With proper purchasing strategies in place, achieving a sustainable product cycle is a much more feasible goal. While our Reduction page hosts many purchasing resources, listed below are 3 quick ways we can make more sustainable purchasing decisions.
Goal: To reuse and recycle the products you have purchased at the end of your use for it. Don’t just look to the trash as soon as you’re done:
1. Re-evaluate Product Purpose
For products with seasonal or erratic usage, or intended to cope with peak demands, it may be more cost effective to rent for a short period of time.
Check Before You Buy.
Check if the product you are looking for is available at the IU Surplus Store or other distribution facilities first, before you purchase a new item.
Maximize Product Durability.
Choose a product to maximize durability and usefulness. Making the choice to purchase a product that will last longer and serves multiple purposes creates both value in the product upstream, and promotes an opportunity for continued reuse downstream.
Make a Commitment.
At the beginning of the quarter, make a commitment as a department to purchase a certain percentage of green products. (i.e. amount of post-‐consumer recycled paper or green cleaning products)
2. Coordinate with Departments
Bundle orders with other departments or co-‐workers within your department to consolidate your order.
- If a similar resource is currently in part-‐time use elsewhere within your department, or even in an outside department, check to see whether it is available to share.
- Plan ahead and only order once a week
3. Reduce Packaging, Materials, and Waste
- Promote re-‐usable packaging that is returned to the supplier. Where this is not possible, minimize the volume of packaging used.
Reuse, Don’t Dispose.
- Promote the use of reusable, not disposable products. Where this is not possible, promote use of recycled materials.
Ensure Product Recycling.
- Ensure that the recyclable materials within your products are actually recycled. Ask your building manager what happens to the items after they go in the bin.
You have now put a great deal of thought into your purchases – so take good care of your product while you have it! When you are finished with your products, consider donting them before desposing or discarding them.
Donate to IU Surplus Store:Reusing products requires a bit of creativity. Consider not only how your department could reuse an item, but also whether other departments, classrooms, or student groups might be able to reuse it. The IU Surplus Store is an easy donation center that will gladly take your used items and resell them to the public; they even accept small items like three-‐ring binders and other office supplies. Click here for the IU Surplus store page!
Create a “free shelf”:If you have a constant stream of potential reusable products, consider creating a “free table” or “free shelf” in a common space or faculty/staff/student lounge. “Free spaces” allow anyone to freely leave and claim items. Items which are not claimed within a certain time period are brought to a community thrift store. These spaces are popular among university departments and are typically successful with minimal supervision.
Properly disposing of purchased products once you or your department no longer needs them is an equally important step in the waste reduction process. First consider whether an item can be reused; if it cannot be reused, make sure to recycle or compost it. It’s important to keep these final steps in mind throughout the entire purchasing process, since you will have to plan for disposal by choosing reusable or recyclable materials.
If an item cannot be reused, please recycle it. IU offers an extensive recycling collection system that processes over 2 million pounds of material every year. Standard campus recycling receptacles can receive any:
- Paper and Paperboard
- Magazines, Books, and Catalogs
- Aluminum, Steel, and Tin
- Plastics #1-‐7
Most departments also have receptacles for the collection of batteries and cell phones. To receive a collection bin or to schedule a pickup of these items, contact Building Services. IU Surplus Stores also has an excellent electronics recycling program – they will accept almost anything you can think of – and they will pick it up for free. Some examples of items they recycle:
- Printer and toner cartridges
- Computer equipment
- Classroom equipment
- Anything with a plug or circuit board
2. CompostAlthough IU does not currently offer a comprehensive organics recycling program, that has not stopped some campus units from composting their food waste. For most departments, catering represents a significant portion of purchases; likewise, food waste represents a large portion of IU’s total waste.
- Make arrangements with Hilltop: Several departments have coordinated with Hilltop Garden & Nature Center for the composting of their event food waste. The website for Hilltop is located here.
- Purchase a departmental bin: For example, our Biology department purchased their own composting bin for everyday use.