Venues & Theatres > Purchasing

Purchasing Policy

Purchasing policies can be as prescriptive (or aspirational) as your organization chooses. In some cases, environmentally preferable products can be purchased at little or no increase in cost. And in those cases where the price of environmentally superior products exceeds those currently used, the increased cost can sometimes be mitigated by more efficient operations. Recycled paper, for example, sometimes costs more than virgin paper. However, this cost can usually be offset by double-sided printing and other reductions in paper use.

A company-wide purchasing policy encourages sustainable purchasing practices at all levels of the organization and helps ensure that green efforts are not diminished with employee turnover. Purchasing policies should be comprehensive and cover a wide range of products and services.

Many companies have instituted purchasing policies that give preference to environmentally intelligent products in an effort to enhance their ecological performance. Consider implementing your own environmentally preferable purchasing policy based on the sample policy below.

Sample Purchasing Policy
The goal of this policy is to ensure that products and services purchased by or contracted for [our organization/theatre] conform to [the organization’s/theatre’s] Environmental Policy. [Our organization/theatre] will strive, where feasible, to purchase environmentally preferable products and services that meet the organization’s needs.

Where possible, purchasing decisions shall favor:

  • Products that contain the highest percentage of postconsumer recycled content possible
  • Products that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or are made with renewable energy
  • Products that are reusable, recyclable or bio-based/compostable
  • Products that eliminate or reduce the use of chemicals hazardous to the environment and public health
  • Products that reduce air and water pollution
  • Products with minimal packaging
  • Suppliers that provide environmentally preferable products and can document the supply-chain impacts of their efforts
  • Products that serve several functions (e.g. multipurpose cleaner) and reduce the overall number of products purchased

Environmentally preferable products and services that are of comparable quality and price to their standard counterparts shall receive purchasing preference. In situations where environmentally preferable products are unavailable or impractical, secondary considerations shall include the environmental management practices of suppliers and producers.

The purchase of environmentally preferable products is part of the organization’s long-term commitment to audience members, cast and crew, theatre staff, and the environment. By sending a clear signal to producers and suppliers, [our organization/theatre] hopes to support wider adoption of environmentally preferable products and practices.

Policies can vary widely, and you should implement a policy that works best for your organization.

Corporate Purchasing Policy Examples

Additional Resources

 

Paper Purchasing

Environmentally preferable paper products can often be purchased at little or no increase in cost. In addition, paper use can often be decreased by taking a few simple steps, such as double-siding copies and reducing the number of printers in use. These measures can reduce your organization’s overall paper budget. See the Paper section of this guide for more information on purchasing, using, and recycling paper.

Contact your venue’s paper suppliers and ask about environmentally preferable alternatives to the paper products that you are currently buying, including paper used in offices, print collateral, bathroom tissue, and concessions. The specifications below provide a useful guide when speaking to suppliers.

In addition to the specifications below, consult NRDC’s Shopper’s Guide to Home Tissue Products for a complete listing of preferable household tissue products. Conservatree’s Environmental Paper Listings also contains several preferable options for a range of different paper types. Also consult the EPA’s Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Database, which contains product specifications and contract language for a wide variety of additional products.

Calculate environmental benefits of recycled paper.
Sample contract language – copy paper
Sample contract language – all paper products

Paper Products Specifications

  • Highest feasible percentage of post-consumer recycled content
  • Chlorine-free bleaching process
  • Wood fiber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council
  • Mercury-free pulping process

For more detailed paper procurement specifications, see this sample procurement policy.

Sample Letter To Current Suppliers

Dear _______,

In an effort to improve the environmental performance of our theatre, we would like to meet to discuss the environmental attributes of the paper products that you are currently supplying. We would also like to discuss ways to cost-effectively switch to more environmentally preferable products within the next few years.

We are aware that the worldwide demand for paper products creates incentives for harvesting and manufacturing practices that are harmful to the environment. We would like to improve, as much as possible, the environmental performance of our paper consumption. We are particularly interested in improving the following attributes of the paper we buy:

  • Post-consumer recycled content
  • Forest Stewardship Council certification
  • Chlorine-free bleaching processes
  • Mercury-free pulping process

We look forward to speaking with you about this. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Benefits of Purchasing Environmentally Preferable Paper

The manufacture of virgin paper contributes to global warming, water pollution and is linked with the loss of forests and hazardous air pollution. By purchasing paper products made with recycled fiber, chlorine-free bleaching, and Forest Stewardship Council-certified tree fiber, you help to reduce these impacts. Paper made with recycled content produces significantly less air and water pollution, disrupts less habitat, and uses less energy than paper made from virgin fibers.

