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Purchasing Low-Carbon Goods & Services

We often don’t think about it, but low-carbon goods and services already exist in the marketplace. In the last decade, manufacturers have been assessing product lifecycle and designing goods to generate less carbon emissions and service providers are becoming more innovative in reducing emissions associated with their activities (visit the Carbon Emissions from Goods & Services page to learn more).

The following provides information on how you can support the purchase of low-carbon goods and services:

Specifying Third-Party Certified Labels & Logos

Our planet faces numerous environmental impacts, many of which result from product manufacturing, distribution and use.  Many brand owners have taken steps to assess the impacts associated with their product’s supply chain against a set of environmental criteria defined in a third-party environmental certification program and have made improvements to achieve product certification.

As a general rule, the environmental criteria underpinning third-party environmental labels has been developed based on solid scientific evidence and in co-operation with all relevant stakeholders.  The criteria help to mitigate issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, natural resource extraction, overfishing, pesticide use and waste minimization.  Further, reducing impacts in one or more of these environmental issues intuitively reduces global greenhouse gas emissions.

For these reasons, specifying third-party environmental certifications in purchasing documents not only helps to make sustainable procurement easier, it also helps to reduce global carbon emissions and therefore supporting low-carbon procurement. 

For more information, check out the “Labels and Logos” section of the website in the menu bar.

Specifying Post-Consumer Waste Content

Waste prevention and recycling decreases the need to extract "virgin" resources from forests, oil fields, mines, etc. to make our products and packaging. By using collected materials to make new products less energy is consumed to manufacture and transport these products and their packaging. Recycling also means less waste going to landfill, which means less methane generated and additional reductions in carbon emissions. As consumers, every item we recycle reduces greenhouse gases and protects the environment.

In much the same manner, every time we purchase products with post-consumer waste content, we are circulating the collected post-consumer materials back into commerce and avoiding the carbon emissions associated with the extraction and production of raw materials, and, to a certain extent, processing and manufacturing steps.   

Today, there are numerous goods that are made entirely or in part using post-consumer materials.  These include:

  • construction materials such as carpet, cement and concrete, roofing material, modular furniture
  • paper and non-paper office products such as binders, waste and recycling bins, toner cartridges, janitorial paper, office paper
  • park and recreational items such as bike racks, benches, trash bags, picnic tables, playground surfaces
  • fleet items such as retreaded tires, lubricating oils, coolants
  • etc. 
Energy-using Product/Equipment Selection

As purchasers we buy a variety of items that require an energy source including, building equipment and fixtures such as HVAC units, fork lifts, lighting systems, multifunction devices, computers; appliances such as microwaves, dishwashers and refrigerator units; and fleet vehicles.  Energy sources used include electricity, natural gas, propane, gasoline, diesel, etc. 

To support energy efficient product and equipment selection, many purchasers evaluate options to reduce energy consumption and support low-carbon procurement by:

  • Reviewing power source options;
  • Determining the right size/proper size of the equipment needed; and
  • Selecting efficiently powered equipment.

The examples below outline considerations used to determine low-carbon options associated with a variety of the energy using products and equipment procured:

  • The selection of fleet vehicles and public transport, that are “right-sized” for the job to be done, that are low emission and the most fuel efficient in its class and are equipped with a telematics system to allow monitoring of fuel usage. 
  • Review power source options associated with the item to be purchased or leased such as vehicles and fork lifts.  Using return on investment calculations, determine if a low-carbon power source is the most viable option.
  • Review power source options associated with contracted service requests such as outsourced data centres, and courier and delivery services. 
  • For a number of commonly purchased products such as computers, refrigerators, lighting, and multifunction devices, specify that the equipment meet energy efficiency criteria such as being ENERGY STAR rated.
    • Given Manitoba generates an abundance of hydroelectric power, which is a low-carbon energy source, it may not seem relevant to support ENERGY STAR-rated equipment for the purpose of lowering our carbon emissions.  However, purchasing ENERGY STAR-rated equipment helps to reduce energy costs and, in many instances, can reduce maintenance requirements and equipment replacement costs.  For instance, products such as LED lighting and exit signs have a longer productive life than their conventional counterparts.  Selecting these durable, lower-maintenance products reduces the embodied carbon emissions associated with product replacement and reduced emissions associated with maintenance services over the products lifecycle.
  • Review and select the proper size of equipment needed, such as compressors, HVAC units, and refrigerators, to reduce energy consumption. 
Packaging Reductions

Identify the relevant environmental impacts of the product or service to ensure possible issues related to packaging are adequately considered.  The carbon emissions and costs associated with packaging waste management can be avoided by working with suppliers to reduce packaging waste generation. 

In procurement documents, look for suppliers that:

  • Provide packaging made with recycled fiber content
  • Have taken steps to reduce packaging
  • Offer a take back/reuse program for packaging materials
  • Minimize/prohibit the use of non-recyclable packaging (e.g., Styrofoam, moulded plastics)

At a minimum, the purchaser should:

  • Request corrugated packaging containing at least 30% post-consumer recycled content
  • Prohibit/disclose packaging must not contain polyvinyl chloride plastics (PVCs)
  • Comply with provincial small single-use bottled water ban
  • Minimize/ban the purchase of single-use plastic items.
  • Evaluate options to purchase in bulk to reduce unnecessary packaging
Selecting Durable and Repairable Goods

Numerous items we purchase take a considerable amount of natural resources, including energy and water, to manufacture.  Consider requesting durable goods to extend the lifespan of goods with a high embodied carbon content in your organization.  Ensure vendors can provide sufficient warranty to cover the extended lifespan.  The longer the lifespan, the more resources and carbon emissions are saved.

Items such as modular furniture, office chairs, computers, multifunction devices, and light fixtures must be durable, easy to repair and the vendor must offer repair services.

Managing End-of-Life Disposal of Goods

At the time of procurement, identify the relevant environmental impacts of the product or service to ensure that possible issues related to end-of-life disposal are adequately considered to reduce risk and carbon emissions.  If possible, select items that can be collected and recycled locally at the end of their useful life. 

When applicable, request item take-back strategies from suppliers to reduce landfill waste, enhance reuse/recyclability and significantly reduce carbon emissions. Below are some examples of vendor take-back programs:

  • carpet manufacturers take back carpet and backing for recycling into new carpet
  • refrigeration units containing refrigerants taken back for proper decommissioning, parts reuse, and metal disposal
  • printing devices including inkjet printers, fax machines and photocopiers etc. for recycling, parts reuse and proper disposal
  • pallets for refurbishment and re-use
Consolidation and Optimizing Delivery

Changing product and service delivery requirements could significantly reduce emissions.  Consolidating product delivery schedules (e.g. from every day to once a week), employing proper route planning, avoiding idling of vehicles during product delivery and requesting eco-efficient packaging to protect items during shipping will all contribute to provincial commitments to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste production. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

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