What we buy and how we dispose of it has profound implications for people and ecosystems locally and globally. One key action area in Princeton University’s Sustainability Action Plan is aimed at reducing waste and expanding sustainable purchasing.
Responsible consumption includes ensuring diversity in the vendor pool and addressing social and environmental justice dimensions of products and services. Such concerns can encompass resource extraction, manufacturing, labor, transportation emissions, and/or disposal practices. Consider prioritizing the following criteria when making purchases:
Who made the item and where was it made:
- Item is made or sold by a diverse business owner(s) (e.g. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) individuals, women, LGBT individuals, or veterans). Learn more about Princeton’s Supplier Diversity program.
- Item meets labor and human rights standards (e.g. Fair Trade certified)
- Item is made and/or sold locally or domestically
What the item is made from:
- Item is durable and reusable
- Item is biodegradable or compostable (note that some compostable materials may require industrial composting facilities, which are not widely available)
- Item is recyclable
- Item is non- or relatively less toxic to humans and the environment (e.g. certified organic)
- For clothing and textiles, item is made from natural materials (e.g. recycled cotton, linen, hemp, etc.)
For more tips on vendors that provide sustainable options, refer to the “Vendors” section below. And check out our Sustainable Event Guidelines for more information on how to incorporate sustainability into your campus events.
When planning a giveaway, first ask yourself these questions:
- What is the purpose of the giveaway item(s)? What value does it bring to participants/attendees? If you were the one receiving it, how would you feel? Would you have a long-term use for it?
- Who is receiving the item(s)? Do they have a choice to opt-in or out of receiving it?
- Order items without dates printed on them so that they can be reused for annual events and don’t feel “dated”.
- Reuse existing items (e.g., decorate past giveaways, screenprint past participants’ T-shirts, etc.).
- If you end up with extra giveaway items that can not be utilized at a future event, consult the campus Zero Waste Guide for information about donating them or disposing of them sustainably.
Instead of buying online or from big box stores (we know, it’s convenient…) – see if that product is sold by a local business (even if it costs a few dollars more). Not only does that help a small business, but it also helps the environment by reducing the amount of packaging materials and the impact that expedited shipping can have on the earth. Supporting small businesses, especially those local to your area can have a huge impact on the local economy. COVID-19 has impacted thousands of small businesses and they need our support more than ever. We also encourage you to buy from diverse business owners in the community (e.g. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) individuals, women, LGBT individuals and veterans), whenever possible. Learn more about Princeton’s Supplier Diversity program.
PLAN Discounts and Zero Waste Resources
Princeton University is a member of the Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN) network of over 80 campuses across the country. PLAN cultivates, educates, and inspires the student-led zero waste movement. The organization informs students about the waste crisis and equips them with the necessary skills and resources to implement solutions to waste on their campus communities.
All Princeton students, faculty and staff are able to access the Member Resources and Discounts on the PLAN website by registering. Resources include workshops and webinars, the annual zero waste conference, manuals and guides on several zero waste programs and discounts on eco-friendly products.
PLAN’s Partner Discount Directory
From B-corps to 1% for the Planet members, PLAN partners with socially responsible companies to provide campuses with purchasing discounts on products and services to help foster program success. These can be accessed by individual students, by departments, or by campuses ordering in bulk. View the PLAN Discount Directory to view all the available vendors and discounts.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about PLAN or the membership benefits.
Recycled office supplies are available from WB Mason, the University's preferred contract supplier for office paper and supplies.
WB Mason uses a green leaf symbol to highlight products that have one or more of the following attributes:
- Reduced VOC’s
- Contains recycled content
- Has other environmental attributes that make this product less harmful to the environment or humans, when compared to its traditional counterparts.
Many of the products marked with a green leaf symbol have been endorsed by a third-party certifying organization and, where applicable, the certifying body’s logo appears next to the product’s name. Products marked with a recycling symbol indicate that they are made from a percentage of recycled content. To shop the WB Mason in the Marketplace, visit the Princeton Prime Portal.
100% Recycled Paper
It is Princeton University policy to purchase and use 100% post-consumer recycled paper for all general office needs, in accordance with the following guidelines:
- All printing, copying, and writing grade papers shall be made with 100% recycled materials. Electronic mail use is encouraged, whenever possible.
Adapted from Finance & Treasury's Suppliers and Contracts Policy
Order environmentally preferable products in Prime's Marketplace. Look for "Green Items" and "Recycled" in the search bar/product description.
Use these tips to reduce waste if purchasing from Amazon:
Get Plastic-Free Packaging
- All you need to do to receive plastic-free packaging on Amazon is send an email to email@example.com or use their chat option and request that future orders be plastic-free with minimal packaging. This information will be saved to your account.
Opt for Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging
- You can also opt for frustration-free packaging which is basically products that are designed and tested to ship without any extra Amazon packaging. Search “frustration-free packaging” in the Amazon search bar and products that are eligible will show up.
Choose no-rush shipping
- This will help reduce the carbon footprint of your orders and when you choose no-rush shipping, Amazon will add a $1 digital reward to your account that you can use to purchase ebooks, digital music, videos and apps. (U.S. only.)
Reuse or Recycle shipping
- You can make shopping from Amazon a little more eco-friendly by dedicating yourself to start holding onto and reusing the packaging material your products come shipped in. Cardboard boxes can be reused to keep items in storage, or reused for gifting purposes, craft projects, cat palaces, and more! When you're done with the cardboard box, make sure you break them down, remove the tape and recycle them!