Maximizing state resources and minimizing harm

In alignment with USG Board of Regents policy and UGA Fininace and Administration strategic goals, sustainable purchasing considers a product’s environmental and social attributes along with performance, quality, service, and price. The Office of Sustainability collaborated with UGA Procurement and Sustainability Certificate students to develop guidelines for cost-effective, sustainable purchasing that maximizes state resources and long-term value for the university.

Sustainable Purchasing Guideline

The content on this page is a brief overview of the Sustainable Purchasing Guideline, which aims to improve the social and environmental impact of procurement decisions at UGA. Use this link to access the full document.

Purchasing Guideline (PDF)

UGA Departments and purchasing agents are encouraged to:

  • Develop and maintain information about environmentally and socially preferable products typically used by your department.
  • Steward resources through sustainable purchasing best practices and resources, and educate employees.
  • Submit new ideas, problems, or concerns to UGA Procurement at 706-542-2361 or
Do you need it?
  • Ensure that a need exists; consider reusing existing items and university surplus.
Life Cycle
  • Consider total cost of ownership when evaluating a purchase.
  • Seek durable products that can be recharged, repaired, refilled, upgraded, or reused.
  • Prioritize water and energy conserving appliances and equipment.
  • Purchase products made from recycled or repurposed materials and that can be recycled or repurposed after use.
Delivery and Packaging
  • Use contracted suppliers and/or consolidate orders to reduce packaging and deliveries.
  • Provide feedback to suppliers regarding packaging materials and practices, and request alternatives such as take-back programs and reusable and/or recyclable packaging.
  • Set a minimum order value of $50.
  • Assess disposal requirements of each product and prioritize items that can be reused, recycled, or composted.
  • Seek products with minimal packaging.
  • Avoid products containing particularly harmful substances whenever possible.
  • Seek alternatives to products and processes that may be detrimental to the environment and the community.
  • Prioritize materials and products harvested, extracted, or manufactured within Georgia.
  • Prioritize vendors that are small, veteran-owned, women-owned, and/or minority-owned businesses.
  • Consider the vendor’s sustainability, environmental, and corporate social responsibility practices.
  • Develop and maintain information about environmentally and socially preferable products typically used by your department.
  • Share lessons learned with others on campus.


Following are additional practices to consider based on various purchasing categories:

Office Supplies
  • Locally and sustainably farmed paper products, such as those certified by SFIare encouraged as well as products made from plant-based contents such as agricultural crops and residues. 
  • Recycled, remanufactured, or refilled toner cartridges along with soy or vegetable based ink should be explored. 
  • Certifications and standards to consider include Cradle to Cradle, FSC, GreenGuardGreen Seal, SFIand others; products with the highest recycled content; and vendors that are small, local, B-Corporations, and/or minority-owned.
Appliances, Electronics, Equipment
  • Electrical products should meet the US EPA Energy Star certification when available and practicable.  
  • Electronics, computers, and imaging equipment should meet EPEAT standards when available and practicable. 
  • Copiers and printers purchased should be compatible with the use of recycled content and remanufactured products. 
  • Water-using equipment should meet EPA WaterSense standards when available and practicable. 
Laboratory Supplies
  • Prioritize energy and water-efficient equipment and appliances with US EPA Energy Star and WaterSense certification. 
  • Look for equipment, consumables, chemicals and reagents with the ACT Label. 
  • Electronics, computers, and imaging equipment should meet EPEAT standards when available and practicable. 
  • Prioritize safer chemical ingredients as identified by the US EPA to enhance safety and reduce hazardous waste. Whenever possible, products and equipment should not contain lead or mercury; if necessary, select products with as little of those elements as possible. 
  • Vendors that offer take back programs for hard to recycle materials such as technologies, styrofoam coolers, or chemically contaminated plastics should be prioritized to reduce waste.
  • Preference should be given to food and food service suppliers that provide local and or community-based products. 
  • Preference should be given to food products that are locally, sustainably, and/or ethically produced as determined by recognized food and beverage sustainability standards such as Georgia GrownFair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, USDA Organic, or comparable. 
Cleaning Supplies
  • Note: In most cases, these products will only be purchased by appropriate facilities management staff. 
  • Cleaning solvents, surfactants and detergents should be biodegradable and safe for human health and the environment. 
  • Preference should be given to products certified by Cradle to Cradle, EcologoGreenSeal, Safer Choice, or comparable. 
  • Packaging that is reusable, recyclable, or compostable is preferred, when suitable uses and programs exist, as is eliminating packaging or using the minimum amount necessary for product protection to the greatest extent practicable. 
  • Buy goods in bulk or concentrated form to reduce waste and save money. 
  • Preference should be given to vendors who offer an Extended Product Responsibility (EPR) program, especially take-back, recycle, and disposal, and whose packaging is certified by Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) or comparable.
Vendor Selection
  • Prioritize vendors from Georgia and whose materials and products are harvested, extracted, or manufactured within Georgia.  
  • Prioritize small, veteran-owned, women-owned, and/or minority-owned businesses. 
  • Prior to making a purchase, consider the vendor’s sustainability, environmental, and corporate social responsibility practices. Preference should be given to vendors that are B-Corporations and/or maintain relevant third-party product certifications such as Cradle to Cradle or comparable. 
  • Consider potential for an operating lease or rental - rather than a purchase or capital lease - in which vendors have the responsibility for upkeep of goods and proper end-of-life management. 
Environmental Sustainability

When searching for environmentally sustainable products in UGAmart, look for these Product Flag checkboxes:

Screenshot from UGAmart showing a list of checkbox items: Green, Energy Star, and Recycled

Social Sustainability

When searching for socially sustainable products in UGAmart, look for these Vendor Class checkboxes:

Screenshot from UGAmart showing a list of checkbox items that includes: Certified Small Busines, Certified Veteran Owned, Certified Women Owned, Minority Owned - African American, and Minority Owned - Asian American

Additional Tips

You can browse by “Eco & Diversity Products” in Staples through UGAmart. Click Browse by Category,
select Eco & Diversity Products, and search within that category.

UGA Bulldog Print + Design offers bulk recycled-content paper at a discounted rate for UGA departments.

Some purchases are limited by state or federal laws, grants, or contracts that require purchase from a particular vendor. This guideline does not apply to cases that are subject to limitations imposed by federal and state laws, rules, and regulations and DOAS, University System of Georgia, and University of Georgia policies.