GW Switches to Recycled Paper

The Procurement Office is encouraging university offices to purchase recycled paper through iBuy.

December 17, 2012

In 2012, the George Washington University used about 4,108 cases of paper, more than half of which was non-recycled paper.

If those cases all had been 30 percent recycled paper, 121 tons of wood would not have been used – the equivalent of 786.5 trees. Other savings would have been realized too. About 430,034 gallons of water would have been preserved or 10,751 showers, and about 43 metric tons of carbon dioxide would not have been released into the atmosphere – the equivalent of taking 8.66 cars off the road.

That’s why the Office of Sustainability and the Procurement Office have partnered together to develop a sustainable paper procurement initiative. Beginning next month, virgin paper, or non-recycled paper, will be removed from iBuy, GW’s online system for ordering the university’s most commonly purchased products. Instead, users will have the choice between 30 percent, 50 percent and 100 percent recycled paper.

“Committing to using recycled paper rather than virgin paper is a key step toward improving GW's impact on ecosystems. By using recycled paper, we are salvaging a valuable resource (used paper), and putting it to good use,” said Meghan Chapple-Brown, director of George Washington’s Office of Sustainability. “This minimizes GW's impact on biodiversity, natural space and climate change.”

This year, only 1 percent of iBuy paper purchases was for 50 percent recycled paper, 10 percent was for 100 percent recycled paper, and 30 percent was for 30 percent recycled paper.

GW’s Academic Technologies has been purchasing only 30 percent recycled paper for the past three years.

"Academic Technologies has been pleased with the outcome of using 30 percent recycled paper in all of our computer classrooms and computer labs since 2009,” said P.B. Garrett, associate provost and chief academic technology officer. “We look forward to continued participation in this initiative."

More than half – 59 percent – of the iBuy paper purchases in 2012 were for virgin paper. GW hopes to encourage offices that bought virgin paper to switch to some type of recycled paper.

A three-month pilot program showed strong support for the switch.

The George Washington Ecosystems Enhancement Strategy, which was released last month, calls for the university to source products that reduce the impact on biodiversity, climate and water. As a large urban university, GW purchases a significant volume of products to support its faculty, staff and student community. Sourcing raw material inputs, processing and manufacturing paper and transporting it to GW impacts natural, human and economic capital on a global scale. In addition to the sustainable paper procurement initiative, eco-friendly procurement strategies will be developed for electronics and water by 2015.

“Procurement is charged with seeking the best price possible in support of the university's initiatives as well as ensuring that the products available support the environmental goals moving forward,” said Donna Ginter, director of procurement. “With this in mind, iBuy's product selection will be updated in order to help facilitate the university's commitment to using a minimum of 30 percent recycled content, Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper."

To help offices choose which paper is best for them, a balanced scorecard tool for paper purchasing has been created that provides users with additional information on environmental and social characteristics of paper processing so that the purchase decision can be made on sustainability attributes in addition to traditionally used price and quality dimensions. The scorecard evaluates paper products by economic, environmental and social factors, such as meeting fair labor standards.

“The information included in the scorecard enabled me to talk about components of sustainability that may not be considered and/or understood in the typical procurement process. It presents comprehensive sustainability research and data in a quick and easy-to-understand format,” said Cassie Phillips, office manager for the Office of the Dean in the College of Professional Studies, who participated in the three-month pilot. “The most valuable part is the use of both technical and lay language in a succinct manner.”