In this feature, which will soon be published in Environmental Education Vol 112, Matt Roper, CEO of Green Buying explores his company’s work with schools.
There is a growing awareness within the education sector of the need and potential to “buy green” and there are plenty of examples of committed individuals taking major steps to become more sustainable in their arrangements with suppliers. However, there are many others who have yet to make changes – perhaps because they’re not sure of what they can do, or perhaps because they perceive the move to sustainability as a luxury in these challenging economic times. We see that the biggest move has been in the buying of greener energy – not surprising, since this is where there is a significant cost to schools, colleges and universities. Switching to solar power, biomass heaters and renewable electricity provision are the three big ways of doing this, and some innovative organisations have already put this in place. But there is much more to consider. The advantages to a school, college or university of going green are numerous; the first and primary advantage is that you’re reducing the environmental impact of your organisation in the local community. Reduc-ing the amount of scarce resource and carbon from the supply chain reduces carbon emissions, and limits the damage done to the earth by plundering resources for short term gain. The second advantage is that many of the greener products (eg, non-toxic cleaning supplies) are better for student and staff health as they have much lower VOCs – the toxins that are found in certain paints, varnishes and plastics. Breathing in the fumes from newly decorated walls and floors is not good news, particularly for young children. So by switching to more eco-friendly products and materials, you’re protecting people’s health.
The third benefit is educational through setting an example for the students and their parents and carers. They can be made aware of how important the environment is to everyone, and how the school is taking care to protect it. This message can be absorbed by students and will benefit the environment and society as they become consumers. The fourth benefit is in differentiating educational establishments from others in a positive way – the switch to green supplies can be great public relations and can be a powerful marketing message to prospective students and/or their parents looking to select a school, college or university. It’s a competitive marketplace nowadays and it’s hard to think of a better, more positive way of encouraging more customers. We find that organisations that have implemented these changes also tend to have happier staffs too, as the impact on the organisation of having a green policy can be extremely positive for staff morale and motivation. And finally, it’s important to tackle the false perception that it costs more to ‘go green.’ Whether this is the case or not depends on a number of factors, not least whether you’re getting the best prices in the first place. By joining together with other organisations in the sector, keener prices will be secured. If you reduce your energy or waste consumption through changed behaviour, then the total cost will fall. And once you factor in the greater environmental cost of procuring non-green products, the true cost is arguably less than when buying green ones. In the future, all buying decisions will increasingly need to include the environmental cost in order to comply with legislation (eg, disposal costs), so behaviours need to start changing now.
www.GreenBuying.co.uk is a website that sells a range of UK sourced eco products and supplies. Unlike other websites which sell green supplies as an add-on, GreenBuying only sells eco products. We sell a broad range of supplies, such as eco stationery, recycling bins, eco cleaning products, playground equipment and benches made from plastics diverted from landfill. We’re about to go live with ethical telecoms and renewable energy too.
We maintain competitive prices along with efficient delivery, as we believe that going green should not mean poorer value for money. In addition, all schools and nurseries enjoy a special 10% discount off all products on the website.
We also work with schools to educate students and teachers about the importance of sustainability and sustainable procurement through presentations and student workshops. GreenBuying is also developing a web-based waste exchange, launching in May, so that schools can trade waste materials with other organisations. It will be accessible via GreenBuying.co.uk. ………………………………………. NAEE gratefully acknowledges Green Buying’s sponsorship of Vol 112 of Environmental Education. You can contact Matt Roper at: firstname.lastname@example.org