University of Pittsburgh

General Guidelines for Sustainable Purchasing                

3R’s - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

In order to conserve natural resources and to protect the environment, to the extent possible, look for products that have the following qualities.


  • General considerations

    • Quality, function and product life-cycle cost equal or superior to traditional products.
    • Durable (long-lasting, reusable, refillable, rechargeable), as opposed to single use or disposable items.
  • Manufacturing considerations
    • Made of recycled materials, maximizing post-consumer content.
    • Remanufactured products, such as laser toner cartridges, tires, furniture, equipment and automotive parts whenever practicable and cost-effective, but without reducing safety or quality.
    • Made from raw materials obtained in an environmentally sound sustainable manner.
    • Non-toxic or minimally toxic, preferably biodegradable.
    • Manufactured in an environmentally sound, sustainable manner.
  • Operational considerations
    • Minimizes water and energy use in operation.
    • Causes minimal or no environmental damage during normal use or maintenance.
    • Use of re-refined lubricating and industrial oil for equipment, as long as the product is certified by the American Petroleum Institute (API) as appropriate for use in such equipment.
  • Packaging and shipping considerations
    • Shipped with minimal packaging, consistent with care of the product.
    • Shipping materials should be made of recycled and/or recyclable materials. 
    • Reused pallets and packaging materials.
    • Produced locally or regionally to minimize the environmental costs associated with shipping.
    • Available for purchase in multi-paks versus singles.
    • Avoid air shipments.
  • Product end-of-life management considerations.
    • Can it be recycled?  Recyclable products are those that after their intended use, can be demonstrably diverted from the University’s solid waste stream for use as a raw material in the manufacture of another product, preferably higher value uses.
    • Can recycling occur in the immediate area?
    • Can the product be reused?  Reusable products can be used several times for an intended use before being discarded.  Examples include washable food or beverage containers or refillable ballpoint pens.
    • If it cannot be recycled or reused, can it be disposed of safely?
    • Product disposition should minimize materials that are sent to landfills.

Regulations applicable to the University

  • For state-funded research grants, the Commonwealth Procurement Code Act 57 of 1998, section 108 Recycled Materials, encourages use of recycled products over the small procurement limit (currently $10,000).

  • The EPA also has guidelines for ‘goods, supplies, equipment, materials and printing” using recycled content, and has a certification process for suppliers to use (see the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976).  Under state-funded research grants, the State of Pennsylvania provides a preference equal to 5% of the bid amount to any vendor providing the EPA certification (see, Title 53 P.S. Chapter 15, section 4000.1505. 


Commodity-Specific Guidelines

The Purchasing department is currently working with University-based and industry experts to develop detailed and technical sustainable purchasing guidance for specific commodities such as chemicals, medical supplies, furniture and wood products.


Copyright© 2003 - Financial Information Systems
Updated: 09/07/2011


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