What It Is
Screening products for environmental impacts means taking into consideration the factors that can have a negative environmental impact when purchasing products or services for your organization.
Why It Matters
Your organization can have real influence over the choices made by organizations that sell office supplies and other products and services critical to your operations. By seeking out environmentally-friendly products and services, you not only send a signal of your values to your suppliers, but to your employees, customers, and ultimately, the economy as well, which can have meaningful impacts on the health and vitality of communities.
The following is a list of guidelines for screening and buying environmentally-friendly products.
- Beware of greenwashing: Be careful to buy inputs that are actually produced sustainably. Companies are often quick to drop the term green because it is trendy and profitable.
- Buy inputs that are not toxic. This means that they should have no carcinogens, chemicals that could cause reproductive deformities, or have other harmful side effects on consumers or employees.
- Buy locally when possible to reduce transportation and to support other local businesses.
- Be mindful of how the goods are transported. Choose the mode of transport that will consume the least amount of fossil fuels and have the smallest environmental impact.
- Buy inputs that have the highest possible recycled content and that could be recycled.
- Buy biobased products whenever possible. Biobased products as defined in the Federal Green Purchasing Plan are, “commercial or industrial products (other than food or feed) that are composed whole or in significant part of biological products or renewable domestic agricultural materials (including plant, animal, and marine materials) or forestry materials.” To read more about the USDA’s BioPreferred Program, see the link in the resources section.
- While buying green inputs is incredibly important, it is also important to look at your production system and to make sure that those systems conserve energy and water, while letting out little in the way of emissions and pollution.
In general, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recommends that when buying product inputs and any type of office product, purchasing decisions should favor:
- Products that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or that are made with renewable energy
- Products that reduce the amount of toxins that reach the environment
- Products that contain as much post-consumer recycled content as possible
- Products that reduce air and water pollution
- Products that reduce waste
- Products produced by suppliers committed to improving environmental performance and who can prove their efforts to green their own business
- Products that serve many functions
- Environmentally Preferable Purchasing, EPA
- How to make balanced and sustainable purchasing decisions, GreenBiz
- Green Purchasing Guides, EPA
- BioPreferred Program, USDA
- Building Materials, Oikos
- Database of Environmental Information for Products and Services, EPA
- Office-Wide Green Purchasing Program, NRDC
- Conserving Resources, Preventing Waste, WasteWise, EPA