The Mac Weekly - March 13, 2009
Purhasing Office Pushes Responsible Practices
By Amy Ledig, Editor in Chief
The way Macalester does business will be getting a lot greener, if Kathy Johnson has anything to say about it.
Johnson, manager of Purchasing and Accounts Payable, is working to put in place new purchasing policies that would result in college purchases of products that are produced in a more environmentally friendly way. Student workers, particularly Nicole Kligerman '10, worked with Johnson over the summer to research the process and gather information that became the groundwork for the new purchasing policies.
"My job really is to procure the right contracts for the right commodities," she said. "I see the Procurement Office as guiding people in this."
The Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Policy would take into account every step of product's history, from the impact made on the environment when the materials are extracted and it is manufactured though the potential for recycling. Johnson stressed that the whole process, from how something is made to how it is used and finally disposed of, is important.
The purpose of the new Printing and Publishing Policy is to address the origin of the paper and ink products the college purchases. Where the product comes from and whether it requires a significant amount of transportation is something that increases an item's carbon footprint. The origins of paper products and ink is an issue. The larger question where printing is involved, though, is whether the job is even needed, Johnson said.
The policies are currently in draft form and under review by the college. Johnson presented the draft of the purchasing policy to the Social Responsibility Committee last semester and will be presenting the printing policy at the meeting this month. After the SRC gives its input, the policies go to the college's senior staff for review before landing on President Brian Rosenberg's desk.
Not only is Johnson leading the way toward more sustainable purchasing policies at Macalester, she is on the forefront of the movement among area colleges. The procurement directors of the Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities, which includes Hamline and St. Thomas among others, are "very much on board, but willing for Macalester to lead," Johnson said.
The policies are still works in progress and there is more to be done.
"I don't know how to put everything into place just yet," Johnson said.
Even at a school that prides itself on being environmentally conscious, it could be an uphill battle to convince people to buy sustainable products that in some cases cost more, especially during a time of economic turmoil.
"When people are told their budgets are smaller, one of the first things to go is sustainably responsible [purchasing] practices," Johnson acknowledged.