HMC Green Purchasing Guide

Each department is currently responsible for purchasing their own office products. This guide serves as a point of reference and will provide offices, departments and other functional units with information to consider when making purchases. The Guide also serves as a glossary for commonly used terms and reliable certifications designating eco-friendly products, and will help you stay away from false claims.

The Green Purchasing Guide is also the go-to assistant for offices and departments participating in the Green Office Program.

Adaptation and Permissions

This Guide has been adapted from the National Association of State Procurement Officials Green Purchasing Guide and has also been adapted from the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Green Purchasing Guide.

The UCSC Green Purchasing Guide is used with permission- © 2016 The Regents of the University of California. All Rights Reserved.


What is Green Purchasing?

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP), or Green Purchasing, is defined by the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) as purchasing products that have “a lesser or reduced negative effect or increased positive effect on human health and the environment, when compared with competing products that serve the same purpose.” Incorporating Green Purchasing in the procurement process of any institution takes into account “raw materials acquisition, production, fabrication, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance, and disposal of the product.” In other words, engaging in EPP prioritizes recyclable, recycled and reusable products, as well as those that conserve energy and natural resources.

As part of Harvey Mudd College’s efforts to reduce its institutional carbon and ecological footprint, all departments and offices are highly encouraged to refer to this guide prior to making purchases of new products. A unified effort to move towards green purchasing will help us manage our material, water, and energy consumption and promote environmental sustainability as a whole.

What is the Green Office Program?

The Green Office Program is a certification program facilitated by the Hixon Center for Sustainable Environmental Design, with the goal of incentivizing offices and departments at Harvey Mudd College to engage in more sustainable purchases and practices. Participating offices take surveys and earn points for each recommended practice and purchase they make. The more points an office earns, the higher level of certification they will receive (e.g., Copper, Silver, Gold, or Platinum). Offices are evaluated every two years, and the most sustainable offices receive special campus-wide recognition.

A key component of the Program is purchasing, which benefits from the use of this Green Purchasing Guide as a point of reference for participating offices. Ideally, all departments will participate in the program and use this guide for future purchases.

Before You Buy

The ethos of this guide is to reduce wasteful or environmentally detrimental purchases, so the best thing you can do is not to make purchases where you do not need to make them. That is not to say that you should not buy anything, but you are encouraged to exercise any opportunity you have to not purchase new items. Please consider the following before you buy:

Can you buy this product ‘used’?

Some products, such as furniture or ink cartridges, can be purchased as ‘used,’ ‘refurbished’ or ‘remanufactured.’

Does another office or department have a surplus of this product?

Ask if they can and are willing to share it with you or lend it to you.

Does another office department have this product, but are not using it?

Ask if you can have it.

Can the existing product be economically and sustainably refurbished?

No need to buy a new product when you can replenish or repair an existing one.

Contact the Office of Facilities and Maintenance (F&M) to check for any surplus items.

Note About Lab Products

We recognize that certain office staffers are also tasked with purchasing materials for labs throughout Harvey Mudd. Since labs tend to use a variety of materials, some of which may be hazardous, we acknowledge that sustainable purchases are difficult (if not impossible) to make for those laboratories. However, we are conducting research and will ultimately release a separate guide regarding sustainable lab purchases and products.


Your Budget and Green Purchasing

The easiest route to take is to purchase products that meet the needs of an individual or an office for the lowest price. However, in most cases, these prices do not take into account the total life cycle impacts of a product. Environmentally preferable purchases, however, take the environmental and health impacts arising between raw material acquisition and refining, manufacturing, use, maintenance and final disposal into account. Before purchasing, you should thus, as much as possible, compare the total expected impacts with those of other alternatives.

Keep in mind that the analysis for a product’s total life cycle cost can go even further by including the social costs such as labor practices and gender aspects.

What to Consider When Purchasing

When thinking about a purchase, decide first if it is necessary. If so, please consider the following, as they may be relevant to your purchase and may not compromise the safety and quality of your product:

Is the product…

  • durable and expected to last?
  • made in whole or in part from recycled material(s) or material derived from a renewable resource?
  • made from material that can be fully recycled after use or at end of life?
  • accompanied by failure parts that can be replaced and recycled or returned to the manufacturer for reuse or remanufacture?
  • easily disassembled for appropriate recycling at end of life?
  • energy and water-efficient?
  • using soy-based inks, and does the paper have a high recycled material content?
  • using little or no volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, lead, or mercury?
  • readily biodegradable in an industrial composting system?
  • shipped securely with minimum packaging that is made from recycled materials and is itself 100 percent recyclable? Or can the supplier take back packaging for reuse?

