The Power of Buying Green on Campus and Beyond

Daniel PedersenBy Daniel Pedersen, Ph.D., Green Seal’s VP of Science & Standards

Summer marks the beginning of the new fiscal year on many campuses – this is a good time to do some housecleaning and review your purchasing policies. Green purchasing is an easy and powerful way for higher education campuses to benefit, and even to drive the sustainability of the broader market.

The principles of green purchasing can easily increase sustainability when they are incorporated into purchasing specs and policies of individual departments or across the entire campus. Your campus can use the AASHE STARS program as a road-map to sustainability; the list of Operations (OP) credits is a good framework for green purchasing. You can make a big difference when you choose products like electronics, cleaning products (such as cleaners, paper towels, and bathroom tissue), and office paper. An emphasis on local items and services reduces transport needs and strengthens the local community, while environmentally-responsible food and beverages and low impact meals can reduce the footprint of dining services. Less frequent purchases – paints, insulation, windows, doors, furniture, and carpets – are important for the sustainability of building operations and maintenance or design and construction.

With a little more thought, campuses can estimate the environmental impact of ownership of items across their entire life cycle, using a Life Cycle Cost Analysis – especially those that use energy or water. The initial cost of an appliance or building is only half of what you will pay over its entire lifetime. Once installed, the monetary and environmental cost of their operations will now be locked in for the next few years or even decades.

Another way you can extend the impact of your purchases and contracts is by making clear to your business partners that you expect them to have responsible environmental practices, employee wages, and work conditions.

It’s very easy to implement green purchasing policies that specify local and certified selections, saving you money and worry while strengthening your image. When you read the case studies in my next article, you’ll see how you can benefit by doing well, and also drive the entire market to become more sustainable.

Want to read more…? This is an excerpt of a longer article that first appeared on AASHE’s blog (the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education). Daniel serves on their advisory council.