Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

More on the way! (High quality recycled writing paper, that is)

It seems that every time you turn around, there is a greater variety of truly green (not merely greenwashed) products and services becoming available. As Martha would say, that’s a good thing. A case in point is the new set of 100% recycled lined writing pads that I stumbled across at Tar-zhe.

New Leaf brand 100% recycled lined paper

New Leaf brand 100% recycled lined paper

The shocker was not the paper’s nice quality, as much as the fact as the manufacturer is the respected New Leaf  Paper company, which for years has been churning out recycled paper products used by ecologically responsible printers and publishers such as Chelsea Green Books, VegNews magazine, and locally, Ecoprint (in Silver Spring).

A three-pad set retails for about $6.99, so it’s not the cheapest eco-product, although if you write in (mechanical) pencil often (and the accompanying eraser), the cost  to use drops dramatically. One nice benefit is that this reasonably thick paper will not fade and yellow, eventually rendering your musings unreadable.

Power to the people, indeed.

Easy eco-snazzy for the office?

Because of the many pricey eco-friendly products on the market, it might seem that to snazz up your office space with eco-friendly supplies, you’d need an expense account–which is not happening in these times!

greenroomeco-folders

However, browsing in Target recently, these coated, colorful tabbed file folders from Greenroom Eco caught my eye, with their snappy geometric patterns. What made me do a double take was the reasonable price–$3.99 for a 12-pack, including blank labels. Wait, there’s more! These smooth office beauties are 60% recycled, and printed with soy-based ink.

Fashionable and affordable environmentally friendly office products–who’da thunk it?

Lighten up!

As Earth Day approaches, I’ve been thinking of changes in everyday resource habits  that make a noticeable difference in terms of emissions and electricity use, and other than participating in single stream recycling at home, that habit has been extensive (not exclusive) use of compact fluorescent bulbs at home.

As with any new relatively new popular habit, many myths have popped up concerning their use, probably stemming from people not using them for what they were intended for: lighting spaces for extended periods of time.

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I started using CFLs (only the GE brand, as that seems to be the one that I could find everywhere–Safeway, Target, Giant, True Value Hardware on 17th Street–on sale, often, purchased with a coupon as well) because I was tired of the nuisance of using incandescents for outdoor lighting. Having to screw in a new light bulb (especially in the back) every November/December/January/February (and it would be once a month, because that’s how often the thing would go out in the winter) gives you incentive to find lighting that lasts longer, so as not to have freezing fingers fumbling around with a light on a cold winter night.

Thus, the first CFLs I installed were the two outdoor lights. (Like many newer homes, you’re only supposed to use lights of up to 60 W in the fixtures, so it’s good to check the fixtures’ upper wattage limits.)

Then, one by one, I installed them (the equivalent to 40 W, although the 60 W equivalent is the most common) in various lamps inside the home. Lights which will NOT be installed with CFLs include the kitchen and dining room, because those lights are not on for very long (and rarely both on at the same time); the kitchen has the old-school fluorescent light on the ceiling, which is still going strong.

The other areas that will not be receiving CFLs are the bathrooms and the closet, for the obvious reasons that no one is in them for extended periods of time–if this is the case in your home or office, you have more than the lighting to worry about!

While I’ve been able to find GE compact fluorescents without problem, and they have worked in these relatively new fixtures without trouble, I wonder about the dimmable ones, as they seem to be more difficult to procure, even in the madness that is the Washington area. (I have yet to see them, in fact.)

Because CFL bulb prices have been dropping in recent years, it may be prudent to get one or two at a time, to have on hand to replace your incandescent when your it goes kaput (or for a bulb that tends to die at inconvenient times). After a number of lights are swapped to CFLs you may notice a difference in your electric bills, particularly in the colder months when the lights are on for longer periods.

The last issue, of disposal by recycling, is one that I’m delaying, if only because I don’t have enough spent CFL bulbs to justify taking them to be recycled, although more such places are popping up. (For now, the small box for that lone used CFL will have to do for storage.)

When recycled means first rate…

One reason people are reluctant to buy recycled paper is that it’s believed to be inferior to paper products made from recently felled trees. That perception, widespread as it may be, is not necessarily correct.

I’ve happily used 100% recycled copy paper for years, starting with Xerox’s 100% recycled paper (which has become increasingly hard to find, even online), but now use Staples 100% recycled copy paper, with comparable results when printing or copying.

recycled-copy-paper

Recycled copy paper is as smooth as the typical copy paper, so it prints and copies as well as other copy paper, as long as it is the same weight (20 lb.) of typical office copy paper, which this is. (Recycled lined writing pads, however, vary noticeably in quality, although there are good ones.)

The only real difference is price, as the recycled paper is more costly than regular copy paper. However, combining thrifty printing methods (double sided printing, always using print preview, regularly selecting text) allows me to use much less paper and ink, and recycling the ink cartridges gets me rewards points (in essence, a monthly coupon), effectively offsetting the initial expense.

