Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot – and Refurbish!

Dec 19, 2018 | Blog, Featured

The office can be a cluttered, single-use plastic, paper filled black hole. Stacked up piles of admin in plastic trays, printed emails and presentations, single-use free pens from countless conferences, plastic wallets to hold paper documents we read once two years ago. The list goes on and on.

But is it possible to green your workspace and clear your mind and your conscience?

For those looking to be more environmentally friendly, we suggest you follow the 5 Rs’ of the zero-waste movement: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot. Say no to cheap disposable plastic items and unnecessary printed paper. Reduce the amount you buy, or buy reusable items. Reuse items, repurpose and buy second hand. Recycling is important but isn’t reliable if you don’t know where it ends up. Rot – compostable materials are the pinnacle of zero-waste items.

And finally, the missing R – Refurbish – buying refurbished computers can prevent old units adding to the mountains of e-waste and keep them in circulation for many more years to come.

We believe it is possible to achieve a zero-waste office. It may mean changing your shopping habits, but that may just mean ordering online from a shop you may not have heard of or visiting a small business instead of a mega-corporation. Have a go at creating your own zero-waste office space by following our guide below:

Use existing second-hand items

Second-hand shops can be a goldmine of useful materials. By extending the life of existing products like used ring binders or plastic folders, we can at least save them from landfill and give them a second life. Try giving a second life to old desks from second-hand shops. We especially like these upcycled desks from old MAC computers.

Eliminate paper sources

Sign up for paperless billing and statements where possible. Stop using sticky notes. There are a range of virtual note-taking apps and programmes you can use. Try Google Keep, Bear, Simplenote or Milanote and Paper for more visual thoughts. Evernote and OneNote are good for more comprehensive note-taking. Or if you can’t let go of the physical article – try a mini whiteboard notebook from GreenBook.

Buy reusable stationery

Hundreds of different types of trees can go into making just one single piece of paper. According to the WWF, illegal logging around the world means that wood for paper manufacturing can come from precious forests in the Amazon, Papua New Guinea, Myanmar and Indonesia. We also rely heavily on single-use items like plastic sellotape, pens and staples that don’t easily rot down in a landfill. Use these existing items to the end of their life, then recycle, but replace with sustainable and reusable items. Try stainless steel pens and lead pencil holders. You can also find eco-binders which are made from recycled paper and steel. Or what about pencils made from recycled cars!

Buy compostable stationery

We are talking about recycled notebooks that are not wrapped in plastic, or pencils without rubbers. Or what about the seed-embedded paper – that you can write on and then plant outside when you are finished. There are even recycled notebooks, like the Decomposition Notebook which is manufactured using captured methane gas and printed with soy ink. You can even get highlighter pencils instead of plastic highlighter pens. Look for FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) paper goods. This ensures that it is sourced from sustainable and legal forests. Or try bamboo products – bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet and highly sustainable. Or how about a plantable pen?


If you are just about to start wrapping items for shipping, stop before you buy some more plastic sellotape. Read Jenny’s post on sellotape at Alternatives To Plastic. There are lots of outlets for sustainable paper tape.


Stop printing

Some of us will still print documents in order to proof-read or share in meetings, but is that really necessary? Presentations can be shared virtually, and even via Google Meet or Adobe. If you do receive paper documents that need to be shared – scan them and email them. Even note taking no longer needs to be on expensive paper notepads. There are loads of electronic note apps that sync across Mac, PC, iPad, Android and iPhone. Try Evernote, Simple Note or Google Keep. Your to-dos can also be electronic using Wunderlist, Google Tasks, Microsoft To Do, Ike, Todoist, Habitica, or a project management tool like Click-Up or Trello.

If you really have to print, then buy recycled ink
There are a number of companies that provide this service, like ijtdirect and inkfactory. Also, try typing your documents in ryman eco font – “an environmentally sustainable typeface that uses 33% less ink than standard fonts.”

External drives, not USBs and CDs

By storing data on external drives you avoid using single-use CDs and plastic coated USB sticks. But if you do need a USB – try a bamboo one.

