Sustainability at HPU

Resources for Purchasing at HPU

Purchasing should be balanced with issues of product performance, cost, and availability. After first determining whether a product or service is truly necessary, HPU’s purchasers can use the following checklist as a guide to determine the sustainability of the product or service.

  • Waste reduction: 
    • Is the product durable?
    • Can it be easily and economically serviced and maintained?
    • Is the product designed to reduce consumption and minimize waste?
    • Is the product reusable?
    • Is the product technically and economically recyclable in the immediate area?
    • Do facilities and internal collection systems exist to recycle the product?
    • Can the product be returned to the supplier at the end of its useful life?
    • Is the product compostable and are systems in place to compost the product on or off-site?
    • Will the product biodegrade over time into harmless elements
  • Packaging: 
    • Is the packaging necessary or can it be eliminated?
    • Is minimal packaging used?
    • Is the product packaged in bulk?
    • Is the packaging reusable, recyclable, or compostable?
    • Are recycled materials used to produce the packaging and at what percent post-consumer waste?
    • Can the packaging be returned to the supplier?
  • Material source: 
    • Are recycled materials used in the product? If so, what percentage?
    • If wood is used in the product, what is its source and how is it harvested?
    • Is the product manufactured from tropical rainforest wood?
  • Energy efficiency: 
    • Is the product energy efficient compared to competitive products?
    • Can the product be recharged?
    • Can the product run on renewable fuels?
    • Does the product require less energy to manufacture than competing products?
  • Minimize Transportation: 
    • Can the required products be obtained from local sources or can they be supplied by existing suppliers who already have delivery routes on campus.
  • Supplier environmental record: 
    • Is the company producing the product in compliance with all environmental laws and regulations?
    • What is the company's record in handling environmental and safety issues?
    • Can the company verify all environmental claims?
    • Does the manufacturer/supplier have a company environmental policy statement?
    • What programs are in place/planned for promoting resource efficiency?
    • Are printed materials available documenting these programs?
    • Has the company conducted an environmental or waste audit?
    • Is the product supplier equipped to bid and bill electronically?
    • Has an environmental life-cycle analysis of the product (and its packaging) been conducted by a certified testing organization, such as Green Seal?

Credible Social and Environmental Certification Standards

Sustainable Purchasing Preferred Attributes

When determining whether a product or service is environmentally preferable, all phases of the product or service’s life cycle should be considered, including: raw materials acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, operation, maintenance, disposal, potential for reuse and ability to be recycled.

In practice, the objective is to purchase products that have reduced environmental impact because of the way they are made, transported, stored, packed, used and disposed. When deciding on a product or service, the following attributes are considered environmentally and socially preferable:

  • Bio Based
  • Biodegradable
  • Carcinogen-free
  • Chlorine-free
  • Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) free
  • Compostable
  • Durable, reusable or refillable
  • Energy and water efficient
  • Fair Trade Certified
  • Fragrance-free
  • GMO-free
  • Heavy metal free (i.e. no lead or mercury)
  • Less hazardous or non-hazardous
  • Locally grown or manufactured
  • Low toxicity
  • Low or no volatile organic compound (VOC) content
  • Made from renewable products
  • Minority Business Enterprise
  • Non-toxic
  • Organic
  • Persistent, Bioaccumulative Toxic (PBT) free
  • Post-consumer content
  • Pre-owned
  • Recycled content/recyclable
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • Reduced packaging
  • Refurbished
  • Reusable
  • Sweatshop-free
  • Third party sustainability certification (Green Seal, FSC, Fair Labor Association, BPI)
  • Upgradable

Sustainable Purchasing Preferred Attribute Definitions

Biodegradable – The ability of a substance to decompose in the natural environment into harmless raw materials. To be truly biodegradable, a substance or material should break down into carbon dioxide (a nutrient for plants), water, and naturally occurring minerals that also do not cause harm to the ecosystem. In terms of environmental benefits, a product should take months or years, and not centuries, to biodegrade.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) – Any of a group of compounds that contain carbon, chlorine, fluorine, and sometimes hydrogen and have been used as refrigerants, cleaning solvents, aerosol propellants and in the manufacture of plastic foams. The uses of CFCs are being phased out because they destroy the planet's stratospheric ozone protection layer.