Recycling and Conservation

Energy and Water Conservation

To reduce Harvey Mudd College’s greenhouse gas emissions and to address the historic drought in the state of California, any purchases having to do with energy and water infrastructure across campus should reduce the use of electricity, natural gas, fuel oil and water. These include:

Harvey Mudd College Recycling Guide

Harvey Mudd College is engaged in an ongoing effort to divert as much waste from landfills as possible. We should all be aware of what materials can be recycled. For offices and departments across campus, you can use the Recycling Guide provided by F&M on the College website to learn about how you can properly dispose of current office materials and future office purchases.

The Recycling Guide provides resources for students, staff and faculty and also addresses how to properly dispose of electronic waste (or e-waste). If you have any questions, contact F&M in the Platt Campus Center basement, or call at 909.621.8226.

Printing and Paper Use Guidelines

Paper is used in vast quantities on college campuses. Our use of paper has multiple environmental ramifications that go beyond the use of trees, taking into account energy and emissions that factor into the production, distribution and disposal of paper. While we cannot escape having to use paper on a daily basis, there are many ways for members of the HMC community to limit their use of paper.


  • Print double-sided. Most office printers are capable of printing double-sided documents, but this is often not the default setting. Before printing any document, go to Print Settings in your word processor and adjust them to assure that documents are printed double-sided.
  • Reduce your margins. The default setting for margins in most word processors is at least one inch on each side. Reducing the margins to 0.75″ or 0.25″ is a great way to conserve paper.
  • 2 Pages, 1 Side. One of the most efficient ways to print is to adjust your print settings so that two whole pages can be printed on one sheet. This means that, with double-sided printing, you would be able to print four pages on one whole sheet of paper. The same can be done on PowerPoint Presentations, where multiple slides can be printed on one page.
  • Use a smaller font size. Or use less spacing between text.
  • Avoid printing extra copies of items if you don’t have to. Most paper printed in a day ends up in a bin the very same day, so conserve where you can.

Other Tips

  • Thoroughly proofread your documents to avoid “do-overs;”
  • Use digital and electronic distribution systems (e.g., faxing, e-mail, shared or networked drives such as Google Drive) for any and all documents and PowerPoint presentations before printing;
  • Save single-sided documents and use the clean side to print other documents or re-purpose them for notes;
  • Make sure you recycle all waste paper;
  • Strive to purchase Post Consumer Waste (PCW) content products – the higher the PCW content, the less trees we need to make the paper.

Remember: Reducing printing saves paper and ink, conserves power and preserves printers. You also save storage space and reduce the labor needed to file and retrieve documents.

Alternatives to Printing

One can also conserve paper by using Electronic Filing – a sustainable alternative to the physical printing and filing of hard copies of paper. The practice is easy, inexpensive and secure, and it will drastically reduce how much paper is used.

Some recommended practices are listed below. If you have any questions, or are unsure of how to proceed with certain steps, you can consult the Computing and Information Services (CIS) Help Desk on the 1st Floor of Sprague. CIS can also be contacted via email at and by phone at 909.607.7777.

  • Back up files. Always back up anything that is difficult to replace (e.g., contracts, reports, e-mails and other important documents). Choose where to store your files (either on networked or external storage) drives, and remember to regularly save files onto that drive. Automatic syncing tools are also available for laptops and individuals with a number of files to back up.
  • Back up emails. Most e-mail services offer archiving or backup options. For instance, Microsoft Office has an Auto Archive function with which to save e-mails on a regular basis.
  • Use Shortcuts on your Desktop. Using a shortcut icon on your desktop makes it easier to access files, especially if they are on a networked drive. A simple right-click will give you the option to create a shortcut to a document or file on your desktop.
  • Share electronically. It is now very easy to share documents electronically. They can be copied to physical media (e.g., USB flash drives, external hard drives), uploaded onto shared or networked drives (e.g., Google Drive), e-mailed or uploaded to website.
  • Use PDFs. Most documents are shared electronically as PDFs. Creating a Portable Document Format (PDF) file from an email, word document or spreadsheet allows you to share documents easily and securely. Word processors offer the opportunity to save files as PDFs, and even Internet Pages can be saved from your browser as PDFs.

