Green purchasing


Children Collecting Eggs

Procurement accounts for over 40% of all carbon emissions produced by schools. The European Commission has developed a range of eco-labels (such as the flower label, right) that reflect the life-cycle of different types of product and their environmental impact. In July 2008 the Commission announced proposals to expand its Eco-labelling to include Food and Drink.

So think carefully about what your school buys! The DCSF is introducing the OPEN e-procurement system, to make it straightforward 

for schools to purchase sustainably without specific expertise.

Positive Action

  • Green ‘procurement’ directory Greening public procurement (GPP) means public authorities at all levels in Europe giving environmental criteria a higher priority when making their purchasing decisions. Track down your Local Authority’s green directory of eco-friendly products which should include office, staff room and IT equipment as well as environmentally-friendly paper products. An example is the Cumbria Buyers’ Guide which contains hundreds of products that are recycled and are specially highlighted with a green loop.
  • Bulk buying Schools have significant purchasing power, and by linking with other local schools to create a bulk buy consortium, they could have a significant impact on local businesses. By buying products that are made locally, schools can minimise the use of transport, save energy and prevent pollution. Consortium purchasing also give schools the power to influence the nature of materials that companies offer for sale and may be advantageous in terms of discounts. This can work for buying seeds, bulbs, etc. as well as other items where suppliers may be charging more for an environmentally friendly alternative.
  • Stationery Check that all paper used in schools comes from a sustainable source (school notepaper, photocopying paper, toilet paper, etc). Look for the Forest Stewardship Council label. Exercise books and papers made from recycled fibres are now available. Advice on these is often offered by the County Council or Borough Commercial Services Department. Your local education office should be able to provide their telephone number.
  • ICT Equipment Look for the Energy Star logo as this means it has met power-saving criteria. Schools should make sure they use these features to shut down machines automatically rather than relying on pupils to switch off. Get ICT equipment serviced regularly to help keep it running efficiently
  • Cleaning materials Ask your cleaning staff, particularly the caretaker, to check the school cleaning materials for harmful impact on the environment and replace with environmentally friendly alternatives. Avoid aerosol sprays such as charcoal fixative, polish and air freshener. Most of these are now available in pump action containers. At secondary schools, a useful Business Studies project might evaluate the impact of converting to environmentally friendly cleaning chemicals, balancing environmental issues with cost.
  • Scrap materials for design & technology, art work, etc. Some localities have scrap stores and publish ‘scrapability’ guides which give information about materials which commerce/industry consider scrap but which could be useful in a school context. If there isn’t one in your area, consider writing to your local paper and inviting thoughts along these lines from local businesses.
  • School Uniform Making new clothes uses a lot of energy and water, and buying second hand items of school uniform from the school is a great way of reducing this impact. Set up a Swop or Sell Shop for second hand school uniform Most schools also have regular uniform sales, often at summer and Christmas fetes. Make sure you donate your children’s old uniforms too - and you may even pick up a larger size for a growing child. An ethical and eco-friendly alternative could be to buy new uniforms from a range of Fair Trade and certified organic school uniform suppliers, such as Clean Slate.
  • Classroom furniture & playground equipment Check that any timber products (P.E benches, climbing frames, musical instruments, toys, etc) come from a sustainable source – look for the Forest Stewardship logo.
  • Restoring and re-using equipment Green-Works is an environmental charity that recycles redundant furniture and sports equipment. It collects, refurbishes and repairs furniture before making items available at low cost to schools.

School Case Study

Stillness Infant School, London Borough of Lewisham
Works with London Remade to source recycled products wherever possible. Persuaded cleaning company to supply recycled toilet paper and paper towels. Considering eco-friendly cleaning products if price can be agreed.

Local Authority Case Study

Leeds County Council Contract scheme for sustainable office supplies. All schools in Leeds have access to a corporate contract for office supplies that supports a sustainability theme and includes:

  • 100% post consumer waste recycled copier paper contract.
  • Other stationery products with a recyclable content.
  • Remanufactured printer toner cartridges
  • Computer monitors, that conform to TCO 99 standard using less energy than traditional CRT monitors

School catering contractor offsets carbon emissions
From February 2007 over 85% of Leeds schools have benefited from a fruit and vegetable contract as part of their catering service that provides seasonal produce with minimum journey miles to ensure maximum freshness. The contractor also offsets carbon emissions produced through the planting of trees.