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Cleaning ProductsThe current contract for commercial custodial services dated May 7, 2009, Specifications Chemicals and Supplies, Page S-C-1of 4, Paragraph 1. General Requirements, sub-paragraph 1.3 states, "The Contractor will use brands and types of chemicals that are certified as meeting the GreenSeal Environmental Standards for Cleaning Services by the GreenSeal Organization whenever there are chemical brands and types that perform acceptably to The University."
Guidelines for electronics purchasing offer a good example of the feasibility of adopting such standards and the opportunities for campus-wide learning. SCU is among the first universities in the country to make detailed requests for information about computer vendors' environmental performance, and to weigh this information when choosing a vendor for our PC Replacement Project. About 95 percent of computer models are "Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool" (EPEAT) Gold. SCU donates almost all of the used computers from the PC Replacement Project to non-profit organizations, promoting re-use, and plan to help the recipients recycle these computers responsibly when they are no longer functional. We also plan to increase responsible re-use and recycling of other electronics on campus.
PaperIt is the Purchasing Department's practice to only buy recycled office paper. Available in white and multiple colors, office paper contains 30 percent recycled content.
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Take Action: Vote with your Dollar
The first step to a more sustainable world is buying less “stuff” that we do not need. Working to reduce your overall consumption is the easiest and most effective way to make an impact.
An easy way to reduce consumption is to avoid companies that produce unsustainable materials or products. Avoiding products that must be landfilled (cannot be recycled or composted), one-time use products (such as to-go cups), or products with planned obsolescence (i.e. iPhones or other electronics that will not last) is an easy way to make an impact. Look for products made with long-term use or reuse opportunities, products that can be recycled or composted, and products that use natural or fast-growing (i.e. bamboo) materials.
An alternative to buying new products is to reuse the ones you already have. This automatically saves money! There are a wide variety of ways to reuse products in your daily life. Go to Pinterest or DIY websites to get ideas for reuse. The Center for Sustainability even has a Pinterest acccount you can check out!
Try to recycle your products before sending them to a landfill. Reuse is using the same product twice for a similar use, whereas recycling works to use products in a different way or to combine new materials for a different use. You can recycle something a number of times before you break down the materials and recycle, compost, and landfill where appropriate. For example, that old t-shirt you no longer wear can be first traded with a friend, or turned into a cool bag. When it starts to break, it can become a kitchen rag, before used as arts and crafts scraps or products, then eventually, disposed of properly.
Respect is a key component to voting with your dollar. Respecting your personal values, the companies that you support and the causes you believe in are crucial to voting with your dollar. By purchasing products are leading the world to a more socially equitable and environmentally friendly world, you are using your dollar to promote the products and the causes they support.
Another way of looking at this issue is to not support companies with business practices that do not align with your values. These companies may use unfair labor practices, use unsustainable sources for their materials, or discriminate against oppressed groups in the work place. Proactively avoiding these companies will encourage them to reform their practices and work towards a healthier and more socially equitable planet. An easy way to find out about the social and environmental responsibility of a company is through the Good Guide, and app that rates products on their impact on social and environmental causes. Another app called Buycott helps you trace the money that you spend and what companies it supports. Check out this Take Action article on Responsible Consumerism to find more apps to help you vote with your dollar.
Voting with your dollar is the easiest way to make an enormous impact to benefit people and the planet, so next time you pick up something to buy, stop and think for a moment about the product, the materials, the people who made it, and if you truly need it. If you find that all of these aspects align with your personal values for a more just and sustainable world, support the company to help change the course of consumer history.