A Commitment to Green Business

In every sphere of operation we strive to maximize the social, ecological, and financial performance of our company – what is known as the triple-bottom-line. We believe in this philosophy so deeply, in fact, that it was written into our articles of incorporation. Our goal is to green the office products industry and the workplaces it serves by promoting the most sustainable products and practices of our time. Though our company is most easily identified by its environmental aims, we are equally dedicated to social justice. From the communities we impact to the people manufacturing our products, we work to include all stakeholders in a decision making process that ensures equity, health, and personal safety.

Our Sustainability Management System

In order to constantly improve our triple-bottom-line, we employ a robust Sustainability Management System (SMS). Our SMS starts and ends with our Green Team – employees of who are directly responsible for the strategic direction and overall success of our vision for sustainability in the workplace. The Green Team is responsible for the policy creation and ratification process, key elements of the strategic planning phase, implementation oversight, performance review, communications, and reporting. While we are always honing our approach, our current SMS is composed of the following operational activities:

  • Stakeholder Engagement
  • Green Purchasing
  • Carbon Mitigation
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Water Conservation
  • Waste Reduction
  • Pollution Prevention
  • Sustainability Reporting (see below)

To learn more about how we push for sustainability beyond our walls, explore our vision.

Diversity & Inclusivity

At the heart of the sustainable business movement is a desire to address not only ecological issues, but issues of injustice, oppression, and social stratification. We’re convinced a more equitable and inclusive society inherently leads to more sustainable uses of natural resources and by extension helps preserve the balance required to maintain and restore earth’s ecosystem services.

We believe in equality for everyone and everywhere, regardless of race, age, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or otherwise. We believe our work to promote the equity we seek must constantly evolve to changing conditions within our company and beyond.

Wherever possible we work to promote diversity within our company, throughout our supply chain, and among our customer base. We do this through our equal opportunity hiring practices, the vetting of our vendor relationships, and our approach to working with customers.

While business cannot change the world on its own, it is in a unique position to champion practices that help fulfill the promise of “liberty and justice for all.”

Certifications & Affiliations

From inception, has been on the leading edge of sustainable business practice. We have contributed to the development of the sustainability certification movement through founding memberships in such programs as B Corporation and the San Francisco Bay Area Green Business Program, as well as our pioneering work in the use of product certifications to label and rank our catalog by greenness (learn more). Not only have we worked to help create and achieve new standards for sustainable business, we have guided many others on their own path to certification (learn more). Here are some of our more well known certifications and affiliations:

CO2 Neutral

Every day employees of work to minimize the carbon emissions associated with the operation of our business. At the end of the day, however, we are still responsible for a carbon footprint that contributes to Earth’s climate crisis. In order to take responsibility for these excesses, we utilize our own Office Footprint Calculator™ and Green Office Offsets™ to measure and offset the emissions associated not only with our offices but with the delivery of our product from warehouse to doorstep.

B Corporation Certified
Member Since: 2007, Founding Member
Membership Listing

As a Founding B Corporation, we have been certified for meeting comprehensive and transparent social and environmental standards that distinguish "good companies" from "good marketing." We have incorporated the interests of employees, community, and the environment into our governing documents in order to achieve distinction as a B corporation.

Bay Area Green Business
Member Since: 2006, Member of the Inaugural Class
Membership Listing (perform search for “thegreenoffice”)

Developed by Bay Area local governments in collaboration with US EPA, Cal EPA Department of Toxic Substances Control and the business community, the Bay Area Green Business Program verifies that businesses meet high standards of environmental performance by conserving resources, preventing pollution, and minimizing waste.

Green America Approved
Member Since: 2006
Membership Listing

We are proud members of the Green America Green Business Network™, the oldest, largest, and most diverse network of socially and environmentally responsible businesses in America dedicated to growing the green economy.

Energy Start Partner

Not only do we feature ENERGY STAR products in our catalog, but we purchase ENERGY STAR electronics for our own office whenever possible. Our phones, computers, and printing machines are all ENERGY STAR qualified.

Waste Wise Program is committed to the ideal of zero waste. As such, we have joined EPA’s WasteWise program, which targets the reduction of our municipal solid waste. We work to avoid waste through our green purchasing policy, to divert waste through exhaustive recycling and composting, and to track what waste we cannot avoid in order to stay cognizant of our shortcomings.

SmartWay Transport Partner

As a part of our commitment to carbon neutral shipping, has joined EPA’s SmartWay Transport Partnership. The program is a voluntary partnership between a variety of freight industry sectors (we are a Freight Shipper) and EPA that supports fuel efficiency improvements and greenhouse gas emissions reductions. By 2012, this initiative aims to reduce between 33 - 66 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and up to 200,000 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions per year.

Sustainability Report for 2016

Every year we measure key indicators of sustainability to ensure our actions and impact are aligned with our environmental and social values. Below is a summary of our findings for 2016.
Stakeholder Engagement
Key stakeholders engaged in 2016 included our customers, our key suppliers, and a number of the independent third-party product and company certifiers that allow us to label and rank of our product catalog by greenness.

In 2016 we were recertified as both a Certified B Corporation by B Lab and as a San Francisco Certified Green Business by the San Francisco Department of Environment. These achievements include rigorous assessments, reporting, and on-the-ground audits of our workspace.

We continued to actively solicit the feedback of our customer base through post-order online surveys and targeted direct outreach. Key inquiry areas were product performance (in order to reduce the wasteful impact of returns and short life-cycle), delivery damage (in order to reduce unnecessary shipping and product replacement impact), and packaging (in order to reduce unnecessary material consumption, or, on the other hand, increase protection of products for shipping security).

We continued what is internally referred to as our "Industry Greening Campaign" by engaging our largest supplier in an ongoing dialog designed to help them identify and improve their environmental performance. This included supplying data on delivery damage as well as excess or insufficient packaging, and helping to identify new products and product categories where green solutions were not being made available or did not exist. We also made efforts to reduce business related paperwork conveyed by traditional mail, and an effort we’ve learned from experience that requires constant vigilance.

During our annual update of The Green Screen – our system of labeling and ranking products by greenness – we had the opportunity to engage a number of critical third-party product and company certifiers. In these conversations we were able to provide feedback on the use and usefulness of various standards, make suggestions for improving and expanding coverage for certain product categories, and solicit clarification on the appropriate use of particular sustainability measures.

Overall our engagement with stakeholders helped us to better understand our impact and identify new ways to improve our operations.
Green Purchasing
Our efforts around green purchasing can be broken into two distinct categories: (1) goods and services procured for internal company operations, and (2) goods and services sold to our customers.

Internally, our policy has continued to emphasize the purchase of only those goods and services essential to the smooth and efficient operation of the company. Despite being a traditional office products retailer we work hard to remain a virtually paperless office. This means, for instance, that in 2016 we used less than a ream of paper which in turn led to the consumption of less than one ink cartridge, fewer than a dozen pens, less than a box of staples, and so forth. Aside from scant use of traditional office products, there were no purchases of new office equipment or furniture for the year. While in past years we have made expenditures on art created by Bay Area locals, this year saw no new purchases in this category either.

Consumption of business services remained steady year over year with no new services being added. We stayed with existing contracted services originally chosen in part due to their own green business credentials. Service providers who had not earned green business certification to date were offered coupons on green office products and informally encouraged to consider an operational greening initiative.

On the whole, our purchasing-related impact continued to be extremely low due to business systems that are largely digital and an organizational culture that pays close attention to consumption in all forms.
Carbon Mitigation
Our carbon mitigation efforts are distributed across our Sustainability Management System as they encompass the sum of our efforts to conserve existing resources and minimize consumption. Once we have done everything possible to reduce the carbon emissions over which we have direct control, we go on to measure the remaining emissions using our own Office Footprint Calculator, a vigorous 40+ point assessment we developed in conjunction with the nonprofit Redefining Progress. By following standards that we helped to establish, we've maintained our status as a carbon neutral business since our founding in 2005.

Below is a summary of the results and analysis we do based on the Office Footprint Calculator going back five years. These results are based on measurements in three key impact categories: (1) transportation and travel, (2) facility, energy, & waste, and (3) consumption of products and services. For both Total CO2 as well as Total Global Acres our annual goal is a 5% reduction from year to year on a per capita basis. As a small company we recognize it is difficult in some years to achieve this goal as relatively small shifts in staffing can significantly impact our per capita statistics. Nonetheless, we are committed to challenging ourselves and believe that even if in the early years our reduction targets aren't met on a statistical basis they will keep us focused on continuous improvement in the long run.

IMPACT CATEGORY2010201120122013201420152016
Electricity-Related CO2 (metric tons)
Non-Electricity Related CO22.151.213.375.434.544.654.29
Total CO24.213.275.348.0110.599.2511.10
Electricity-Related CO2 %48.8%63.0%36.9%32.2%57.1%49.7%61.4%
Non-Electricity Related CO2 % 51.2%37.0%63.1%67.8%42.9%50.3%38.6%
Total Global Acres *47.3236.7559.9990.06119.06103.96124.75
Energy Efficiency
We continued our efforts to minimize energy use through both purchasing and practice. Having installed energy efficient CFLs throughout our office in past years no new bulbs were required this year due a combination of long life-span and minimal usage. We work to utilize natural light wherever possible and keep lights off during the day in rooms that are not in use as well as throughout the night. Past investments in Energy Star qualified electronics (computer, printer, TV, etc.) continued to minimize energy consumption. Upgrades to server software and hardware were monitored closely to ensure past efficiencies were maintained. Overall, our annual goal of reducing energy consumption by 5% on a per capita basis was met. However, a deeper analysis of this result indicates our success in meeting the goal was structural in nature rather than an issue of efficiencies gained or lost.
Water Conservation
Our status as a San Francisco Certified Green Business verifies our water conservation efforts which have been in effect since our founding. We benefit from having installed low-flow filters or devices on all of our water outlets including bathroom and kitchen sinks, showers, and toilets. In addition, our workplace norms for practicing conscientious consumption lead to water conservation in daily usage. Overall our annual goal of reducing water consumption by 5% on a per capita basis was met through a reduction of watering frequency for our indoor plants.
Waste Reduction
Our energetic recycling and composting programs keep office-generated waste to an absolute minimum. In addition to recycling the basics of paper, aluminum, glass, and hard plastics, we have initiatives for the recycling of e-waste, batteries, and soft plastics. Our composting system guarantees that our food waste is being diverted to commercial composting facilities. The landfill-bound waste that we do generate is sifted prior to disposal for items that were mistakenly categorized as unrecyclable. Overall we estimate that 98%+ of recyclable waste is in fact recycled while over 75% of compostable food waste is composted. Furthermore we estimate that our administrative offices generate less than 75 pounds of landfill-bound waste per year.
Pollution Prevention
To prevent pollution we begin by diligently following our green purchasing policy which requires that only needed items are purchased and that those purchases meet the highest sustainability standards of the relevant product category. Our designation as a certified San Francisco Green Business requires that we continue to avoid the purchase or use of toxic chemicals in the course of operations. We use biodegradable cleaning solvents, non-toxic and low-VOC office products, and minimize our carbon pollution through scant business travel and the use of public transportation whenever possible.