Sustainable Purchasing

Guidelines for environmentally responsible purchasing

What is Sustainable Purchasing?

Sustainable purchasing includes the acquisition of recycled content products, environmentally preferable products and services, bio-based products, energy- and water-efficient products, alternate fuel vehicles, products using renewable energy, and alternatives to hazardous or toxic chemicals.

Please review our Sustainability Guide to learn the importance of sustainable purchasing and how and where to buy sustainable products.

For Department Buyers

The University of California’s Sustainable Procurement Guidelines (“Guidelines”) lay out the minimum sustainability requirements for products and services purchased by the University of California and identify those product attributes that are strongly preferred, if not mandatory, in accordance with the Sustainable Procurement Policy and Procedure Sections of the UC Sustainable Practices Policy. See the tabs to the left or read the Guidelines below to find out what the product-specific sustainability requirements are for your next purchase.

Among other updated requirements around packaging materials, marketing claims, and e-commerce content management, this new Policy sets the following targets:

  • 100% compliance with UC Required Level Green Spend criteria, within three (3) fiscal years
  • 25% spend with products meeting UC Preferred Level Green criteria, per product category, within three (3) fiscal years
  • 25% spend with Economically and Socially Responsible (EaSR) suppliers, as a percentage of total addressable spend, within five (5) fiscal years
  • 15% of total points utilized in competitive solicitation evaluations allotted to sustainability factors (exceptions allowed; beginning FY19-20).

In general terms, the UC Sustainable Practices Policy outlines the University’s targets for sustainable procurement as well as requirements for UC sustainable procurement practices, that is the activities of University of California buyers as they relate to sustainable procurement. The Guidelines document breaks down what the University considers to be sustainable at the product, product category, service or industry level.

The UC Sustainable Practices Policy prioritizes waste reduction in the following order: reduce, reuse, and then recycle. Accordingly, sustainable procurement should look to reduce unnecessary purchasing first, then prioritize purchase of surplus or multiple use products, before looking at recyclable, compostable, or otherwise sustainable products.

In order to ease the burden on both buyers and suppliers, The University of California offers a product search tool that enables purchasers to find products that comply with the UC's Green Spend Criteria. 

For Your Office

The University of California created the Million Light Bulb Challenge to make high-quality, high-efficacy LED light bulbs available to students, staff, faculty, alumni and retirees at a great price. The light bulbs being offered through the challenge cost on average 45% less than the same light bulbs sold through online competitors. 

Ths goal is to swap out at least one-million inefficient light bulbs and replace them with the LED light bulbs. Help UCI contribute to the goal and visit the website to purchase your energy-efficient light bulbs and to see our progress. 

Minimum Required Criteria: A minimum of 30% Post-Consumer Recycled Content (PCRC), agricultural residue content (must come from sustainably grown and harvested, non-GMO sources that do not replace forest stands or food crops), or Green Seal GS-07 certified. 
Preferred Criteria: 100% PCRC or agricultural residue content, or FSC Recycled labeled, with additional preference for paper that is Processed Chlorine Free (PCF)

Try to use less paper by minimizing what you print or by printing double-sided.

When ordering paper products such as copier and custodial paper use Green Seal Certified Products. Look for paper that:

  • Is unbleached or uses no elemental chlorine or chlorine derivatives in the bleaching process (to avoid production of dioxins and other harmful chemicals)
  • Has a low basis weight (such as 20 lb.) to minimize the use of fiber
  • Has a high post-consumer recycled content
To see a list of compliant sustainable office products available through the Office Depot Punchout Catalog on UCIBuy, please review this list


Minimum Required Criteria: Energy Star and EPEAT Bronze 
Preferred Criteria: Energy Star and EPEAT Gold
Choose ENERGY STAR Products

A government-backed program, ENERGY STAR helps businesses and individuals select products that protect the environment through superior energy efficiency and practices.

