with a built-in RSVP tracking function for ease of monitoring so clients can focus on planning their events. To learn more, click here.
However, old traditions are hard to break, so if you are still interested in sending standard printed cards, have a look at Paper Culture below.
Paper Culture designs, prints and supplies tailor-made cards for every occasion. Unlike many retailers, it offers free designer support in achieving the perfect card. Still not convinced that Paper Culture is right for you? Click here to see how they fare in comparison to others in the industry.
How Paper Culture Helps The Environment
Paper Culture works with local, national and international agencies to plant a tree with every order. The customer can also choose to dedicate the tree. Look at sample dedications here. In addition, Paper Culture gives a packet of Blue Spruce seeds to every customer who makes an order.
(ii) To Plant One Million Trees By 2020
On 19 April 2011, Paper Culture announced their collaboration with the Arbor Day Foundation to sow 1,000,000 trees in the national forests of the United States by 2020. This is an extension of the Cards to Trees Program.
As well as till 30 April 2011, Paper Culture would grow a tree for every new Facebook ‘Like’ it had obtained, no purchase needed.
(iii) No New Tree Is Cut
Since Paper Culture started operations, it has been manufacturing its cards locally using 100% end-user recycled paper. This not only reduces the carbon footprint in transporting the finished products but also reduces the amount of waste that goes into landfills.
(iv) Collaboration with Carbonfund.org
(v) Tree Planting Projects
Paper Culture has been actively participating in various tree planting projects domestically as well as globally. To learn more, click here. To find out about their latest project in Tabora (Tanzania), click here.
Notely was founded by Jenica Smith in 2014 offering stationery products with artwork that is originally designed and produced sustainably and ethically in Australia.
Being an illustrator and designer in the advertising industry, Jenica has built up an enormous network of illustrators, designers, typographers, and artists whom she is collaborating with to create the wonderful designs for Notely’s notebooks, journals, and cards.
Printing of Notely’s products is executed using soy-based ink on paper which is “100% carbon neutral, chlorine free and 100% Australian made post-consumer recycled”.
Notely’s Cup Collection consists of A5 notebooks manufactured from recycled coffee cups saving one cup from the landfill with every 2 notebooks produced. The construction procedure involves converting 90% of the coffee cup into FSC-Certified paper fibre while the internal pages of the notebooks are made from salvaged paper. If you are curious about the Cup Collection, click here. If you are spoilt for choice, take a look at their best sellers which highlight notebooks, pocket notebooks and journals.
I was impressed by the fact that Notely has put together a guide ranging from gift buying for children to adults. You can click on the respective sections to view their recommendations in detail.
As most people own at least a pen, can you image what would happen if everyone made a concerted effort to buy only green stationery items? The amount of social change, environmental impact and economic effect this has on businesses on a global scale may just signal the creation of a green economy that will be pervasive and all encompassing. And right now, we can start by considering these brands here.