Alternatives to Purchasing
Prior to purchasing any product, decide if an alternative
to purchasing exists. The highest priority of EcoPurchasing
is to avoid purchasing by seeking an alternative or substituting
a used product. Questions to address are:
- Is the product really needed? Does perfectly good furniture
need to be replaced just because it is slightly out of style?
Would purchasing laptops with docking stations reduce the
need for staff to have both a stationery computer in the
office and a laptop for travel?
- Is the product repairable rather than replaceable? Can
the frayed carpet seam be mended rather than replace the
- Is there an alternative to the purchase? Could chemicals
be eliminated by conducting lab tests electronically or
paper purchases eliminated by publishing electronically?
- Would a benign substitute do the job as well; for instance,
replacing hazardous cleaning chemicals with biobased ones
or mercury switches with non-mercury switches?
- Can you reduce the amount by recognizing that although
larger quantities cost less per unit they cost much more
if disposed as a hazardous waste? Are you sure to use the
chemical you are ordering for your research before its expiration
- Is the product available for free through a materials
exchange? Do you have a proposal for which the team suddenly
needs 100 binders? Is there a materials exchange where you
could obtain binders for free? Is there an organization
whose by-product is just the product you need?
- Would establishing office product and chemical exchanges
help your organization reduce purchasing and disposal costs?
- Examples of DOE Sites reducing and reusing
When no alternatives are available, define the attributes
needed in the product that affect health, environment, performance,
and cost. Most organizations are already adept at defining
performance and cost attributes but are just now realizing
that health and environmental attributes also affect their
budgets. (Information on this web page is from The Competitive
Advantage - EcoPurchasing published by Battelle Press, Columbus,
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