Responsible Purchasing Guidelines

Responsible purchasing has a number of benefits. Beyond environmental considerations, responsible purchasing also considers human health and well-being, financial savings, and risk mitigation. Environmental factors that determine whether a product is environmentally preferable include:

  • Environmental and financial costs over the product’s life
  • Energy or water consumed during production
  • Use of recycled or recyclable materials
  • Minimal packaging
  • Environmental impact of product disposal
  • Toxicity of materials or application
  • Durability and product life
  • Maintenance needs

Some initial considerations by category are outlined below. Please refer to the full guidelines for more detail and information

  • Furniture:  As furniture is often disposed of before reaching the end of its useful life, when purchasing furniture, Stanford personnel should first check the Stanford Reuse website to see if the need can be fulfilled with reused items. Only if the need cannot be filled via reuse should new furniture be purchased, and then, aim to reduce the amount of chemicals in the furniture. 
  • Electronic Equipment:  EPEAT is the most comprehensive sustainability certification for IT equipment (e.g. computers, monitors, TVs), evaluating a number of different attributes, including materials sourcing, environmental safety during production, energy consumption, and end of life. Purchases of electronic equipment should EPEAT certified.
  • Cleaning Supplies: Many cleaning products contain chemicals that are toxic to humans and harmful to the environment. Purchases of cleaning products should be Green Seal certified. 
  • Paper Products:  All purchases of paper products, including both office and janitorial, should either made from 100% recycled content or be Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. FSC certification ensures that paper products not made with 100% recycled content are sourced from forests managed in an environmentally responsible way. 
  • Office and Lab Consumables: Because these types of supplies are highly consumable, the most important sustainability aspect is keeping used materials out of the landfill, through the purchase of products that are recyclable and products made with recycled content. 
  • Breakroom Supplies: Reusable serviceware is the best option. If disposable serviceware is required, compostable items should be purchased. Compostable items turn into soil in 45 days at a commercial composting facility.
  • Chemicals: Many toxic chemicals and environmentally-harmful lab processes have more sustainable alternatives. MIT’s Green Chemistry Wizard provides a searchable database with these alternatives, organized by chemical and lab process. Before purchasing new chemicals, purchasers should check with Stanford’s free Surplus Chemical Inventory