Environmental forum focuses on buying green

University Park, Pa. — Approximately 200 Penn State employees packed the HUB-Robeson Center's Alumni Hall at Penn State for their biyearly greening.

The 2009 Spring Forum for the Future attracted individuals from all University units, offices and campuses. The morning-long conference focused on environmental purchasing and what Penn State is doing and can do to become more sustainable.

Kevin Lyons, chief procurement officer, and Magda Comeau, green purchasing manager, of Rutgers University were the keynote speakers and gave a presentation on their university's many environmental efforts.

"It's important to keep the entire supply chain in mind when making purchasing decisions," Comeau said. "Rutgers only works with select suppliers that handle green products. All of our contracts call for the use of recycled materials."

The two boasted an impressive resume of environmental actions, which included a nationwide student recycling award, landfill research and the university's many green purchasing initiatives. 

"Our goal is to align our initiatives with our university's mission," Lyons said. "We are looking very closely at products and we want to make sure that Rutgers is making the right decisions."

Throughout the event, the notion of the "triple bottom line" came up often. The concept has been a common mantra among corporations and universities that are aiming to focus on the social, economic and ecological impact of their decisions and actions.

"It's an unprecedented time to face climate change during an economic crisis," Al Horvath, vice president for Penn State Finance & Business, said. "However, through our many initiatives, like public transportation, LEED construction and purchasing initiatives, we can continue to reach our goals. It's not about rhetoric, it’s about progress."

Joyce Haney, director of Procurement Services, showcased a long list of green processes that have been implemented at Penn State. Some of the highlights include eco-packaging, a program that reduces the amount of packaging and paperwork shipped with items like computers and printers.

"Through eco-packaging, we save around $23 for every computer we buy," Haney said. "We also make a significant environmental impact by reducing the amount of boxes, manuals and wrapping."

Other Procurement programs showcased included Lion Surplus, eBuy, bulk buying and recycling of items like batteries, toner cartridges and ceiling tiles.

Following Haney, 2009 Penn State MBA graduate, Matt Holtry spoke to the audience.  This past year, Holtry instituted the "Sustainable Procurement Practicum" with six of his classmates. The team of graduate students performed extensive research and worked closely with Physical Plant and Purchasing officials to develop a framework for buying quality environmentally-friendly janitorial paper for on-campus bathrooms

Ed Gannon, manager of design services at OPP, spoke about lifecycle analysis of paper purchases. Robin Becker, general manager of the Penn State Computer Store; Janda Hawkinson, director of ITS entrepreneurial services; and Jim Smith, applications manager for OPP, touched on energy savings and ways people can cut down on energy use in their homes and at work.

"We have to look through the lens of ecology that encourages us to be more efficient," Erik Foley, sustainability manager at OPP, said. "Every college, unit and office must empower the next (green) industrial revolution — just like Penn State impacted the first."

The forum was the fourth installment of a series of forums organized by the Finance & Business Environmental Stewardship Key Initiative. Past events featured Evan Pugh professor of geosciences Richard Alley, TV scientist Bill Nye, and director of Buildings and Grounds at University of California at Davis Sal Genito. The forums are once a semester and take on different environmental topics.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010