Note: As you begin to file your documents electronically, this can produce an information gap depending on how you want to arrange and organize your documents. To easily group older documents that may be in print and new documents that are electronic, you can scan old documents so that everything is in one place. Most offices will have a printer with scanning ability, but if you need assistance, contact CIS.

Third Party Certifications

During your search for environmentally preferable products, you will come across some that are marked with certain certifications. There are several third party certifications available that address different aspects of the environmental sustainability of a product. The certifications listed below are among the most reputable, and are trusted and used by many educational and corporate institutions.


EcoLogo™ Standards are developed in an open, public, and transparent process spanning approximately 12-18 months, and are designed so that only the top 20% of products available on the market can achieve certification. EcoLogo standards are especially stringent because they address multiple environmental attributes throughout the entire lifecycle of the product or service. Perhaps even more encouraging is the fact that all EcoLogo certified products must also meet performance requirements to ensure they perform as well as their conventional alternative.


EPEAT is a system to help purchasers in the public and private sectors evaluate, compare and select desktop computers, notebooks and monitors based on their environmental attributes. EPEAT assesses lifecycle environmental standards and ranks products as gold, silver or bronze based on a set of environmental performance criteria. EPEAT®-registered electronic products meet environmental measures referred to as criteria. All of the criteria used in EPEAT are based on ANSI-approved public standards, which provide technical details for every criterion and specify how a manufacturer must demonstrate compliance.

Energy Star

Energy Star is an international standard for energy efficient consumer products originated in the United States of America. It was created in 1992 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Devices carrying the Energy Star service mark, such as computer products and peripherals, kitchen appliances, buildings and other products, generally use 20%–30% less energy than required by federal standards.


FSC is an international not for-profit, multi-stakeholder organization established in 1993 to promote responsible management of the world’s forests. Its main tools for achieving this are standard setting, independent certification and labeling of forest products. This offers customers around the world the ability to choose products from socially and environmentally responsible forestry.


The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute, part of UL Environment, was founded in 2001 with the mission of protecting human health and quality of life by improving indoor air quality and reducing chemical exposure. The GREENGUARD Certification Program helps manufacturers create–and buyers identify–interior products and materials that have low chemical emissions, improving the quality of the air in which the products are used. UL Environment, a business unit of UL (Underwriters Laboratories), acquired GREENGUARD in 2011, further advancing its mission of promoting global sustainability, environmental health, and safety.

Green Seal

Green Seal is an independent non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. Its stated mission is to safeguard human health and the environment by promoting the manufacture, purchase, and use of more sustainable products and services. The organization is a science-based standard development and certification body that meets the Criteria for Third-Party Certifiers of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the requirements for standard development organizations of the American National Standards Institute, the guidelines for ecolabeling programs of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 14020 and 14024), and the membership criteria of the Global Ecolabeling Network (GEN). Green Seal’s flagship program is voluntary certification of products and services to its standards.

Scientific Certification Systems

Scientific Certification Systems was established in 1984 to certify fresh produce based on pesticide residues, SCS now provides third-party certification of environmental performance and quality standards for many different manufacturing industries.

Water Sense

Water Sense, a partnership program by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, seeks to protect the future of our nation’s water supply by offering people a simple way to use less water with water-efficient products, new homes, and services. WaterSense brings together a variety of stakeholders to promote the value of water efficiency, encourage innovation in manufacturing, decrease water use and reduce strain on water resources and infrastructure, and provide consumers with easy ways to save water, as both a label for products and an information resource to help people use water more efficiently.

Greenwashing and Green ‘Claims’

What is Greenwashing, and how can I spot it?

As defined in Kahle et al.’s Communicating Sustainability for the Green Economy (2014), Greenwashing occurs when an organization deceptively markets their products, aims, or policies as environmentally friendly. Organizations engaging in greenwashing can be spotted by looking at their expenditures – significantly more money and/or time has been spent advertising eco-friendliness than has actually been spent on eco-friendly practices.