UCI has established a campus-based policy to require that when an "Energy Star" choice exists the required purchase will be the Energy Star product. This includes:

  • Office equipment
  • Refrigerators and freezers
  • Vending machines
  • All building mechanical components for which Energy Star ratings exist
  • Equipment for new capital projects
  • Ongoing purchasing, rented as well as purchased equipment, and procurements extending across all fund-sources.

UCI has a standard to purchase EPEAT Gold for computers, displays, thin clients, tablets/slates, televisions, and imaging equipment.

These products use less energy, save money, and help protect the environment. 

Minimum Required Criteria: Is either high yield or remanufactured and must meet the State of California’s Specifications for Remanufactured Toner and Ink Cartridges
Preferred Criteria: Is both high yield and remanufactured

Furniture includes individual (e.g. task chair) and group seating; open-plan and private-office workstations; desks of all types, tables of all types; storage units, credenzas, bookshelves, filing cabinets and other case goods; integrated visual display products (e.g. markerboards and tackboards, excluding electronic display products); hospitality furniture; and miscellaneous items such as mobile carts, freestanding screens, and movable partitions. Movable partitions include office furniture system cubicle panels that are typically integrated with work surfaces, desks, and storage furniture. Furniture does not include office accessories, such as desktop blotters, trays, tape dispensers, waste baskets, all electrical items such as lighting and small appliances, and accessories such as aftermarket keyboard trays, monitor stands and monitor arms.

Minimum Required Criteria: GREENGUARD Gold or SCS Indoor Advantage Gold certified and free of the 6 classes of chemicals of concern described below. Search for compliant products.

  1. Flame Retardants: All furniture shall be free of flame retardant chemicals at levels above 1,000 parts per million in both standard and optional components, excluding electrical components.
    1. All upholstered seating subject to TB 117-2013 shall be labeled as not containing flame retardant chemicals consistent with the manner described in Section 19094 of the California Business and Professions Code.
    2. A product may contain flame retardants if required to meet code or regulation (e.g., TB 133 or ASTM E 1537), in accordance with the following criteria:
      1. No halogenated flame retardant chemical may be used at levels above 1,000 parts per million by weight of the homogeneous material, excluding electrical components.
      2. Products that contain flame retardant chemicals that have been fully assessed using GreenScreen v1.2 (or newer) and meet the criteria for benchmark 2, 3, or 4 will be preferred.
  2. Formaldehyde and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): All furniture shall comply with ANSI/BIFMA e3-2014 Furniture Sustainability Standard, Sections 7.6.1 and 7.6.2, using either the concentration modeling approach or the emissions factor approach.
    1. Test results shall be modeled using the open plan, private office, or seating scenario in ANSI/BIFMA M7.1, as appropriate.
    2. Furniture products that additionally meet ANSI/BIFMA e3-2014 Section 7.6.3 and/or California Department of Public Health Standard Method v1.1 (emission testing method for California Section 01350) are preferred.
    3. Salvaged and refurbished furniture more than one-year old at the time of re-use is considered compliant, provided it meets the requirements for any site-applied paints, coatings, adhesives, and sealants.
    4. All composite wood materials, including hardwood plywood, particleboard, or medium density fiberboard, used in office, classroom, or healthcare furniture shall comply with Phase 2 of California’s Code of Regulations, Title 17 §93120.2 – Airborne Toxic Control Measure to Reduce Formaldehyde Emissions from Composite Wood Products.
  3. Per and Poly-Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) used as stain/water/oil resistant treatments: All furniture shall be free of any long- and/or short-chain per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl compounds and fluorinated polymers used as stain, water, or oil resistant treatments above 100 ppm by weight of the homogenous material.
  4. Antimicrobials: All furniture shall be free of any added or built-in chemical antimicrobials. Antimicrobials added to raw materials for the sole purpose of preserving the product are exempt, with the exception of triclosan and triclocarban which are explicitly prohibited.
  5. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): All furniture shall be free of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) greater than 1% of product by weight, excluding electrical components. Electrical components that are free of PVC are preferred.
  6. Heavy Metals: All furniture shall be free of any heavy metals, including hexavalent and trivalent chromium, in concentrations greater than 100 ppm.

