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Is Staples Really Making a Difference

items from the Staples Sustainable Earth line of products
items from the Staples Sustainable Earth line of products
Rubi Wiswall

Staples Sustainable Earth Products


With environmental concern a hot button issue, lots of people talk about what they're doing to ‘green’ themselves but with marketing as their main objective. The upside to this is politicians giving national exposure to climate change, big companies like Staples creating environmentally conscious lines of product, and new companies whose sole purpose is to make the world a cleaner, healthier place.

The downside however, is that because calling something ‘green’ or ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ justifies a higher price tag and customer preference over other products, those terms are becoming powerful marketing tools. It’s hard to distinguish between the big companies making a difference, and those simply making big profits.

I was recently asked to review the Sustainable Earth Products line for Staples. I received emails from a few different people in the obviously large marketing department who touted the company’s initiatives towards a healthier Earth, and frankly, I had low expectations. Never one to turn down a box of free stuff though, I gladly accepted the offer to review. A box of recycled paper, stapler, notebook and calculator arrived about a week later and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised!

In fact, I have been purchasing the regular recycled paper from Staples for years, even though it’s a lighter-weight, duller paper that I cannot use if giving documents to a client for fear they’ll think I’m cheap. The ream of paper from the Sustainable Earth line, made from 90% sugarcane fibers, does seem to be a higher quality and a better recycled option when perception is involved.

The stapler, made from 100% recycled ink and toner cartridges, works fine, but the calculator made from the same recycled materials had a blemish in the screen making it difficult to read. They both are very lightweight (I’m assuming due to the products used to make them) which may be preferable to some but I am partial to products with some weight to them.

My favorite product was by far the notebook, which spoke to that writer-nerd inside who loves nothing more than a fresh, new, satisfying pad of paper. Made from 80% sugarcane fibers, it has a thick cover without any gaudy designs and pocketed dividers between 5 sections. I still get excited everytime I write in it (I hope at least one person out there can relate!)

I must say that when large companies claim to be green I often doubt their intentions, but regardless of the motivation behind Staples’ initiative, 64 million pounds of recycled e-waste since 2007 kind of speaks for itself. They have also taken the time to receive certifications for their Sustainable Earth line, and are the only retailer in North America to be named on the Global 100 Sustainability Index which is one of the top measures in corporate sustainability. Overall I’d say I’m going to be purchasing from their Sustainable Earth line again, and feeling good about it.

Rubi Wiswall is a writer for Revolution Recovery, a Philadelphia Waste Recycling Center. Follow her on Google+ and Twitter.