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Although sticky notes seem like they should have been thought up in some eureka moment, the truth is that the temporary adhesive that makes sticky notes work was invented years before anyone could find a use for it. A 3M scientist named Spencer Silver came up with what was basically a bad glue—one that was incapable of full adhesion—in 1967. The company then coated a piece of board in the stuff and marketed it as a kind of fly trap for notes (i.e., you could smack your regular paper to it). Eventually, another 3M employee had an Aha! moment when trying to keep his bookmarks in place, and the now indispensable Post-it sticky note was born. Although uniquely useful, there are a number of important considerations when choosing sticky notes, including quality, environmental impact, and whether or not you’ll be using them on valuable books or papers. Read our selections below to find our top choices and alternatives.
1. 3M Post-it Greener Notes
3M started the sticky note craze, and some 50 years on, they still stand out in the field. These classic yellow Post-it Notes are top quality, with thick, bleed-resistant sheets. They are also a breath of fresh air among disposable paper products, since they are made from 100% recycled paper and use an adhesive that is 67% plant-based. In addition, 3M is the only major sticky note manufacturer able to confirm, through testing, that the adhesive backing on their sticky notes breaks down in the recycling process. (Many recycling programs that accept mixed paper can accept sticky notes, but check with local guidelines.)
2. Global Notes Adhesive Notes, 12 pads
Global Notes, a German manufacturer, also makes high-quality stick-on notes with an environmentally conscious bent. These notes use a unique water-based and solvent-free adhesive that breaks down more easily in recycling processes and is less harmful to produce. Also, the paper comes from forests that have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as using sustainable logging practices.
3. McSquares Stickies
A number of options exist for reusable alternatives to sticky notes, and one of the most useful options is mcSquares’ Stickies. The sturdy, multicolored squares use suction to stick to glossy surfaces from whiteboards to smooth painted walls to computer monitors. They stick well, and importantly, erase completely. If they start to lose their stick, a rinse of water to remove any accumulated dust should renew their tack.
4. Post-it Super Sticky Notes
Post-it Super Sticky Notes are a more recent addition to 3M’s product line, and they really do have superior holding power. For notes around the studio, they stay put longer than regular Post-it Notes, which already have a leg up on many competitors. These are not made with recycled pulp, but the paper comes from sustainably managed forests and the adhesive is partially plant-based. What’s more, because of the superior sticking power, these notes can be moved and restuck multiple times, creating less waste.
5. Gaylord Archival Buffered Interleaving Paper
The National Archives and Records Administration has been quoted as saying that sticky notes are not ideal for use in books. According to their research, even when removed immediately, sticky notes still leave a residue that can affect the longevity of your pages. When marking pages is a necessity but you don’t want the potentially damaging traces of glue left, opt for archival book strips. Make your own using Gaylord’s buffered interleaving paper, which the company recommends for use even with rare books.