Compostable – A product that can be placed into a composition of decaying biodegradable materials and eventually turn into a nutrient-rich material. It is synonymous with "biodegradable,” except it is limited to solid materials. (Liquid products are not considered compostable.)

Cradle to Cradle - A way of redesigning products so that waste is eliminated, rather than sent to landfill. Cradle-to-cradle mimics nature in that “waste becomes food”; i.e. decomposing leaves become soil for future food production.

Deconstructable - Products that can be taken apart and their components reused or recycled to create new products.

Durable – A product that remains useful and usable for a long time without noticeable deterioration in performance.

Energy efficient product – A product that is in the upper 25 percent of energy efficiency for all similar products, or that is at least 10 percent more efficient than the minimum level meeting US federal government standards.

ENERGY STAR- Developed and promoted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Energy Star currently certifies and labels appliances, heating and cooling systems, clothes washers, dehumidifiers, dishwashers, commercial and residential refrigerators & freezers, commercial food service equipment, room AC, lighting, office equipment, and manufactured homes. Criteria for product categories are updated regularly and designed to reduce energy use. In addition, Energy Star and the EPA provide information for reducing the costs of operating buildings through their website and informational material. Website:   

Environmentally Preferable Products - Products that have a lesser impact on human health and the environment when compared with competing products. This comparison may consider raw materials acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance, or disposal of the product.

EPEAT- Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool is a self-declaration system operated by the Green Electronics Council to help purchasers in the public and private sectors evaluate, compare and select desktop computers, notebooks and monitors based on their environmental attributes. EPEAT was developed with funding from the EPA and the Zero Waste Alliance. EPEAT evaluates products based on: material selection, design for end of life, product longevity/life cycle extension, energy conservation, end of life management, corporate Performance, and packaging. EPEAT™ Performance Tiers evaluates electronic products according to three tiers of environmental performance – Bronze, Silver and Gold. The complete set of performance criteria includes 23 required criteria and 28 optional criteria in 8 categories. To qualify for acceptance as an EPEAT product, it must conform to all the required criteria. Environmental groups were active participants in the EPEAT development process along with other key stakeholders. Manufacturers voluntarily announce what performance criteria they meet based on good faith and pay an annual fee. Dell, Apple, Samsung, Sony, Gateway and many other manufacturers participate in EPEAT. Website:  

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) - Vendors taking on the responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products through the entire product's life cycle; especially the take-back, recycle, and disposal programs.

Fair Trade Certified A product certification system designed to allow people to identify products that meet agreed environmental, labor and developmental standards. Overseen by a standard-setting body, FLO International, and a certification body, FLO-CERT, the system involves independent auditing of producers to ensure the agreed standards are met. Companies offering products that meet the Fair Trade standards may apply for licenses to use the Fair Trade Certification Mark (or, in North America, the applicable Fair Trade Certified Mark) for those products.

FloorScore- A program for testing and certifying hard floor services compliance with California’s indoor air quality emission requirements laid out in California Section 01350 program. Scientific Certification Systems developed the program with the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI). US Green Building Council approved FloorScore Certification as an indicator for LEED Credit in November 2006. Website:

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) - FSC creates the standards for Smart Wood and Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) (third-party certifying organizations) to certify forests and chain of custody forest products. As of 2005 FSC has three different labels for wood products: “FSC Pure,” “FSC Mixed Sources,” and “FSC Recycled.” FSC also certifies paper products. Website:  

Greenhouse gases – Any of several dozen heat-trapping trace gases in the earth's atmosphere that absorb infrared radiation. The two major greenhouse gases are water vapor and carbon dioxide; lesser greenhouse gases include methane, ozone (O3), CFCs, and nitrogen oxides.

Greenguard- Greenguard is a for profit company that rates the indoor air quality of a variety of products. Greenguard certified office furniture earns LEED credits for Commercial Interiors Rating System. Website:  

Green Label Plus- The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) developed the Green Label in 1992 as a label for carpets and adhesives that pass their independent testing program for indoor emissions from carpets.

