Oct. 1, 2009

Live Green tip: Take stock

Merry Rankin, director of sustainability

Now that you've settled into your semester schedules, take time to inventory your things. Determine what items you need or will need before semester's end and what items you don't really need at all.

Thoughtful purchasing and inventory management can save you money (initially and many years in the future). It also lightens your footprint on the planet. These tips will help you "take stock."

  • Look for the seal of approval. Purchasing a product that is energy-efficient and supports sustainable consumption is easier than you think, thanks to certification and evaluation rating systems including Energy Star, Green Seal and the Forest Stewardship Council. Check out these groups' web sites to get started.

    Live Green!

    More information about Iowa State's "Live Green!" initiative is online.

    Or contact ISU Purchasing and Central Stores. Both of these offices are knowledgeable and proactive in green purchasing for Iowa State.

  • Think long-term. Consider durability in all of your purchases. It's common practice to think durability when buying high-ticket items, such as large equipment purchases. But what about inexpensive items, like pens, with their much shorter purchase-to-disposal life cycle?

    Each year, an estimated 106 billion disposable pens are purchased in the United States. Laid end to end, these pens would circle the earth about 348 times. Imagine the difference if we all considered a reusable option.

    University Book Store offers a variety of refillable pens that are similar in quality and price to disposable models. And refills are considerably more cost-effective than replacing an entire pen. The bookstore also can help you find other durable product options.

  • Consider re-use. When you need to make a purchase, consider buying used rather than new. It saves you money and ensures full use of resources that already have been invested in making products.

    We have a treasure trove at Iowa State of used, functional items specifically intended for university needs and operations. ISU Surplus has been facilitating the sale and transfer of reusable university assets for more than 25 years. Office furniture, lab equipment and supplies, computers and bicycles are among the many items available. Sales for university departments and units are held Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to noon, at the warehouse at 1102 Southern Hills Drive, Ames. Public sales are Wednesdays, noon to 3 p.m.

  • Lighten your information load. While it's important to stay connected and informed, the resources necessary to produce periodicals, magazines, newspapers and newsletters can be substantial. A ton of magazine paper, for example, requires eight to 15 trees, depending on paper quality. It takes a large number of trees to fill subscription demand, not to mention disposal costs when it's time to toss the publication.

    Inventory the print resources you currently receive at home and the office. While you're at it, consider the publications your unit produces. Are all of the resources needed? Can an online subscription replace a hard copy version? If hardcopy is necessary, are there ways to re-use materials and perhaps help others save money and resources? Contact printing services and information technology services for ideas to minimize your publication's footprint.