Preferred Criteria: Must have at least one of the following additional certifications. Search for furniture by certification.

  • BIFMA Level (preference for Level 2 or 3)
  • Cradle to Cradle (C2C) (preference for Silver or Gold)
  • Meets the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI) Safer Chemicals Challenge and has published product list on the Healthier Hospitals Healthy Interiors Goal website.
  • Forest Stewardship Council (for products containing wood)
  • Textiles certified by one of the following recognized certifications:
    • GOTS
    • Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex
    • STeP by Oeko-Tex
    • Cradle to Cradle
    • Facts 
  • Complete Health Product Declaration (HPD)
  • Complete Declare label

For additional assistance, please contact Luci Tendroch.

Minimum Required Criteria: A minimum of 25% of purchases are certified by one of the following recognized certifications:
  • Green Seal
  • UL Ecologo
  • EPA Safer Choice
  • Forest Stewardship Council (for janitorial paper products)
Preferred Criteria: At least 75% of purchases are certified by one of the above recognized certifications
For help shopping for sustainable cleaning products, please review the UCI Green Cleaning Policy and find products on UCIBuy.

For Your Lab

ENERGY STAR® and WaterSense® certified products are required across all applicable product categories where price comparable (based on a total cost of ownership assessment) and consistent with the needs of University researchers, faculty, and staff.

Find compliant ENERGY STAR® certified products.

To see a list of ENERGY STAR® cold storage options available through UC contracted suppliers. Simply copy and paste the part number into the respective UCIBuy punchout to find pricing and product details.

The UCI Green Labs program works with principal investigators, lab managers, and students to educate and assist in the implementation of more sustainable practices in campus laboratories. The program provides resources and guidance in areas including energy efficiency, waste reduction, water conservation, sustainable purchasing, and green chemistry. Upon incorporating greater sustainable practices, research groups are awarded official Green Labs certification. All campus research labs are encouraged to participate.

Visit UCI Green Labs for more information.

Supporting a Plastic-Free UCI

The University of California is taking a stand against the throwaway culture that is choking our oceans and landfills with single-use plastics. Plastics now make up 90% of all trash floating on the ocean surface. Single-use plastics are a global problem that requires systemic changes to mitigate the negative effects to oceans, wildlife, and human health. Despite our best efforts to recycle, only a small fraction of all plastics end up being recycled and each time their quality depreciates until it can no longer be used at all. The best solution is to eliminate single-use plastics and prevent them from entering our planet in the first place.

All 10 UC campuses are phasing out single-use plastics as part of a bold commitment to achieve zero waste to landfill, furthering their long-established sustainability goals. The new addition to the UC Policy on Sustainable Practices will transition all UCs away from plastic bags in retail and dining locations and eliminate single-use plastic foodservice items and beverage bottles. 

The new policy builds a culture of support for UC’s zero waste goals, but most importantly, it will incentivize vendors to develop reusable or compostable packaging for their products.

The purpose of this policy is to facilitate the transition from single-use plastics to reusable or locally compostable alternatives. Reusables constitute any materials that are durable and intended for multiple uses, such as metal or bamboo.

There are several steps the UCI community can take to reduce the usage of single use plastics. This will include a combination of awareness campaigns and student outreach to increase knowledge on the subject. We’ve included the following resources to provide guidance for compliance:

Single-Use Plastic Policy Resources

Please review the list of suggested items available through UCIBuy prior to making a purchase.
The Green Events Guide specifically address how to organize events with sustainability in mind. You can have your event Green Events Certified to demonstrate your commitment to sustainability.

UC Policy

"The university will use its purchasing power to promote the availability of products that are resource-efficient, energy-efficient, water-efficient, and of recycled and rapidly renewable content for building materials, subsystems, components, equipment, and supplies." (see UC Sustainable Practices Guidelines)

In addition, the UC policy on Green Building Design and Clean Energy Standards, and Sustainable Transportation Practices addresses how UC buildings will meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for sustainability.

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