Green Seal- Green Seal is a non-profit formed in 1989 that began certifying products in 2000. Green Seal certifies hand cleaners, electric chillers, cleaners, fleet vehicle maintenance, floor care products, paints, papers, newsprint and windows and doors. Green Seal is a member of the Global Ecolabeling Network (GEN). Website:  

LEED rating system – A self-assessment system developed by the US Green Building Council for rating the environmental preferability of new and existing commercial, institutional, and high-rise residential buildings. Website:  

Life Cycle Evaluation - An evaluation of the major environmental impacts in each life-cycle stage of a product category including resource extraction, production, distribution, use, and eventual disposal or recycling. The evaluation considers energy, resource use, and emissions to air, water, and land, as well as other environmental and health impacts. The purpose of this evaluation is to identify significant life-cycle stages to be addressed.

Locally grown or manufactured – Manufactured or grown within the state of Hawai`i.  

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) – Written or printed material about a product that includes information on the product’s physical and chemical characteristics; physical and health hazards; exposure limits; whether the product contains carcinogenic ingredients above a certain threshold; precautions for safe handling and use; control measures; emergency and first aid procedures; the date of preparation of the MSDS or the last change to it; and the name, address, and telephone number of the manufacturer.

Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) – is a term used in the United States which is defined as a business that is at least 51% owned, operated and controlled on a daily basis by one or more (in combination) American citizens of the following ethnic minority classifications: 1. African American 2. Asian 3. Hispanic America 4. Native American, including Aleuts

 MBE's can be self-identified, but are typically certified by a city, state or federal agency. The predominant certifier for minority businesses is the National Minority Supplier Development Council with its 35-40 regional affiliates.

Persistent, Bioaccumulative, Toxic compounds (PBTs) – Toxic chemicals that persist in the environment and increase in concentration through food chains as larger animals consume PBT laden smaller animals. They transfer rather easily among air, water, and land, and span boundaries of programs, geography, and generations. As a result, PBTs pose risks to human health and ecosystems. They include heavy metals and chemicals such as mercury, dioxins, and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).

Post-consumer recycled content – Percentage of a product made from materials and by-products recovered or diverted from the solid waste stream after having completed their usefulness as consumer items and used in place of raw or virgin material.

Product life cycle – The culmination of environmental impacts for a product, including raw material acquisition, manufacturing, distribution, use, maintenance, and ultimate disposal of the product. (Compare with Life cycle Cost.)

Recyclable product – A product that after its intended end use can be diverted from the solid waste stream for use as a raw material in the manufacture of another product.

Recovered materials – Waste materials and by-products that have been recovered or diverted from the solid waste stream.

Recycled materials – Material and byproducts that have been recovered or diverted from solid waste and have been utilized in place of raw or virgin material in manufacturing a product. It is derived from post-consumer recycled materials, manufacturing waste, industrial scrap, agricultural waste, and other waste material, but does not include material or byproducts generated from, and commonly reused within, an original manufacturing process.

Refurbished product – A product that has been completely disassembled and restored to its original working order while maximizing the reuse of its original materials.

Renewable materials – Materials made from plant-based feedstock capable of regenerating in less than 200 years such as trees and agricultural products. Rapidly renewable resources, such as grain-based feedstocks, regenerate in less than two years.

Sustainable – An action is said to be sustainable if it satisfies present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) -How much a product or service costs over its entire life cycle, taking into account not only upfront price but costs due to: maintenance, transportation, staffing, training, and waste disposal. TCO often reveals that sustainable products and services that are more costly upfront are cheaper over the product’s life cycle.

Upgradeable product – The ability to increase a product’s performance or features without replacing the product.

Virgin material – Any material occurring in its natural form. Virgin material is used in the form of raw material in the manufacture of new products.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – Chemicals that readily evaporate and contribute to the formation of air pollution when released into the atmosphere. Many VOCs are classified as toxic and carcinogenic.

Water efficient – A product that is in the upper 25 percent of water efficiency for all similar products, or that is at least 10 percent more efficient than the minimum level meeting US federal government standards.

Other Useful Links and Resources for HPU Purchasers

Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education purchasing resources:

EPA database of environmentally preferable products at:

Center for a New American Dream institutional purchasing resources:

EPA database of environmental information for products and services:

Energy Star qualified products:

Eco-Logo product list:

"Cradle to Cradle" certified products:


“All of the benefits of sustainability are only possible if you tackle the issues on the supply chain. If you don’t, it’s green washing.”


-Dierk Peters, director, World Wildlife Fund - Sustainable Seafood Initiative


The HPU community is encouraged to submit new ideas, problems or concerns to: