Prior to purchasing any product, decide if an alternative to purchasing exists. The highest priority of Sustainable Acquisition 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 entire carpet?
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 date?
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?
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, Ohio.)
For DOE Sustainable Acquisition questions, contact Shab Fardanesh (202-586-7011).