“ Brand: Earth Series „
Okay, so it's maybe not the most exciting product in the world but everyone needs organisation, right? I am a bit of an organisation freak myself. Not the kind of freak that will travel the world attracting marvel as part of a circus act (I do hope not anyway!) but instead one who likes to have everything filed and sorted in a neat and orderly fashion. This way, when the need arises for me to find the invoice for my printer or the instruction manual for my four-slice toaster I can locate said article faster than you can say "two-year warranty".
One of the tools I use to facilitate this obsessive orderly trait of mine is a letter tray. But not just any old letter tray. I use the Earth multi-shelf letter tray.
Earth, you say?
Firstly, why the word 'Earth'? Well, one of the distinctive qualities of this product is that it is made from 100% recycled material. Each shelf of the letter tray is made from biodegradable wooden fibreboard - a result of recycled everyday consumer waste (just to be clear, that's waste in the product sense of the word, not direct human waste!). The necessary additives to the end product, namely the black colouring, are made entirely from natural oils and waxes rather than harsh chemical alternatives. The shelves fit together with the use of small rubber rings (explained later); these are made from recycled car tyres and eliminate the need for glue or other adhesives. In fact, 100% of the product (including the packaging) can be re-recycled or composted making this product very environmentally friendly.
So, that's Friends of the Earth satisfied, now how about the organisation of my desk? Well, the shelf requires self-assembly on arrival but this was not a banal experience by any means. In fact, it was actually quite fun (I do occasional get let out). I'm not a fan myself, but anyone with an interest in building Airfix models or anything similar will most probably also enjoy the experience.
The pack includes; three A4 sized shelves, a smaller top shelf, 2 side panels, a back panel and 30 small rubber rings (includes six spare rings).
Each shelf has six sticky-out bits (or nubs) which slot into grooves on each of the three vertical panels. To hold the panels in place, you simply fasten one of the rubber rings around each nub which stops it from falling back through the slot. These joins are stronger than they sound. The rubber rings fix tightly into place in the designated grooves around each nub resulting in a surprisingly sturdy construction.
To assemble the letter tray, I first took one of the side panels and stuck in one shelf at a time using the rubber rings to affix each shelf securely in place. Then I attached the back panel in the same way and finally the last side panel. Once everything is slotted together it really is remarkably sturdy. I had my doubts when assembling it and wasn't completely convinced by the design but it quickly proved me wrong and turned out to be very solid - almost as if it was one complete structure.
The whole building process takes no longer than a couple of minutes and is not something which requires too much dexterity.
The self-build requirement is not purely for novelty purposes. It allows the product be completely flat-packed saving on distribution and postage costs. Another handy outcome of the unique design is that the product can easily be disassembled and transported. I've taken mine down and reassembled it on a number of times when moving around. The panels stack on top of each other and I use the included small sealable polythene bag (recyclable!) to store the rubber rings.
As you would imagine with four separate shelves, there is ample room for storing your letters and what not, keeping your desk organised and tidy in the process. I find the three A4 shelves ideal to separate my papers into three categories. On the bottom shelf, I have spare paper and note making facilities; a refill pad, envelopes and scrap paper (the recycle theme continued here). The next shelf up is the home of all those documents which I have dealt with but might still need handy. These things include last month's utility bills, recent invoices etc. The next shelf up and final A4 shelf is where all those urgent documents are kept. These need dealing with as soon as possible and vary from 'get it done quickly' to 'impending doom' on the urgency scale. A typical resident of this shelf is the latest unpaid utility bill. Finally, on the top half-shelf I keep small notes and reminders such as shopping lists, post it notes and general stationery equipment such as a stapler, paper clips and Sellotape.
The flexibility is there to allow you to choose how you use each of the four shelves. I particularly like the way the top shelf is shorter in size than the rest. This allows me to view the contents of the top A4 shelf which is a useful feature since it is my 'urgent pile'. That said there is ample room between each of the shelves to allow you to see and access their contents.
How does it compare to regular letter trays?
One of the main reasons I plumped for this product instead of a cheaper plastic letter tray was the storage design. The 'trays' themselves are not true trays. Instead, they are more like actual shelves allowing you to slide paper in and out of them horizontally. More common letter trays have separate troughs or sunken risers meaning that you have to reach in and fish out the contents risking creasing and frustration. This is not the case here. You can easily slide single sheets in and out of each shelf and also flip through a stack of documents to find the one you want without having to remove the entire stack.
Each shelf also has a sort of V-shape cut out at the end which allows you to remove individual sheets or the entire pile easily. I haven't accidentally scrunched up a sheet of paper whilst trying to remove it and using the letter tray is an absolute doddle.
In terms of size, there is very little in the way of excess bulk here. The shelves are just a little bigger than A4 to accommodate sheets of paper easily but the whole structure once assembled is barely any wider. The main issue is the protrusion of the interlocking nubs around the sides but I haven't found any issue with these. They actually make the whole thing look more attractive in a strange sort of way.
Those with limited desk space may like to know that the dimensions of the fully-assembled letter tray are 22.8 x 25.8 x 35.4mm. I have ample room on my desk (at least I do now it's organised with the help of this letter tray) so I haven't found this product to be too bulky or space-consuming. I would advise however that you check the measurements if you think you might be pushed for room.
The Earth letter tray is very practical in an organisational sense as explained above. However, there are some drawbacks worth mentioning.
Firstly, on a count of being 100% recycled and 100% recyclable, each panel has a rough coating to it. This is not significant enough to cause damage to any papers or anything to that effect but it is rather troublesome when it comes to cleaning. The slightly rough textured panels seem to attract dust more than conventional plastic trays and to dust them down requires a bit of care.
To clean the panels I use a regular dry dusting cloth (Pledge brand or equivalent). Using an already well-used dusting cloth is a big mistake here though. This will simply transfer the dust particles from the cloth onto the panels. The end result is an even greyer sheen of dust over the once clean looking panels. Instead, I always make sure I use a clean cloth and then rub lightly across the areas that require dusting. This works well because the microfibers attract the dust and lift it from the panels without the cloth fibres getting caught on the material.
In the interest of balance (and the fact that I am not reviewing Pledge dusting cloths here) a clean and slightly damp cloth will work just as well. The downside to this approach is that you will need to evacuate your letter tray first as you probably won't want soggy papers. The panels easily withstand a damp cloth and dry quite quickly so this need not be as chore-like as it sounds.
== Price/Availability ==
I originally paid £14.99 for this letter tray but it is currently available in Black from amazon.co.uk for £18.64.
== Recommendation ==
I will admit that it is a little on the pricey side but when compared to conventional letter trays, this really is quite good value. Here, you get four separate shelves allowing you much more space than the traditional three shelf products. Also quite unique to this product is the inclusion of the top smaller shelf which is a feature I have found very useful. What's more, it is a very solid and sturdy letter tray which is easy to dissemble and store away or transport. The wooden panels are thin but still very sturdy and robust.
I would fully recommend this if you are in need of a letter tray. Not only does it organise your papers brilliantly but it is also environmentally friendly. You are probably paying more for the eco-friendliness of the product but that is true of most 'green' products these days.
The eco-friendliness is by no means the sole selling point here though. The funky design, unique construction and practicality of the letter tray all amount to a very high quality product. I can therefore fully recommend this letter tray to anyone who is need of a bit of stylish organisation.
Who said being organised had to be dull?
Thank you for reading :)