Sustainable Purchasing

What is Sustainable Purchasing?

In general, sustainable procurement is a way to acquire goods and services without exclusively focusing on a private/institutional cost-benefit analysis, and instead attempts to maximize the net benefits within a broader context. Conventional procurement would generally see an institution evaluate products and services based on price and quality. An institution practicing sustainable procurement attempts to also evaluate other extrinsic elements and costs that involve environmental, social and economic impacts in order to avoid and/or minimize broader adverse impacts.

By following Sustainable Procurement Guidelines, those responsible for the procurement of products at Queen's can contribute towards a sustainable campus. This can be achieved through the purchasing of products that meet a comprehensive range of sustainability criteria that among other benefits can;

  • Reduce operating costs
  • Reduce waste and waste disposal costs
  • Reduce energy costs
  • Improve employee health
  • Improve workplace conditions in production facilities



General Purchasing Strategies - The Life-Cycle Approach

Although every purchase will be slightly different and may require unique evaluation approaches, there are nevertheless a few common considerations that can be universally applied. It is recommended that buyers begin the purchase process by asking themselves these questions before they buy something:

  • What need does the product fulfill?
  • Is it truly necessary?
  • Can I repurpose something already on campus?
  • What are the product contents?
  • How was it made?
  • How it will get here?
  • Is it durable?
  • How will it be disposed?
  • What is the total cost of ownership?

Total cost of ownership (TOC) is an evaluation process that addresses a product’s entire life cycle, focuses on the financial costs and environmental impacts associated with each phase of the life cycle. By evaluating a product based on its TCO, it is often the case that many products with cheaper upfront or capital costs eventually cost more to maintain over the duration of the product’s life. By using a TOC evaluation, buyers can often receive better value for their purchases.

Business Products

Purchasing environmentally friendly products to fulfill your day-to-day office supply needs is one of the easiest and most effective ways to make a difference

  • Purchase products that contain post-consumer recycled content
  • Opt for refillable and reusable items for longevity
  • Purchase biodegradable or compostable products
  • Look for non-toxic or waste based inks, correction fluids and glues
  • Choose items that are rechargeable
  • Plan ahead to reduce the number of orders made

Useful Tip… Websites often have online tools to assist with sustainable purchasing

  • Office Max (Grand & Toy) has a pop-up search available to look for items that are part of their Green Product Line
  • EcoEasy – Staples offers an online tool at checkout to flag sustainable alternatives to your desired product

Encourage colleagues to reduce paper use and consider the following when making purchases. Preparing to Buy

  • Choose products certified by a reputable forest management system such as the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
  • Avoid individual wrappers or excessive packaging by purchasing in bulk
  • Ensure paper is made with post-consumer recycled content and chlorine-free
  • Check for non-toxic, natural or water-based adhesives
  • Reduce paper consumption using the following strategies:
  1. Use and share online documents
  2. Print double-sided and reduce margin sizes
  3. Collect scrap paper reuse for informal documents

Standardization of commonly used furniture products allows Queen's to select and procure quality furniture products that address the following criteria: aesthetics, durability, ergonomics, functionality, life-cycle cost, maintenance, non-obsolescence, performance, safety, sustainability and warranty.

The furniture procurement ordering process on campus must follow the Campus Planning guidelines, using the preferred supplier to meet office needs.

The preferred suppliers for non-office furniture have been evaluated based on a variety of criteria similar to that of the office furniture standards. List of contracted vendors.

Preparing to Buy

  1. Low/no volatile organic compounds (VOC)
  2. Materials with high recycled content
  3. High post-life recyclability

Looking for environmentally friendly features for electronics may not be as intuitive as other office items; however, the following sections can guide more energy efficient and greener choices.

Preparing to Buy

  • Find items in the office that can be used instead of purchasing new
  • When purchasing, try to buy used
  • Select PVC free products
  • Look for items made with reduced hazardous materials and substances
  • Opt for energy efficient models and chargers
  • Look for durability and long lasting products
  • Check for items made with post-consumer recycled material • Choose products with minimal packaging, recyclable packaging, or packaging that can be reused
  • Replace parts of products instead of the whole product if possible (ie. batteries).

