Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Guidelines


Recognizing our impact as a significant purchaser of goods and services, Iowa State University's goal is to give preference to environmentally friendly products whose sustainability, function and quality are equal or superior to more traditional products and whose cost is equal or less. This policy will:

  • Conserve natural resources 
  • Minimize pollution
  • Reduce the use of water and energy
  • Reduce or eliminate environmental health hazards on our campus and in our community
  • Support markets for recycled content products
  • Reduce materials sent to landfills
  • Increase the use and availability of environmentally preferable products
  • Encourage suppliers to reduce environmental impacts within the supply chain
  • Create a model for successfully purchasing environmentally preferable products while maintaining fiscal responsibility, quality, and compliance with applicable laws and regulations
  • Support locally produced goods and services
  • Educate ourselves, suppliers, and campus community 


Areas of Focus


Source Reduction

Reducing unnecessary waste at the source allows the University to both mitigate the inefficient use of our natural resources and benefit economically from decreased handling and disposal costs. Procurement activity may include:

  • Purchase used/surplus or remanufactured products such as laser toner cartridges, furniture, equipment, etc., whenever practicable and cost-effective over its life cycle, without reducing safety, quality, or effectiveness.
  • Consider short-term and long-term costs when comparing product alternatives. Evaluate total costs expected during the time a product is owned, including, but not limited to: acquisition, extended warranties, operation, supplies, maintenance, support, disposal costs, trade-in value, and expected lifetime compared to other alternatives.
  • Specify and purchase products that are durable, long lasting, reusable, or refillable whenever practicable, but without reducing safety, quality, or effectiveness.
  • Request packaging that is reusable, recyclable, or compostable when suitable uses and programs exist.
  • Consider products from rapidly renewable sources.
  • Analyze and consider leasing versus buying for short-term needs. 


Recycled Content Products

The University recognizes that recycled content products are important to an environmentally responsible production system. Procurement activity may include:

  • Products addressed in Iowa laws and Executive Orders. Iowa State University shall purchase and use recycled printing and writing paper for 90% of total use. 100% of their tissue products shall be recycled product.
  • Requiring information on recycled content shall be requested on all bids for paper products and on other products which could have recycled content such as oil, plastic products, including not limited to starch-based plastic products, compost materials, aggregate, solvents, soybean-based inks, and rubber products.
  • Identify and purchase other recycled content products and packaging whenever practicable, but without reducing quality or effectiveness.


Energy and Water Savings

Recognizing that electricity generation is a major contributor to air pollution and global warming issues and that clean water is a finite resource, the University values products that minimize the use of these resources. Procurement activity shall support University efforts to reduce the use of electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, and water in all state office buildings and may include:

  • Energy-efficient equipment and lighting.
  • Products for which the U.S. EPA Energy Star certification is available or equivalent non-certified products.
  • Water-saving products or processes.
  • Support LEED silver construction goals. 


Toxins and Pollution

The use of toxics and the generation of pollution should be minimized to reduce risks to health, safety, and the environment. Procurement activity may include:

  • The purchase of degradable disposable plastic products to the maximum extent practicable when those products are determined to be reasonably available, cost and quality competitive.
  • The purchase of products covered by Executive Orders to include trash liners with recycled content and degradable foam or plastic products for containers unless recycled or reused.
  • Restricting the purchase of foam products manufactured with chlorofluorocarbons and phase out chlorofluorocarbon-containing refrigerants, solvents, and similar products.
  • The purchase of soybean-based inks for printing services.
  • The purchase of environmentally preferable cleaning products, when practicable, but without reducing quality, safety, and cost-effectiveness.
  • Identifying and using products with the lowest amounts of volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, lead or mercury.
  • Provide for recycling of products containing toxic materials such as fluorescent lamps, ballasts, lead acid batteries, waste oil, electronics, etc.


Forest Conservation

The use of environmentally preferable paper and wood products to conserve forests, water, and energy, prevents pollution and helps to protect biodiversity. Procurement activity may include:

  • Giving preference to wood products that are certified to be sustainably harvested by a comprehensive, performance-based certification system similar to that of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (FSI), whenever practical, but without reducing quality, safety, and cost-effectiveness.
  • Purchasing locally harvested/extracted and processed wood, whenever practical, but without reducing quality, safety, and cost-effectiveness. 


Waste Minimization

The University recognizes the importance of waste minimization in being a good steward of the environment. Iowa State University collaborates with the City of Ames to minimize waste in the community. A strong recycling program is in place at the university and any waste not recycled is disposed of at the city's Resource Recovery Plant where recyclable materials are separated and other waste is used for creating electricity in the city's Power Plant. 


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