In May, TerraCycle launched a line of school and office products, birthed from the same made-from-waste mantra as our other products. OfficeMax was our clear choice for a retailer, as they already had in place many environmentally responsible plans and support Adopt-a-Classroom, a non-profit TerraCycle fully supports as well.

After the initial launch of seven products, TerraCycle and OfficeMax forged a very unique and mutually beneficial relationship that I believe serves as an incredible model for manufacturer/retailer relationships.

TerraCycle's expertise lies in eco-friendly manufacturing using materials other consider waste. OfficeMax, as an industry leader, is an expert in the needs and issues surrounding office products. Instead of continuing the traditional retailer/manufacturer relationship and pitching OfficeMax products we came up with, we went to their category managers and merchandising experts and did something unheard of -- we asked them what products they needed!

Since school and office supplies were uncharted territory for TerraCycle, we thought it would be best to defer to the experts. Doing so enabled TerraCycle to make more environmentally responsible versions of the industry's worst eco-offenders. It also allowed OfficeMax to have more say into what products they thought would sell best and make the most impact!

From this redefined relationship came an incredible new line of TerraCycle products, which includes tree-free paper made from coffee leaves, straw, and banana peels. In addition, at the direction of OfficeMax, we created biodegradable corn plastic pens and 100 percent recycled plastic pens and pencils made from old newspapers. Those are just a few of the cool new items.

My favorite item is a computer bag that is made from used billboard vinyl. I use one everyday. The billboard is thick and sturdy, and since each cut off the billboard is different, every bag is 100 percent unique.

The concept of a retailer telling a manufacturer how best to focus their efforts seems like a no-brainer to me. What do you think? What are new and different ways that manufacturers and retailers can work together? What are the advantages and disadvantages to working like this?