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The Purchasing Department works with vendors to encourage more efficient manufacturing and delivery processes that conform to the University's evolving sustainability requirements. The department has developed a Vendor Practices Life Cycle Assessment Initiative that it is testing with a number of nearby partner institutions. The ultimate goal is for these to serve as a model and to accelerate the rate of adoption of sustainable practices in various industries.

Figure 5: Paper Purchases
Paper purchases
The University purchased 7 fewer tons of paper in 2011 than 2010, avoiding the use of 25 tons of wood products and the emission of 20 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Click to enlarge.

Goal, Strategies & Progress

Goal: Encourage sustainability in the supply chain and procurement of purchased goods and services. 

Develop a Vendor Practices Life Cycle Assessment tool to aid in sustainable purchasing decisions.


  • Evaluation profiles have been created for seven types of vendors, including food service, lodging service, manufacturing, off-campus service, on-campus service, supplier/distributor and vehicles.
  • The vendor certification program resulting from this evaluation is currently being tested by neighbor institutions including Rutgers University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Strategy:  Standardize electric carts and ultra-low or zero-emission vehicles when University vehicles are replaced or purchased new.


  • Electric golf carts are now standardized for all new cart purchases.
  • A task force was assembled to evaluate central oversight of University-owned vehicle purchases to maximize efficiency and minimize carbon footprint.
  • Overall, 41 percent of campus vehicles purchased since 2007 were electric or hybrid.

Strategy: Encourage compliance with 100 percent post-consumer recycled chlorine-free paper policy.


  • A total of 83 percent of the amount of paper the University purchased in 2011 was 100 percent post-consumer recycled chlorine-free paper, up from 81 percent in 2010 and 77 percent in 2009 (Figure 5).
  • The University purchased 69 fewer tons of paper in 2011 compared to 2008. Campuswide deployment of multifunction copiers/scanners contributed to this 29 percent reduction.
  • In fiscal year 2011, 74 percent of departments complied with the 100 percent post-consumer recycled chlorine-free paper policy.*

    *NOTE: A comparatively higher cost for this type of paper has contributed to a decline in compliance over the past two years: In fiscal year 2010, 84 percent of departments complied with the policy; in fiscal year 2009, 86 percent complied.

Strategy: Transition to Green Seal-certified daily cleaning products. 


  • More than 43 percent by volume (66 percent by dollars spent) of chemical cleaners and soaps purchased in 2011 were Green Seal certified. This represents a nearly 30 percent increase in volume and an 11 percent increase in spending over the previous year. The total volume of cleaning chemicals purchased decreased by 30 percent between fiscal year 2010 and 2011. 

Strategy: Increase purchases of remanufactured and recycled toner cartridges.


  • In fiscal year 2011, 11 percent of the University's 6,364 toner/ink cartridges were remanufactured, about the same proportion as 2010. This is an increase of almost 10 percentage points from fiscal year 2009, when just 1.2 percent purchased were remanufactured.
  • The percent of printer toner cartridges recycled in fiscal year 2011 was 41 percent; in 2010 it was 43 percent, and in 2009 it was 32 percent.

Strategy: Reduce corrugated delivery box waste associated with University orders by participating in the OfficeMax reusable box program.


  • Princeton's Purchasing Department continued to provide OfficeMax with reusable boxes for office supply deliveries in 2011, avoiding the use and disposal of about 470 corrugated boxes per month. 

Strategy: Raise awareness about sustainable purchasing options through outreach and events.


  • At its annual Purchasing Supplier Fair, the Purchasing Department has featured a section for environmentally preferable products since 2002, with increasing interest from the University community since the adoption of the Sustainability Plan in 2008.
  • In the spring of 2011, Purchasing held a Sustainability Fair that featured more than a dozen University departments and vendors, showcasing everything from the University’s Surplus Program, which facilitates reuse and recycling, to refillable pens and farm-fresh produce.

What's Next

Short Term

  • Complete the pilot phase of the Vendor Practices Life Cycle Assessment tool and subsequent certification program, and integrate it into the University’s purchasing system.
  • Develop a program to promote the purchase of remanufactured toner cartridges and the recycling of toner cartridges.
  • Increase departmental compliance with the University’s 100 percent recycled paper purchasing policy, in part by investigating ways to reduce the price of the 100 percent recycled, chlorine-free paper.
  • Explore the feasibility of a Universitywide pen recycling program through a pilot test at 701 Carnegie Center.
  • Conduct a pilot program to consolidate office supply deliveries to campus from five days to four days per week and reduce the number of deliveries on those days, in turn reducing transportation emissions.
  • Continue to seek options for specialty cleaning products that are Green Seal certified, or equivalent.

Long Term

  • Incorporate the Vendor Practices Life Cycle Assessment model into the Purchasing Department’s bidding process.
  • Develop campus procurement standards for various classes of electric and low-emission vehicles.
  • Increase departmental compliance with 100 percent recycled paper purchasing policy from current 74 percent.
  • Develop campus standards for remanufactured toner cartridges and make them available in place of new cartridges through University ordering systems.
  • Continue to look for opportunities to utilize contract suppliers that strive to reduce campus waste.

Awards & Achievements

Princeton's Purchasing Department was awarded a 2011 Achievement of Excellence in Procurement Award, which is based in part on environmental purchasing. The department has now earned this award for eight consecutive years.



Life Cycle Assessment: Determining the resource footprint of a product from raw materials to end of useful life; Princeton's Purchasing Department is using this tool to evaluate vendor practices, such as the efficiency of packaging and delivery systems.


"Rutgers is excited to partner with Princeton University to develop a Life Cycle Assessment program that helps gauge the sustainable commitment of vendors used by the universities. Rutgers has been researching LCAs for many years, and this project has allowed us to take complex research methodologies and make them available for practical use for the benefit of vendor and college."
Kevin Lyons, executive director of procurement and contracting, Rutgers University, and research professor in supply chain environmental archeaology, Rutgers Business School


In June 2011, the Office of Finance and Treasury held its first Sustainability Fair, with more than a dozen vendors showcasing green products and services.

“The Princeton Sustainability Fair held at 701 Carnegie Center was a great opportunity to share information about the sustainability initiatives that we have put into place in partnership with the Princeton Purchasing Department, as well as a sampling of the more than 4,000 Environmentally Preferable Products featured in the 2011 OfficeMax catalog.” 
Kevin Nerlinger, account executive, Integrated Solutions, OfficeMax

Lessons Learned

Focus of Life Cycle Assessment on vendor behavior rather than products: The Purchasing Department's Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) project has evolved from a model that analyzes the entire life cycle of thousands of products, to one that instead addresses the environmental impacts of prospective vendors. The Princeton LCA model can efficiently identify key environmental issues throughout a vendor's operations and provide key evaluation data for the University's purchasing agents.