The Sins of Greenwashing website, published by UL, provides a very useful set of terminologies to explain how exactly a company may engage in the practice of greenwashing. This information has been taken and adapted from UL, Inc. and the U.C. Santa Cruz Green Purchasing Guide:

  • Fibbing – when an environmental claim is simply false (e.g. a product falsely claiming to be Energy Star certified);
  • Irrelevance – when an environmental claim, while truthful, is unimportant and unhelpful for consumer seeking an environmentally preferable product (e.g. when a product says it is ‘CFC-free’, even though CFCs are banned by law);
  • Lesser of Two Evils – when a claim, while being true in its product category, serves as a distraction from the negative environmental impacts of the category of product as a whole (e.g. fuel-efficient sports-utility vehicles);
  • No Proof – when an environmental claim can not be easily or at all substantiated by supporting information or a reputable third-party certification (e.g. facial tissues claiming a percentage of post-consumer recycled content without providing evidence);
  • Hidden Trade-Off -when a claim suggests a product is ‘green’ based on a narrow set of attributes without paying attention to other important environmental concerns (e.g. paper may be environmentally preferable if coming from a sustainably-harvested forest, but this does not consider other aspects of its life-cycle such as greenhouse gas emissions, chlorine use, etc.);
  • Vagueness – when a claim is too broad or indefinite to ensure adequate understanding by the consumer (e.g. ‘all-natural’ sounds good, but it is not necessarily ‘green’, as many harmful chemicals are naturally occurring and poisons such as arsenic, uranium, mercury, and formaldehyde’);
  • Misleading labels – when a product gives the impression through words or images that it has a third-party endorsement, even though no such endorsement exists.

Some preliminary research on a product should reveal right away if a company is simply greenwashing. If you are unsure and need assistance, please contact the Hixon Center for Sustainable Environmental Design at The Center will gladly assist by providing background research. For larger projects, the Center may work with students as part of courses, work-study or summer research.

Valid Claims and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Guidelines

The FTC provides guidelines for ‘green’ marketing claims. These are not necessarily enforceable, though the FTC can prosecute false and misleading advertising claims. The guidelines are intended to be followed on a voluntary basis. The guidelines are below, and can also be found on the FTC website:

  • Qualifications and Disclosures: The Commission traditionally has held that in order to be effective, any qualifications or disclosures such as those described in these guides should be sufficiently clear, prominent, and understandable to prevent deception. Clarity of language, relative type size and proximity to the claim being qualified, and an absence of contrary claims that could undercut effectiveness, will maximize the likelihood that the qualifications and disclosures are appropriately clear and prominent.
  • Distinction between benefits of the product, package, and service: An environmental marketing claim should be presented in a way that makes clear whether the environmental attribute or benefit being asserted refers to the product, the product’s packaging, a service or to a portion or component of the product, package, or service. In general, if the environmental attribute or benefit applies to all but minor, incidental components of a product or package, the claim need not be qualified to identify that fact. There may be exceptions to this general principle. For example, if an unqualified “recyclable” claim is made and the presence of the incidental component significantly limits the ability to recycle the product, then the claim would be deceptive.
  • Overstatement of environmental attribute: An environmental marketing claim should not be presented in a manner that overstates the environmental attribute or benefit, expressly or by implication. Marketers should avoid implications of significant environmental benefits if the benefit is in fact negligible.
  • Comparative claims: Environmental marketing claims that include a comparative statement should be presented in a manner that makes the basis for the comparison sufficiently clear to avoid consumer deception. In addition, the advertiser should be able to substantiate the comparison.


For More Information

If you have any questions about this Green Purchasing Guide, or want to learn more about the practice of Environmentally Preferable Purchasing, you can contact the Hixon Center for Sustainable Environmental Design at

Important Terminology


The ability of a substance to decompose in the natural environment into harmless raw materials. To be truly biodegradable, a substance or material should break down into carbon dioxide (a nutrient for plants), water, and naturally occurring minerals that also do not cause harm to the ecosystem. In terms of environmental benefits, a product should take months or years, not centuries, to biodegrade.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)

Any of a group of compounds that contain carbon, chlorine, fluorine, and sometimes hydrogen and have been used as refrigerants, cleaning solvents, aerosol propellants and in the manufacture of plastic foams. CFCs are being phased out because they destroy the planet’s stratospheric ozone protection layer.


