Since the 1980s, conversations about “green” procurement emphasized recycled-content products, like paper. The goal was to divert waste from landfills and create markets for all the materials we so carefully separated for recycling.
Early mandates to “buy recycled” were met with limited success, given the higher cost and lower quality of products that were first to market. Since then, however, increased demand has driven prices down and greatly improved product performance.
As the university moved from sorting to now single-stream recycling, the approach to “buying green” also evolved into Environmentally Preferable Purchasing, defined as “procurement of goods and services that have a reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing goods that serve the same purpose.” It can be expressed mathematically as:
EPP = Environment + Price + Performance
While our Procurement Department has always focused on price and performance, we now look beyond just “recycled content” to consider a product’s total environmental impact, including:
- Renewable/sustainable raw materials – agriculture, forestry, mining
- Socially responsible labor and manufacturing processes
- Energy efficient equipment and lower life-cycle costs
- Minimal packaging – recycled/recyclable and reusable
- Avoidance of hazardous chemicals and pollution
- Efficient transportation – including buying locally whenever possible
Of course, the most “environmentally preferable” purchase of all is the one you never need to make – whether through conservation of supplies, thoughtful repurposing of furniture and equipment, or acquisition from surplus. Managing “lean” is good for tight budgets and good for the planet.
You’ll hear more about EPP in the months to come. The just-published Maryland Green Purchasing Guidelines note that USM already practices “sound environmental stewardship,” but we anticipate new recordkeeping and reporting requirements, as well as continued emphasis on LEED-certified buildings, energy-efficient lighting, HVAC and IT equipment, composting, and recycling.
Meanwhile, here’s an easy first step to EPP: Before you make your next internet purchase, ask Procurement if a Maryland-based small or minority-owned business offers the product you need. You’ll help support the state’s economy and save on shipping costs, while conserving fuel resources and reducing air pollution.
Remember: THINK GLOBALLY, BUY LOCALLY!