Many offices have recycling programs, but some workplaces are taking it to the next level and making their offices out of recyclables.

officerecycle.jpg The standard, modern office setting is no stranger to waste. A campaign to reduce office waste in Britain from 2008 announced that bad waste practices costs industry about £15 billion per year nationally, and in 2004, the EPA estimated that buildings account for 60 percent of total non-industrial waste from construction and demotion. So what can be done? One solution that offices are turning to is designing spaces with recycled materials. It cuts out the cost of new building materials and the waste of having to manufacture all new office supplies. Everything from flooring to furniture to office supplies can be made from sustainable, recycled materials. Below are some designs, tips and products for the green, recycled office.

Inventive office building materials

The best way to get the most out of sustainable office efforts is to start from the ground up. Literally. Inhabitat reported on a Japan office designed by Hiroki Tominaga Atelier, made out of shipping pallets. The office isn’t exactly cheap to rent, so the video production company that used it wanted an inexpensive way to redesign the office. Pallets came to the rescue with a price point of $2,300. Then there’s the Twitter offices in California that used reclaimed barn wood to make their logo sign and the Foundation Nicolas Hulot for Nature and Humankind in France has cafeteria walls made out of recycled bricks. When remodeling, almost anything can be found recycled if you get creative enough. When looking for building materials, it’s important to look for FSC Recycled Material, which shows that it’s a certified, reclaimed material. You can find out more about the certification here. There’s also the Recycled Content Certification from SCS Global Services. Another option is to buy used materials at places like the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. It might take a little searching, but often these places will have the like-new gem sitting around inconspicuously. There’s also a service called PlanetReuse, which helps businesses find recycled/reclaimed materials. One of the featured projects was The Patio on Goldfinch, which utilized reclaimed wood paneling on the walls. A feature of note is the quite literally green, all-natural wall: “The plant wall is libidinously lush. It looks like vegetarian taxidermy, as if Champion-Cain and Ted Nugent went down to Brazil, shot the rainforest and had it stuffed. Plant walls are now the modern version of 1970s fern bars. They add oxygen and life to all the strikingly dead-dead-dead design materials that are en vogue these days (concrete, steel, barn wood).” But a green office doesn’t have to stop with building materials.

Office furniture made from recyclables

There are plenty of ways to find office furniture made out of recyclables as well. Many companies make office furniture out of recycled content. For instance, according to National Office Furniture, “National makes use of two kinds of recycled materials in our products: Post-consumer and pre-consumer. Post-consumer material is waste that has become material for another product; it has already served a useful purpose. An example of post-consumer material is aluminum cans that are made into new cans. Pre-consumer material is waste that is left over when producing something else. An example of pre-consumer material is fabric scraps from cutting material for a chair. The scraps are then used to make trunk liners for cars.” Between pre- and post-consumer materials, some of their products, like tabletops, are reported to have almost 100 percent recycled content (97.6 percent for veneer and laminate tabletops, for instance). Examples of other companies to look into for recycled office furniture include Haworth (with their Zody Chair that boasts up to 51 percent recycled content), Herman Miller (which has the Aeron Chair that is made out of up to 56 percent recycled materials). The Office Furniture Recyclers Forum also offers a good resource on buying flat-out recycled office furniture. It states that offices could save 30 to 50 percent by buying recycled furniture. The options involved are remanufactured, refurbished or just reused furniture. Many businesses in your area probably specialize in refurbished and used office furniture. It’ll just take a quick search.

Recycled office supplies

Don’t forget to think small. Try to find writing utensils, office paper and whatever else you need that’s made out of recycled material. Staples has a good page for finding green companies that produce a variety of office supplies. You can also learn more about identifying green products here, like which sustainability labels to look for when buying office supplies. Labels Staples recommends to buy from are: “Paper and wood products: Forest Stewardship Council®, Green Seal™ Technology: EPA ENERGY STAR®, EPEAT Cleaning products: Green Seal™, EPA Design for the Environment Facility supplies and food: BPI compostable, USDA Organic, Rainforest Alliance Certified™, Fair Trade Certified™ Furniture: level®, Cradle to Cradle™” Many of these labels don’t equate to recycled material, but while you’re in the green frame of mind, you might as well buy as sustainably as possible. You’ll also want to look for products that are labeled as or something close to “Recycled/Pre- and Post-Consumer Recycled,” sometimes with a green recycling label printed on the package. Staples defines an appropriate green product as one that uses at least 30 percent post-consumer recycled content.

Calling the professionals

When looking to design a whole green office, you may want to call in some professional designers. You’ll want to look for builders who have LEED certification, which means the builder will be knowledgeable in creating a design with the smallest ecological footprint. In addition to sourcing sustainable building materials, LEED certified builders will be able to create buildings with lower energy consumption, and they will be able to make sure the office is actually built and constructed in a less wasteful manner. Plus, LEED builders gain points for using materials that are 10 to 20 percent by cost recycled content, which will help the builder attain a higher level of LEED certification.