Having multiple devices for separate functions wastes space, energy, and time. Multifunction devices can help to reduce energy consumption and reduce e-waste. Queen’s University’s preferred supplier for multifunction devices is Xerox, an iSO certified supplier. To learn more about sustainability features, go to

Recommended Product – Xerox

  • ColorQube solid ink reduces waste by up to 70 %
  • Reduces waste residue, nontoxic, biodegradable
  • LED technology – lower heat levels

Additional Products

Laboratory Equipment and Products

When purchasing new items for laboratories, the following can facilitate responsible decision making for sustainable choices

Preparing to Buy

  • Check chemical inventories first
  • Look for energy efficient options
  • Invest in items that have a long life span
  • Opt for refillable or reusable products
  • Favour recyclable or biodegradable products
  • Purchase items with post-consumer recycled material
  • Choose products that have minimal or sustainable packaging

When catering an event, there are a number of strategies that can be used to support a sustainable food system, reduce waste, and divert organics from the landfill. Remember to keep the following points in mind for your next event.

Choose a partner with Fair Trade Canada certified coffee and tea products.

Consider Queen’s Hospitality Services as your catering provider.

Check out these tips for ways to Green Your Event.

Planning Ahead

  • Avoid wasting leftovers by making a projection of attendees or ask guests to RSVP prior to ordering catering service
  • Contact the Sustainability Office (see p. 18) to facilitate organics collection at your event to divert compostable waste from the landfill
  • Ask the caterer to supply reusable table covers to eliminate waste
  • Opt for catering services that use local and sustainable ingredients
  • Purchase refreshments in bulk to reduce waste from individual packaging
  • Ask guests/participants to bring their own mug or bottle to the event to avoid waste incurred from providing disposable coffee cups

During the Event

  • Provide appropriately labeled recycling and waste containers
  • Use reusable or compostable dining ware and cutlery to reduce waste

After the Event

  • Donate excess food to a local charity (Soul Food, Loving Spoonful)

Vehicle Procurement: Campus Fleet

The campus has a fleet of roughly 90 vehicles that are used in a variety of capacities including research, maintenance, security and general personnel shuttling. These vehicles are attributed with significant purchase and operational costs, and combined contribute roughly 175 MTCO2e to the campus carbon footprint. Selecting more fuel-efficient vehicles can both reduce costs and environmental impacts.

Before you buy:

  • Do you need full-time use of a vehicle, or can you share with another department?
  • Have you considered a car-sharing program for your needs?
  • Right-size your vehicle purchase.
  • Select the most fuel-efficient vehicle available.
  • For a people mover, consider a small-sized car with a minimum 6 L/100 km efficiency rating.
  • For a utility-type vehicle, consider smaller 4 cylinder options with a 9L/100 km efficiency rating

The most fuel-efficient vehicles for model year 2014 (NRCAN)


Compact: Ford Focus Electric 107 kW electric motor, 1-speed automatic

Compact: Toyota Prius c 1.5 L, 4 cylinder hybrid, continuously variable

Pickup Truck

Small: Toyota Tacoma 2.7 L, 4 cylinder, 5-speed manual

Standard: Ram 1500 Diesel 3.0 L, 6 cylinder, 8-speed automatic


Cargo: Nissan NV200 Cargo Van 2.0 L, 4 cylinder, continuously variable

Passenger: Ford Transit Connect Taxi 1.6 L, 4 cylinder, 6-speed automatic with select shift


Business Travel

Business travel is sometimes an unavoidable necessity for university employees; however there are several options available that can reduce environmental impacts.

Before you travel:

  • Is the trip necessary?
  • Can the information be shared via teleconference or online?
  • If travel is unavoidable, traveling via train offers the least environmental impact and is often the most economical.
  • If more than one person is travelling and the train is not an option, be sure to share rental cars.
  • Book the most fuel efficient car rental to suit the number of passengers.
  • If your destination requires air travel, consider purchasing a carbon offset

Office Supplies/Stationery

  • Office Max (Grand & Toy) identifies all items that are environmentally friendly with this icon. Look for it throughout the website to find preferable products
  • Staples offers a line of Sustainable Earth by Staples TM products that are eco-conscious to help reduce the environmental impacts of everyday office supplies
  • Queen’s Campus Computer Store stocks eco-friendly and energy efficient toner, ink, fax machines, printers, keyboard cables etc

Paper and Paper Products

  • Office Max (Grand & Toy) offers paper that is SFI certified. They have also combined paper and stationery deliveries so our carbon footprint is minimized
  • Staples offers a variety of copy paper that is FSC certified and Eco-Responsible


  • Office Max (Grand & Toy) is the sole preferred supplier in a contract with Queen’s University. Look for Green Guard, Cradle to Cradle, and SCS labels when browsing their website online

Computers and Electronics

  • Campus Computer Store
  • Multifunction Devices – Xerox

Lab Materials and Equipment

  • CanadaWide Scientific
  • Caledon Lab Chemicals
  • Diamed Canada
  • VWR