Choosing green products

Before reviewing actual product procurement, an organisation should decide what criteria they will use for selecting products and the level of sustainability required.

Key considerations for product selection include energy efficiency via product ratings, water efficiency, whether they are re-manufactured or second hand, reusable or recyclable, rechargeable, less toxic, zero waste, more durable or designed for dis-assembly, life cycle impact assessed, environmental rating, end-of-life options like recycling or take-back.   

Each product category has its own trust marks for sustainability, and there are some general websites to help select all product categories including Good Environmental Choice, Ecospecifier and Eco-buy.

The major procurement categories for organisation in leased office accommodation will be energy, equipment, furniture and other décor, green cleaning (Operations),  Maintenance (Building or Tenancy) and office supplies.

Energy

CitySwitch signatories comprehensively minimise the energy used by their tenancy in a number of ways. For selecting equipment, the trust mark is the Energy Star rating.

For energy purchase, accredited GreenPower is a way to further reduce your environmental footprint. When choosing a GreenPower accredited product your electricity company commits to buying a requested amount of renewable energy on your behalf. GreenPower purchases are a visible commitment to reducing emissions, they drive growth in the renewable energy sector and also contribute to NABERS ratings. To switch to GreenPower contact your current electricity provider or visit the Green Power website for an overview of the scheme.

Equipment

Office equipment makes up a significant expenditure whether it is a new fit-out or the continual replacement of out-dated printers, computers, or kitchen equipment. Green procurement can extended to construction equipment as well. Energy efficiency, materials used and waste recycling by the manufacturer can all be considered in equipment purchasing.

Furniture and décor

Non-green or -sustainable furniture and decor such as paints, finishes and furniture can have high volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which off-gas into the office environment and can be associated with health problems and/or be sourced from non-renewable materials. When purchasing furniture and other decor items some are whether it is reusable or recyclable, whether it contains volatile organic compounds or other air-borne chemicals, it if is made from renewable materials or ethically sourced, whether second-hand would fulfil the need. For wood products the Forest Stewardship Council provides a suppliers trust mark. Other furniture items are included on Good Environmental Choice Australia and Eco-Specifier databases. 

Green cleaning

Green cleaning is the use and application of environmentally friendly products within the work environment. Toxic materials are often used to clean workplace surfaces and airborne particles can enter the air management systems potentially leading to negative impacts on employee health, satisfaction and productivity. For cleaning contracts and services, consider whether the cleaning contractor understands and complies with corporate priorities; minimises chemicals or use low VOC and low phosphate products; buys in bulk or reduces and recycle materials; uses energy and water efficient equipment; trains employees properly for green practice.

Maintenance

Maintenance of buildings by insufficiently trained tradespeople and subcontractors can decrease the efficiency and effectiveness building even if it was built with green features. Some key considerations for maintenance contracts are whether the providers know the organisations systems, have green certification, use materials and products in line with sustainability policies. Some examples of green certified trades providers are EcoSmart Electricians and Global Green Electricians.

Office supplies

Office supplies have an easily understandable impact and procurement items like paper, notebooks, pens, and other stationery are used every minute of every day. Green offices can both reduce the quantity used and choose suppliers responsibly. Australians typically used 1.72 million tonnes of printing and writing paper annually according to the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage.



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