For those who thrive with a plan in hand, nothing represents the thrill of a new year like a brand new planner. But what do you do with that ever-loved book when December rolls around? Recycle it? Throw it away? Keep it forever? These eco-friendly planners give you new options for end-of-use management while also considering raw materials, production standards, and packaging so you can keep making plans and still feel good about it.

17 eco friendly planners to keep you on track

What Makes an Eco-Friendly Planner?

The perfect planner doesn’t just keep your days on track and ensure you never miss dinner with Aunt Martha. It inspires you to live your life to the fullest. Whether it offers inspirational quotes, goal-setting pages, weekly reflections, habit tracking, or daily intentions, your planner is an integral part of your self-improvement journey. How you spend your days is how you spend your life, and your planner makes sure that however you spend them, you’re doing it with intention.

You want life to be even better and lovelier than it already is, and one of your goals is to use fewer—but better—products.

Starting with your planner.

If you’re a paper-loving planner type who also cares about the environment, you’ve no doubt experienced the frustration of trying to remove coil bindings and coated covers from last year’s diary so you could recycle its various components. If you’re as clumsy as I am, you may have even cut your fingers in your fervor to do the right thing, and you’ve certainly felt the frustration of realizing that the glue in a binding has destined all that beautiful paper for the garbage bin.

There has to be a better option.

Sustainable planners, journals, and notebooks have been slow to develop. For years, stores have been stamping the word green on their packaging to give us the illusion that their products provide a more sustainable option. But when we dig deeper, we find that green may mean nothing more than the inclusion of some recycled paper. I’ve seen products with as little as ten or twenty percent post-consumer paper marketing themselves as eco-friendly, even when the manufacturing process has rendered the product nonrecyclable.

Thankfully, today’s consumers are savvier and are expecting more from companies claiming to follow sustainable practices. We want to know the full environmental impact of the products we’re purchasing, and we want to support organizations that, even though they have not yet reached their own stringent goals for sustainability, are ardently striving to improve and are upfront about their shortcomings.

So what makes a planner eco-friendly?

Sustainable Materials and Recyclability

Despite many processes going digital in recent years, demand for paper-based products and other forestry products is at an all-time high. Meanwhile, paper recycling rates in the U.S. have essentially plateaued at just under seventy percent and logging centers such as British Columbia are running out of trees to harvest.

Clearly, we need to manage our resources better.

When we look at eco-friendly planners, we want to see the use of recycled paper—certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), if possible—or of alternate materials, such as stone. Virgin paper should be a last resort and should be traceable to responsible sources.

Inks should be non-toxic. Options include vegetable ink, soy ink, and other food-grade inks. Bindings should be easily removable and either recyclable or reusable or should be made from another sustainable material that doesn’t diminish the recyclability of the paper. Most sewn bindings, for example, can be recycled along with the paper. If they are bound using cotton from natural fiber, they are fully recyclable.

The cover is a tricky part. We’re going to be looking at our planner for a year or more so we want it to be beautiful, but many of those beautiful covers are not recyclable. However, we needn’t limit ourselves to a simple Kraft paper cover in the name of sustainability, though planners with this natural look can be just as cute.

Many of the covers in the eco-friendly planners below are made from high-quality recyclable cardboard and feature lovely cover designs. Be sure to check local recycling regulations in your jurisdiction as you may need to separate the cover from the paper to recycle them.

Linen and vegan leather covers, while better than plastic and leather, are generally not recyclable, though they do have reuse potential. An ideal scenario would be to have a simple cardstock cover and slip your planner inside a reusable linen notebook case, but this won’t meet everyone’s needs.

Steer clear of planners with plastic tabs and stickers as these will render your planner non-recyclable.

Dated vs. Undated Planners

While a typical daily planner might last for three to six months, a weekly planner usually covers a year and a monthly planner can cover two to three years. Traditional planners have come with the dates pre-filled, which is great if you’re an avid planner who uses their paper planner every day, week, month, and year. However, a lot of us fall behind, and for those of us who bought dated planners at the start of 2020, our investments felt entirely wasted. Never has an emptier planner been recycled than those at the dawn of 2021.

A dateless planner requires a little more effort—you actually have to fill in all the dates yourself—but they’re more sustainable in that you never waste a page. As with a traditional notebook, you simply turn to the next page when you’ve completed the previous one, whether a day or a month has passed. Because this design leads to fewer wasted pages, an undated planner is more eco-friendly than a dated one.

Packaging and Shipping

Transportation has a huge impact on the overall carbon footprint of your planner. Where was it manufactured? How many times did it change locations before reaching your hands? What distance did it travel and by what mode? All of these factors contribute to the total carbon emissions associated with that little book sitting on your desk.

Ideally, you want to look for a planner that has been designed and manufactured close to home. There are great options in the U.S., Canada, Australia, the E.U., and Britain. Because our readers are all over the world, I’ve tried to focus on companies that ship to multiple countries, but a quick Google search of “eco-friendly planners made in my country” will help you find those with the shortest distance to travel to your mailbox.

If they are manufactured locally, not only can you expect a smaller footprint, but you can also trust that the quality will likely be higher than those planners manufactured overseas. Manufacturing outside of Asia is more expensive—and you see this reflected in the prices you pay—so companies who go this route usually do so because they’re making a deliberate choice to value quality and sustainability over price.

Pay attention to the packaging materials used by the planner companies as well. Do they use biodegradable packaging or recycled boxes for shipping? These are preferable to plastic bubble mailers or mixed-material packaging that can’t be recycled.

To avoid shipping altogether, consider purchasing printable planner pages from an Etsy seller, printing them on your own recycled paper, and keeping them in an eco-friendly binder. Alternately, you could have the pages printed and coil-bound at your local office supply store for a fraction of the cost of many traditional planners. Just be sure to confirm the type of paper you want in advance.

The Company’s Ethos

Finally, pay attention to the company itself. What kind of company is it, and is it one that you want to support?

Companies that are dedicated to producing a truly eco-friendly product line usually go above and beyond in their efforts in other areas too, and it’s worth it to support them in these endeavors. Running a sustainable company that does the right thing is extremely difficult work, and the only way we will see more entrants into this market (thus increasing supply and hopefully decreasing prices), is by supporting the early forerunners.

Look at the companies’ websites and their sustainability statements if they have them. Are they a carbon-neutral or carbon-negative company? Are they a Certified B Corporation? By purchasing from them, are you supporting a small or local business?

One of the loudest ways we can voice the change we want to see in the world is by consciously deciding where to spend our money. When we support small businesses that are taking big steps, we are relaying a vital message: I believe in a better future and I support the people who are leading us there.

Now, onto the planner recommendations. These seventeen eco-friendly planners are a great choice for the beginning of the year or anytime you’re ready for a fresh, green start.

Eco-Friendly Planners

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