A product that can be placed into a composition of decaying biodegradable materials and eventually turn into a nutrient-rich material. It is synonymous with “biodegradable,” except it is limited to solid materials. (Liquid products are not considered compostable.)


A product that remains useful and usable for a long time without noticeable deterioration in performance.

Energy-efficient Product

A product that is in the upper 25 percent of energy efficiency for all similar products or that is at least 10 percent more efficient than the minimum level meeting U.S. federal government standards.

Fair Trade Certified

A product certification system designed to allow people to identify products that meet agreed environmental, labor, and developmental standards. Overseen by a standard-setting body, FLO International, and a certification body, FLO-CERT, the system involves independent auditing of producers to ensure the agreed standards are met. Companies offering products that meet the Fairtrade standards may apply to for licenses to use the Fair Trade Certified Mark for those products.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

FSC ( creates the standards for SmartWood and Scientific Certification Systems (SCS; third-party certifying organizations) to certify forests and chain of custody forest products.

Greenhouse Gases

Any of several dozen heat-trapping trace gases in the earth’s atmosphere that absorb infrared radiation. The two major greenhouse gases are water vapor and carbon dioxide (CO2); lesser greenhouse gases include methane (CH4), ozone (O3), CFCs, and nitrogen oxides.

Persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic compounds (PBTs)

Toxic chemicals that persist in the environment and increase in concentration through food chains as larger animals consume PBT-laden smaller animals. They transfer rather easily among air, water, and land, and span boundaries of programs, geography, and generations. As a result, PBTs pose risks to human health and ecosystems. They are associated with a range of adverse human health effects, including effects on the nervous system, reproductive and developmental problems, cancer, and genetic impact. They include heavy metals and chemicals such as mercury, dioxins, and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).

Post-consumer recycled content

Percentage of a product made from materials and by-products recovered or diverted from the solid waste stream after having completed their usefulness as consumer items and use in place of raw or virgin material.

Product life cycle

The totality of environmental impacts for a product, including raw material acquisition, manufacturing, distribution, use, maintenance, and ultimate disposal of the product.

Recyclable product

A product that after its intended end use can be diverted from the solid waste stream for use as a raw material in the manufacture of another product.

Recovered materials

Waste materials and by-products that have been recovered or diverted from the solid waste stream. It is derived from post-consumer recycled materials, manufacturing waste, industrial scrap, agricultural waste, and other waste material, but does not include material or by-products generated from, and commonly reused within, an original manufacturing process.

Refurbished product

A product that has been completely disassembled and restored to its original working order while maximizing the reuse of its original materials.

Renewable materials

Materials made from plant-based feedstock capable of regenerating in less than 200 years such as trees and agricultural products. Rapidly renewable resources, such as grain-based feedstocks, regenerate in less than two years.


An action is said to be sustainable if it satisfies present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Virgin Materials

Any material occurring in its natural form. Virgin material is used in the form of raw material in the manufacture of new products.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Chemicals that readily evaporate and contribute to the formation of air pollution when released into the atmosphere. Many VOCs are classified as toxic and carcinogenic.

Water efficient

A product that is in the upper 25 percent of water efficiency for all similar products or that is at least 10 percent more efficient than the minimum level meeting U.S. federal government standards

A more thorough and comprehensive Glossary can be found on the website of the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO).

Additional Resources

National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) Green Purchasing Guide. Some of this guide has been directly adapted from the Green Purchasing Guide provided by NASPO. Their Guide is one of the most comprehensive guides, with a variety of useful Green Purchasing links and resources.

University of California, Santa Cruz Green Purchasing Guide. The content and structure of this guide were directly adapted from the U.C. Santa Cruz Green Purchasing Guide.

The UCSC Green Purchasing Guide is used with permission- © 2016 The Regents of the University of California. All Rights Reserved.

California Department of General Services (DGS) Buyers Guide. The DGS Buyers Guide provides important information about California legislation pertaining to Environmentally Preferable Purchasing, recommendations on Goods and Services, and other useful links and resources.