Environmentally-Preferred Purchasing

It is important to keep in mind that the purchasing decisions being made by Washington University’s purchasing community affect our local environment and the health of our citizens and workers as well as the global community.

Environmentally Preferred Purchasing (EPP)is the purchasing of products or services that have a positive effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose. EPP contributes to WU’s overall sustainability initiative and efforts.

The purchase and use of environmentally preferable products can have a profound impact – and not just on the environment. Some tangible benefits are:

  • Buying less-hazardous products can reduce regulatory liability, improve worker safety and lower disposal costs.
  • Using energy-efficient and water-conserving products can save money and resources.
  • Products that are reusable, refillable, more durable or repairable create less waste and may be more cost-effective in the long-run than disposable or single-use products.
  • Buying recycled products keeps our home and workplace recycling programs going and saves natural resources.
  • Increased support of recycling programs can expand the recycling industry and create a more competitive environment that will cause pricing of recycled products to come down, relative to non-environmentally friendly competitive products.
  • Improved ability to meet existing environmental goals.

B. Other Definitions

Life Cycle Analysis: The comprehensive examination of a product’s environmental and economic aspects and potential impacts throughout its lifetime, including raw material extraction, transportation, manufacturing, use and disposal.

Post-Consumer Materials/Waste: Materials or finished products that have served their intended use and have been diverted or recovered from waste destined for disposal, having completed their lives as consumer items. Postconsumer materials are part of the broader category of recovered materials.

Recyclability means the ability of a product or material to be recovered from, or otherwise diverted from, the solid waste stream for the purpose of recycling.

Recycling means the series of activities, including collection, separation and processing, by which products or other materials are recovered from the solid waste stream for use in the form of raw materials in the manufacture of new products other than fuel for producing heat or power by combustion.

Waste reduction means preventing or decreasing the amount of waste being generated through waste prevention, recycling or purchasing recycled and environmentally preferable products.

C. Target Areas

1. Waste Reduction

Reducing unnecessary waste on the front-end allows the university to both minimize the inefficient use of our natural resources and benefit economically from decreased handling and disposal costs.

Examples may include:

  • Purchase remanufactured products such as laser toner cartridges, furniture, equipment and automotive parts whenever practicable, but without reducing safety, quality or effectiveness or adding to cost.
  • Purchase products that are durable, long lasting, reusable or refillable.
  • Require suppliers to reduce packaging, where possible, without affecting the safety of the products during transit.
  • Request packaging that is reusable, recyclable or compostable when suitable uses and programs exist.
  • Reuse pallets and packaging materials.

2. Recycled Content Products

The university is in the process of developing a successful recycling system and recognizes that recycled content products are essential to the continuing viability of that recycling system.

Examples may include:

  • Products for which the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) has established minimum recycled content standard guidelines – such as printing paper, office paper, janitorial paper, construction, landscaping, transportation, vehicles and non-paper office products – and which contain the highest post consumer content practicable.
  • Copiers and printers that can be used with recycled content products.

3. Energy and Water Savings

With electricity generation being a major contributor to air pollution and global warming issues and clean water being in short supply, the university supports products that protect these valuable resources.

Examples may include:

  • Energy-efficient equipment including, but not limited to, high-efficiency heating and cooling systems.
  • Efficient lighting with energy-efficient equipment.
  • Buying water-saving products.
  • Buying computer products that are EPEAT silver and above (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) certified by the Green Electronics Council

4. Landscaping Management

Sustainable landscaping practices can produce significant economic and environmental benefits. Savings include reduced labor, water and fertilizer costs, lower hauling expenses and disposal fees, and less exposure to workman’s compensation claims due to crew injury from lifting heavy loads of green material.

Examples may include:

  • Employing sustainable landscape management techniques for design, construction and maintenance. Grass cycling, composting, and mulching return valuable organic material to the soil, which increases the water-holding capacity of soil, reduces erosion and conserves water. Proper watering, fertilizing and pruning along with integrated pest management can encourage healthier, disease-resistant plants and can reduce the amount of pesticides, fertilizers and other toxic runoff entering storm drains and polluting creeks, lakes and rivers.
  • Minimizing waste by selecting plants that are appropriate to the microclimate, species that can grow to their natural size in the space allotted them. Place preference on native and drought-tolerant plants that require no or minimal watering once established.
  • Limiting the amount of impervious surfaces by procuring permeable substitutes such as permeable asphalt or pavers for walkways, patios and driveways.

5. Toxics and Pollution

The use of toxics and the generation of pollution should be minimized to reduce risks to health, safety and the environment.

Examples may include:

  • Buying more environmentally-friendly cleaning and disinfecting products.
  • Procuring products with the lowest amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), highest recycled content, and low or no formaldehyde in materials such as paint, carpeting, adhesives, furniture and casework.
  • Reducing or eliminating the use of products that contribute to the formation of toxic chemicals, including, but not limited to:
    • Paper, paper products and janitorial paper products that are bleached or processed with chlorine or chlorine derivatives
    • Products that use polyvinyl chloride (PVC), including, but not limited to, office binders, furniture, flooring and medical supplies
    • Products and equipment with no lead or mercury. For products containing lead or mercury, give preference to those with lower quantities of these metals and to vendors with established lead and mercury recovery programs.
    • Hybrid and/or Electric vehicles where they make sense.

D. Emphasize

  • Health and safety of workers and citizens
  • The purchase of goods and services from local vendors where and when prudent.
  • Procure goods and services that are environmentally-friendly without compromising cost or quality

E. Performance Measurement & Reporting

To evaluate the performance of the university’s Environmentally Preferred Purchasing program, suppliers will be asked to provide reporting of the recycled content of the products shipped to WashU.

Purchasing Services responsibilities include:

  • Coordinating with suppliers to design and implement a reporting system for tracking the environmental contents of products.
  • Educating end users about the impacts of their product choices through the purchasing sustainability website and e-access articles.