This one step, switching the office copy/print paper to 100% recycled copy paper, makes it easier to be green! (Sorry, Kermit the frog.)

P.S. When is Mark Buckley going to have Staples yank the rewards commercial which implies that no one need shake toner cartridges if you have them recycled later? The time-honored tradition of toner shaking saves SO much ink that it will be an office mainstay as long as there are printers and copiers.

In your face with e-post-its…

Now, I tend to use paper-based sticky notes more as labels instead of as reminders, so that I know at a glance what a page refers to, what a stack of papers is for, and such. (There are stickies made from recycled paper, but I don’t use paper stickies often enough to justify buying them, for now.)

However, there remains a need for a good reminder, of more than one type. Common programs that are good reminders include Outlook; however, its notes feature is weak, and OneNote appears too complicated to be used as an electronic version of the sticky note.

However, there’s still a need for simple notes that stay on your computer’s desktop, in your face, as it were (unlike Outlook’s note feature, which closes when you close Outlook), so enter the world of e-notes. I’ve tried a couple of the free ones, most notably Sticky Notes for Windows. It was acceptable at first, although it lacked flexibility (couldn’t change fonts, colors), but became erratic after a while, so I chucked it.

I wondered whether 3M had an electronic rendition of its venerable post-it notes for Windows, and it did. (It even runs on Vista.) Fortunately, a full free trial version of this program is available, which runs for 30 days.

post-it-screen-shot2

With this program, which costs $19.99, you can have more than one note on the desktop, have them in different colors, the text in various fonts, format the text (bold, italics, differing sizes), re-size the note windows to your heart’s content, and much more. Features that I haven’t yet tried include setting alarms for notes, inserting photos. All your notes can be put on an electronic corkboard, if you prefer.

The drawback of this program, as you may have guessed, is that it takes up a bit of memory, and I tend to stay away from those that are memory hogs. However, this one has proved so useful and simple that I overlooked that shortcoming. (I deleted some of the bloatware that came with my system soon after I purchased it, so I had room for these e-stickies.)

Waste not, want not, or, the case for the corporate crayon

A few years ago, the fancy office supply mail order outfit, Levenger, offered colorful wooden pencils as a type of highlighter, in colors like yellow, light pink, and bright green. (It still offers them.) This gave me the idea of finding cheaper, less wasteful alternatives to the highlighter–which quickly dries up, and must be tossed soon after being used (which is quite frequently). However, as I have issues with pencil sharpeners, the wooden pencil-style highlighter was not going to be in my future.

Art supply stores like Plaza were my hunting grounds for the anti-highlighter when, voila! The lowly watercolor crayon, particularly the Karat Aquarell, turned out to be perfectly suited to be America’s next top highlighter–with no sharpening needed. It offers good coloring of white paper without bleeding through, yet is transparent, allowing the text to show. Also important is its smooth gliding on a variety of paper types, from regular copy paper to glossy paper. Of course, you can decide how faint or how bright you wish to highlight a certain portion of text with the watercolor crayon, unlike a highlighter,which only allows you to color with the same intensity all the highlighted text.

karat-aquarell-crayon1

Watercolor crayons last a nice long time, and the only waste involved in its use is in periodically peeling off bits of the paper encasing them.

To strike a sophisticated pose before and after using such them, simply hold one as you would a pen or pencil.

For less than $2 each, these watercolor crayons (a.k.a. highlighter alternatives) save all kinds of green!

Flat-out beautiful…on LCD monitors

Talk about your win-win situations; not only are LCD (the flat screen) computer monitors smaller than the (formerly more common) CRTs, they also use less energy, according to EnergyStar. Now that the LCD monitor prices are comparable to those of the CRTs, there’s no reason not to treat yourself, if you’re in the market for a new monitor.

flat-screen-monitor-front-vw
Of course, there are  aesthetic and quality-of-life considerations to choosing an LCD over a CRT. There’s the “ooh” factor–a big one. The LCD is sleek, stylish, and beautiful. However, while the monitor is less bulky, the LCD has more actual screen space, while using less desk space! (And displays a more beautiful picture to boot.)

There’s also the “aah” factor–less bulk. In fact, LCDs are not heavy. This is a great relief when it comes to arranging your workspace ergonomically, because the LCD’s lightweight profile means that you can arrange your area so that it’s the most comfortable for everyday use. And now that moving your monitor around won’t give you a hernia, you’re more likely to arrange your area in a more healthful manner. For instance, with my old CRT, while I could theoretically move my monitor to an angle that caused less visual strain, actually moving it in any way was a chore. Not like so:

side-vw-flat-scr-monitor

You can pivot the LCD to whatever angle you need, and also easily prop it on top of something level, if you need to raise its profile. No more  forklifts needed!

* * *

The only thing left after purchasing your LCD monitor is to safely dispose the CRT, preferably by recycling with a company such as Turtle Wings if you’re in the Baltimore-Washington area.

Being green has never been easier, on the body or on the pursestrings!

(Above photos are views of the Dell SE178WFP flat panel monitor.)