Projects - Purchasing

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Global Problem
With the modern globalized economy, it can be tough to track the commodity chains of the products we consume. With the opaque production practices of many major companies, it can be tough to trace the life cycles of goods before the time of purchase and after the time of disposal.

Local Solution
By paying attention to the environmental and social responsibility of products, it is possible to support positive practices that represent sustainable values. As an institution with a lot of buying power, Macalester has committed itself to using purchasing as an avenue to prioritizing sustainability.

How Are We Doing?
As part of the Sustainability Plan, the college affirmed the goal to “seek and create purchasing options that minimize Macalester College’s costs and promote a positive ecological and social impact.”

Purchasing at Macalester is decentralized, meaning that different departments (academic, administrative, extracurricular, athletics, etc.) make their own independent purchasing decisions. This can be challenging in terms of sustainability because it relies on individuals to make responsible purchasing individuals with regard to environmental and social sustainability.

There is, however, the opportunity for the Purchasing Department to support other departments in making better purchasing choices by providing information about more environmentally and socially responsible vendors, educating about the importance of ethical purchasing, and providing more sustainable procurement options to College purchasers.

To that end, the Purchasing Department has worked, alongside many other departments such as Facilities, College Relations, Bon Appétit, and the Sustainability Office, to provide more sustainable options at Macalester. Thus far, this includes recyclable and biodegradable paper dishware, environmentally preferable office supplies, recycled paper products (toilet paper, paper towels, and printing paper), environmentally preferable cleaning supplies, and reusable take-out containers at the Grille.

The Purchasing Department has also worked on the creation of an Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Policy Guidelines (EP3). This document will guide the decentralized purchasing system at Macalester and ensures that Macalester’s purchases are socially, environmentally, and economically responsible. The Purchasing Department has been advised by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency staff in the creation and implementation of these policies.

Check out some purchasing success stories:

Workers Rights Consortium:  Macalester is a member of the Worker's Rights Consortium, an independent organization that monitors the labor practices of factories that produce apparel in order to fight the prevalent use of sweatshops. As a member of WRC, Macalester annually sends labor Codes of Conduct to all of its apparel suppliers in order to confirm that our suppliers adhere to labor standards and do not use sweatshops. The WRC has implemented a program called the Designated Supplier's Program (DSP) to further combat sweatshops; the DSP will create a “safe space” in the global apparel market for factories to increase workers' wages without fear of the investment flight that often occurs. Sweatshop-free and environmentally and socially responsible purchasing decisions are now made by Follett, the organization that runs Macalester’s bookstore, and Mac Athletics, which purchases apparel from Under Armour, a company that adheres to the Worker’s Rights Consortium guidelines.

100% Recycled Paper:  Since 2010, the college uses 100 percent recycled content paper for the regular copy paper used in Document Services and computer labs, instead of the 30 percent recycled content paper that had been our standard.  By using 100 percent recycled paper, the campus is expected to save 655 trees and 299,793 gallons of water annually.

Toilet Paper and Paper Towels:  Facilities Services changed the toilet paper and paper towels used on campus to a 100 percent recycled and are Green Seal certified, no-chlorine products.  The new products are substantially cheaper, and will save Macalester about $26,000 a year in purchasing costs.

Cleaning Supplies:  Facilities Management has switched over to a completely non-toxic cleaning system, using the 3M line of Green Seal products. All cleaning supplies now represent purchasing decisions that prove better for environmental and human health.
Green Seal products

Food Service: Bon Appétit is a nation-wide food service company which operates Macalester’s cafeteria, Café Mac. The organization is a leader in environmental accountability and in incorporating sustainability objectives into their business. Bon Appétit has launched several campaigns in the past to utilize more sustainable food sources, and many of these have been undertaken at Café Mac.  Such programs include: the Seafood Watch, the annual Eat Local Challenge, Circle of Responsibility Program (in which Café Mac began to purchase only cage-free eggs and antibiotic-free chickens), the biannual 100 percent compostable picnic, initiatives to decrease food waste through education, and the Farm to Fork program, an initiative to purchase food from within a 150-mile radius of the institution. Café Mac currently obtains milk from a creamery in Hastings, MN, grass-fed beef from a processor in Cannon Falls, MN and local produce when in season. Café Mac is currently striving to obtain a minimum of 10 percent of all food products from local sources. Bon Appétit also launched the Low Carbon Diet in spring 2008.
Bon Appétit - Café Mac

Compostable Dishware: In accordance with Macalester’s Zero Waste by 2020 campaign, composting has been introduced (and expanded) on campus so we can create soil instead of landfills. Now, just as the Mac community can compost food waste, we can do the same with compostable dishware. The Grille offers compostable take-out containers instead of the previous plastic ones, and departments all over campus use compostable dishware for events.

In the spring of 2015, Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) created a compostable dishware ordering program to provide faculty, staff, academic departments, and student organizations with an economical and sustainable option for disposable dishware.  MCSG has made the dishware free to all student organizations.

The following link will take you to a Google form where you can place an order for a variety of dishware items.  Mac’s Mailing Services will quickly process your order, and deliver it to staff, faculty, or departments directly. Student orgs orders will be reviewed by MCSG’s Sustainability Officer. Once approved and completed, organizations will notified by email that their dishware is ready to be picked up.  Compostable dishware order form

AusPens: Professors have been piloting refillable dry-erase markers AusPens, made by a company founded upon values of sustainability. Macalester uses dry-erase markers in most every classroom, so through the initiative to implement AusPens, we can cut down on the amount of waste sent to landfills.

Bookstore: The Highlander Store, Macalester’s campus bookstore, also offers a number of sustainable options for students, including school supplies sourced from recycled materials, the rental graduation gown system for commencement, and a donation system for unwanted books.