Central Washington University Sustainable Purchasing Policy

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Type: Policy

Status: Issued on 4/7/08

Source File: http://www.cwu.edu/~purchase/Sustainability.doc


Central Washington University and the Purchasing Department are committed to sustainability: meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) is an important step toward making sustainability a reality at CWU. EPP is a strategy that seeks to procure products and services with a reduced or minimal environmental impact as compared to other similar products/services that serve the same purpose.

Products/services can include attributes such as: recycled content, reduced energy consumption, reduced toxicity, reduced air and water pollution impact, materials efficiency (such as packaging), and disposal impact at the end of useful life.

It is important to consider the overall cost of each purchase. A product that lasts only half as long as one that is slightly more expensive is no bargain. Similarly, a product that negatively affects other resources of the organization when it is used must be closely scrutinized for its net contribution to the organization's goals.

Before making a purchase, think about the 5 "R"s: Reduce, Reuse, Buy Recycled, Use Available Resources, and Recycle.

1. Reduce
Before making a purchase, it is a good idea to think about how the proposed item will be used and its long-term effects on our environment. Before purchasing, you should ask yourself:

  • Is the purchase truly necessary?
  • Are there existing items within the department that can meet business needs without the purchase of an additional item? For example, is a new fax machine necessary when a computer can be used for e-mail correspondence that will meet the communication requirements of the department?

2. Reuse
In some cases, another department may have a similar item that can be shared. Making maximum use of equipment already available on campus saves money and saves resources that would be needed to manufacture and ship the item.

Before going off-campus to make a purchase, you may also want to consider the campus Surplus department. The goal of the Surplus department is to return into circulation equipment, furniture, and supplies no longer needed by departments. Many of the items at the Surplus department are fully functional and are generally available at a much lower cost than those that are brand-new. Searching out items from the CWU Surplus department ensures that items are used to their fullest potential and keeps them out of local landfills.

3. Buy Recycled
A good way to purchase for a sustainable future is to choose items that have a high-level of recycled content.

Contracts: For office supplies, the Office Depot catalog makes it easy for campus customers to purchase recycled content products. Not only can you buy recycled content items but you can use a Purchasing Card for payment. Recycled items are identified by a green, chasing-arrow recycled symbol and are displayed first in search results.

For most office copying and printing applications, recycled content paper works as well as virgin paper and saves our valuable natural resources, too.

4. Environmentally Preferable (Use Available Resources)
When making a purchase, look for the Energy Star® and Green Seal® labels.

Energy Star® is a joint program of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Energy (DOE) helping businesses and individuals save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. The Energy Star® label identifies products that deliver the same or better performance as comparable models while using less energy and saving money. The label can be found on many common items, including:

  • appliances
  • computers
  • printers
  • scanners
  • transformers

Green Seal® is an independent, non-profit organization that strives to achieve a healthier and cleaner environment by identifying and promoting products and services that cause less toxic pollution and waste, conserve resources and habitats, and minimize global warming and ozone depletion. Their label indicates that a product has undergone rigorous, science-based environmental testing and is better for human health and the environment. Visit their web site to get a list of items with the Green Seal®.

5. Recycle
Getting rid of the old items to make room for the new? Complete the Surplus and Asset Management Declaration of Surplus form to properly dispose of no longer needed items. Maybe another campus department will be able to put that old item back into use and continue the cycle of sustainability?

Questions to ask yourself, and your supplier

(1) Waste reduction: Is the product durable? Can it be easily and economically serviced and maintained? Is the product designed to reduce consumption and minimize waste? Is the product reusable? Is the product technically and economically recyclable in the immediate area? Do facilities and internal collection systems exist to recycle the product? Can the product be returned to the supplier at the end of its useful life? Is the product compostable and are systems in place to compost the product on or off-site? Will the product biodegrade over time into harmless elements?

(2) Packaging: Is the product necessary? Can it be eliminated? Is minimal packaging used? Is the product packaged in bulk? Is the packaging reusable or recyclable? Are recycled materials used to produce the packaging and at what percent post-consumer waste? Can the packaging be returned to the supplier? Is the packaging compostable?

(3) Material source: Are recycled materials used in the product? If so, what percentage? What percentage of post-consumer materials is used? If wood is used in the product, what is its source and how is it harvested? Is the product manufactured from tropical rainforest wood?

(4) Energy efficiency: Is the product energy efficient compared to competitive products? Can the product be recharged? Can the product run on renewable fuels? Does the product require less energy to manufacture than competing products?

(5) Supplier environmental record: Is the company producing the product in compliance with all environmental laws and regulations? What is the company’s record in handling environmental and safety issues? Can the company verify all environmental claims? Does the manufacturer/supplier have a company environmental policy statement? What programs are in place/planned for promoting resource efficiency? Are printed materials available documenting these programs? Has the company conducted an environmental or waste audit? Is the product supplier equipped to bid and bill electronically? Has an environmental life-cycle analysis of the product (and its packaging) been conducted by a certified testing organization, such as Green Seal?

Suggested Resources
Listed below is information on a number of sustainable purchasing related programs offered by our business partners and government agencies.