UCLA buyers look for 'green' factor
UCLA's buyers, who negotiate contracts and requests for proposals for all the products and services this campus needs, are looking for the "green" factor in everything from janitorial products and office copiers to carpet, fabric finishes and laboratory equipment.
Does the manufacturer of the PCs we buy have a disposal program for e-waste? Does that office photocopier use recycled parts or contain recycled plastic? Does a supplier of janitorial products offer environmentally friendly cleaning solutions?
It's no longer enough to know just the price and quality of goods and services. UCLA buyers consider how much energy was consumed to make the product, how much recycled content it contains, how far the product had to be transported to campus, how it is packaged and how it will be disposed of all details that determine a sustainability score. That score figures in UCLA's decision on whether the manufacturer or supplier becomes a preferred vendor.
"Sustainability issues are now part of what we're looking at as we structure our requirements for these agreements," said William Propst, director of the UCLA Purchasing Department. If vendors can meet such requirements, they can join UCLA's Strategic Sourcing Alliance Suppliers, its list of preferred vendors.
"When President Dynes' policy on green building design, clean energy standards and sustainable transportation practices was first put in place, one component spoke to using the university's purchasing power to try to drive markets to provide sustainable products," Propst said.
If suppliers want to do business with the campuses, they must now demonstrate their company-wide commitment to sustainable practices in manufacturing, product offerings, transportation, delivery and disposal. "We want to leave a smaller footprint with everything we're doing," Propst said.
There are signs that strategic purchasing is working. Office Max, for example, once priced recycled paper slightly higher than regular paper. UCLA was able to get that "price disincentive" removed. "Now you can buy the recycled paper Office Max calls it Aspen at the same price as its virgin stock," Propst said. Since last August, recycled paper usage on campus has gone up approximately 15%.
In addition to buying from UCLA's 85 preferred vendors, staff are being advised to look for the Energy Star logo when they order for departments. This marks products with superior energy efficiency, according to this government-backed program. There are now more than 40 kinds of products, including office and laboratory equipment, that bear the Energy Star logo.
Did you know?
UCLA paid $91,350 in 2005 and 2006 in fees that went to state-qualified e-wste collectors and recyclers to cover the cost of safe disposal of items such as computer monitors and laptop computers. Since 2005, California consumers have been paying this disposal fee, which ranges from $6 to $10 per item.
Mary D. Nichols, director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and co-chair of the Campus Sustainability Committee, said she hopes staff and faculty use their power as consumers to order and use "green" products. "It's a simple but effective way to make a difference and help save the planet. All it takes is to learn what's available and make the right choices," she said.
To learn more about UCLA's preferred vendors, come to the 7th annual Alliance/BruinBuy Supplier Trade Show March 6 at Ackerman Grand Ballroom. The free event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will offer exhibitor giveaways, three grand prizes, a lunch buffet and snacks for faculty and staff who attend.
For details on green purchasing, visit www.purchasing.ucla.edu.
Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2007