Buy refurbished computers not new

We live in a culture where were are constantly required to buy the latest and newest model. Made to believe that if we don’t we risk becoming obsolete and our way of life destroyed. Ok – maybe not that dramatic! But we have become a generation of the disposable. The tide is starting to change, however. People are learning and starting to buy products which are reusable, or fixable.

In computing, we are starting to shift mindsets to see that computers can last up to 12 years, with a bit of love and attention. At SecondLife-IT we take ex-lease business computers and fully refurbish them, often replacing and upgrading components, re-spraying and thoroughly testing to make them as good as new. By buying refurbished you avoid the purchase of a new computer, which in turn reduces carbon production and the use of toxic and over-resourced materials.

Stop buying new books

The library is an incredible source for books and magazines – but is often underused by adults. Even if you can’t find the book you are looking for you can often request it and many libraries now operate an e-lending service for you to download and read the latest ebooks eBay and Amazon Marketplace also have a plethora of second-hand books, often in great quality.

Change your tea and coffee

Ok – this one is a little extreme. But how about – growing your own? According to botany-guru, James Wong, growing tea in the UK is easier than you think. The UK’s wet climate is actually perfect for tea growing. Once you’ve grown your tea, picked it, dried it and finally brewed it – phew you are going to be thirsty – then you can enjoy your tea in a recycled mug and place it on a recycled circuit board coaster. Now, I bet that was worth the wait. If you haven’t got green fingers, try buying loose leaf tea, (most commercial tea bags contain plastic), without the plastic packaging and brew in a reusable teapot. For coffee drinkers, it’s harder to grow your own, but there are some ethical brands and certifications to look out for. And if you just want to sip a cold drink – may sure you have a glass or stainless steel straw.

Buy Plants

Plants not only look attractive, but they can help purify the air – removing bacteria, dust particles and mould. Try a peace lily which is easy to maintain as long as you remember to water them and especially like rooms with low light. Even a cactus or succulent will produce tiny amounts of oxygen to help balance your office. Or why not get free plants? Spider plants can produce several babies a year. Simply cut them off and put them into a glass of water. Once you see some healthy roots appearing, pot them up and water with rainwater. Share with friends and family to spread your newfound eco enthusiasm.

Stock up on Handkerchiefs

Stop buying the single use soft as a baby’s bottom tissue papers with the wondrous healing balm. These disposable options are a challenge to recycle or degrade because of their coatings (and should never be flushed!) A handkerchief is reusable, washable and doesn’t cost the earth plus you can have your name embroidered for extra personalisation points!.

Reduce E-waste

Take any electronic equipment to a registered recycler. You can find your nearest recycling centre on your local council’s website and lots of supermarkets and large stores have boxes you can drop your used batteries into.

Eco Light Bulbs

Switching to LED light bulbs can be a massive energy saver. Although they cost more than normal bulbs, there is a long-term cost and environmental benefit plus the new generation of smart bulbs mean you can turn lights on with an app or even your voice!

Go on Standby

You can even buy a computer standby button that puts your computer to sleep instantaneously – saving electricity.

Use Renewable Energy

Solar lights and solar chargers are a simple way of reducing your impact. Solar lamps are especially handy outdoors where there’s plenty of free energy to absorbed by the sun. On a grander scale, innovations such as Smartflower mean you can now access solar even if you don’t have a south-facing roof!

Remove the Bin

This is a fiendish tip – but it is one that will really help change your outlook and force you to look at what you are throwing away. Rubbish doesn’t just disappear when you throw it out. By removing the bin from your office you can assess what waste you are still creating and whether it can be eliminated.

For office spaces in businesses, you can go even further. Greening your office space is now incredibly popular, not just for aesthetic appeal, but to improve health, wellbeing and productivity. Offices are now constructed with a thought for renewable energy sources, reusing grey water, carbon offsetting and encouraging cycle to work scheme Bloomberg’s office space in London contains some remarkable features that help heat and cool the office space. They also used LED lights on sensors which use less energy and rainwater for the toilets.


While we may not have cleared out your inbox or in-tray, hopefully, we may have cleared your conscience a bit. Just remember, when you are next stocking up on office supplies make sure you consider your 6 Rs. Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot and REFURBISH!

Join the Zero Waste movement. Give us a call to find out more about our refurbished computers, iPads and laptops. 

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