Buy Into a Better Environment: Green Purchasing Tips

Aug. 28, 2012  

Residents and businesses in Fairfax County can buy into a better environment by thinking green when purchasing products that are commonly used, including back-to-school supplies. In most cases you also will save money.  Fairfax County’s Department of Purchasing and Supply Management’s green purchasing program has reduced costs and the county’s environmental impact since it was implemented in 2009.  The agency offers these green purchasing tips for home, school and work. 

Look for recycled content in the products you buy. Using paper that has recycled content is an easy choice. Fairfax County Government’s copy paper contains at least 30 percent recycled content. This simple switch is estimated to save about 2,700 trees each year.

Try a new take on existing technology. For example staple-less staplers cut out a tiny strip of paper and uses it to stitch up to five pages together.

Look for ways to extend the useful life of a product. Refillable pens eliminate the need to recycle the products after their short life. Refill the pens; use them over and over and save some space in the landfill.

Buy remanufactured products, for example printer cartridges. Fairfax County Government recently made the switch to remanufactured printer cartridges. Reusing parts of old cartridges reduces waste and the county is projected to save approximately $200,000 annually.

Research products and the companies that you buy from the most. Look for green certification on products, such as Energy Star. Call or look online to see if companies have environmentally friendly goals and practices in place. Do they have green purchasing programs?

Change the way you do things incrementally for a big impact and big savings. For example, use a water bottle with a filter rather than disposable water bottles. A filter can be used for up to 300 bottles of water before it needs to be replaced.  At an average cost of $10, it is much cheaper than buying bottled water. 

Buy used (and keep your unwanted stuff out of the landfill). For many items you buy, the thrift store can be a gold mine and save you a lot of money.  You can also check the county’s public auction site for great deals on everything from exercise bikes to tables and chairs. Getting rid of something? Instead of throwing it away, think about what you can donate to a thrift store or post on a website that advertises items that people can pick up for free.

Eliminate waste in your purchasing process. You can reduce wasteful printing by asking companies to stop sending you catalogs, coupons, credit card offers, phone books and circulars. Sign up with Catalog Choice and other free services to help junk the junk mail.  Through similar efforts, many Fairfax County Government agencies have reduced junk mail by 90 percent.

If possible, return the packaging from a product to be reused. Some companies will take back their boxes for reuse, which saves you the trouble of recycling them and reduces the energy needed to create a new box. If you get a lot of boxes from a company, call or email them to ask. Fairfax County’s current office supplies contractor offers a box reuse program for customers.

For more information on environmental efforts in Fairfax County, go online and friend us on Facebook .


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