Additional Resources

  • NRDC – Paper Resources
  • Shopper’s Guide to Home Tissue Products
  • Environmental Paper Network
  • EPA – Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines
  • A Common Vision for Transforming the Paper Industry
  • Conservatree’s Environmental Paper Listings

 

Cleaning Products and Services

Many common cleaning and maintenance products contain chemicals that are potentially harmful to human health and the environment. Consider consulting with your venue’s suppliers about less toxic alternatives to the cleaning products you currently buy. You may also wish to incorporate specifications for less toxic products in contracts and requests for proposals. Also consider reusable cleaning cloths and dilution centers, which cut down on waste and save money. The sample letter and contract specifications below should serve as a useful guide. For listings of green cleaning contractors, visit Green America’s National Green Pages.

Product Specifications

Cleaning and maintenance products can contain a wide variety of compounds that can adversely impact the health of employees and facility occupants. Use the following resources to find out which cleaning products are right for your venue.

Green Seal Products and Services
Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia
Department of the Interior Request for Proposals for Janitorial Products

Vendors

For listings of preferable cleaning products, visit the Green Seal database. The EPA’s Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Database, which contains product specifications and contract language for a wide variety of additional products, is another useful resource.

Sample Letter to Current Suppliers

Dear _______,

[Our theatre] has initiated an effort to improve our environmental performance in all aspects of our operations. We would like to meet with you to discuss these objectives in more detail. We would also like to discuss ways to cost-effectively switch to less toxic and harmful products within the next few years.

We would like to reduce as much as possible the harmful effects on the environment and public health that are associated with our operations, and we would like to speak with you about less harmful alternatives to the products that we are currently using.

Please call me at your earliest convenience so that we can we can organize a meeting to pursue this discussion.

Environmental Benefits

Purchasing less toxic products helps protect public health and the environment. Almost all commonly used cleaning and maintenance products contain hazardous chemicals that can cause serious health effects, including respiratory ailments, skin irritation, neurological disorders, and even cancer. In addition to the human effects, many of these products – or their byproducts – can harm aquatic life and other species.

Additional Resources

 

Grounds Maintenance

De-icing Products

Many de-icers contain toxic ingredients like glycol or corrosive salts that are not only harmful to the environment, but threaten the health of pets and children. When de-icing sidewalks,  avoid sodium chloride (“ice-salt”) or carbonyl diamide (urea), which are corrosive, and can damage vegetation, irritate skin and be toxic to pets and children.

The best way to avoid toxic de-icers is to use other materials to create traction. A good choice is gravel, which is inexpensive, non-toxic, and easy to spread. Sand is another option, though it should be cleaned up once ice has melted to prevent the sand running off into waterways and causing sedimentation.

If you do need to purchase a de-icing product, look for non-toxic, non-corrosive, and biodegradable de-icers. Choose the least toxic option available for your needs, and apply as little as possible.  Products containing calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) or potassium acetate (KA)are less toxic alternatives to sodium chloride and other chloride salts.

Shoveling snow before it accumulates will also help make de-icers more effective, reducing the amount of de-icer needed.

For more information about safer de-icing products, visit NRDC Smarter Living: Safe De-icers for You and Your Pets and This Green Life: The Safe Road in Winter.  Also refer to the EPA’s list of approved deicers.
Greener De-icing Products

Pesticides and Fertilizers

Pesticides and fertilizers can cause a variety of harmful impacts on public health and the environment. Consider consulting with your venue’s suppliers to determine if there are less toxic alternatives to the products that you are currently using.

Reducing your venue’s use of pesticides and fertilizers can also save money. Consider adopting the principles of integrated pest management (IPM) outlined below, to prevent infestations before they start.

Reducing Pesticides and Fertilizers Can Save Money

It is possible to have healthy, great-looking plants and grass while minimizing the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers. Minimizing the use of these chemicals means that your venue doesn’t need to purchase them as often, saving your time and money.

Many schools across the country have adopted integrated pest management (IPM) techniques to reduce child exposure to harmful pesticides. In Montgomery County, Maryland, for example, the school district reduced the number of pesticide applications from 5,000 in 1985 to zero in 1989 using IPM techniques. This reduction yielded an annual savings of $1800 per school. Monroe County schools in Indiana reduced their pest management costs by over $13,000 per year through IPM. Case Studies

Pesticides
Consider asking your current pest control suppliers to become certified under the Green Shield Certified Program, which certifies environmentally preferable pest control companies. For more information on Green Shield, contact ipmworks@ipminstitute.org.

Sample landscaping contract language.
Sample integrated pest management contract language.

Integrated Pest Management
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an approach to pest management that incorporates aspects of a facility’s operation to help reduce the need for pesticides. IPM means preventing infestations before they start, and using pesticides only when necessary. There are various approaches that your venue can adopt to decrease its reliance on chemical-based pest control. Consider the steps below, and consult the additional resources at the end of this section for more information.

  • Use native plants, trees, and grasses
  • Fill cracks in walls and pavement
  • Keep vegetation at least 1 foot away from structures
  • Clean food-contaminated dishes right away
  • Clean garbage cans often
  • Keep compost bins properly maintained

Consult the resources below for more information on IPM. Though many of the guides below are aimed at schools, the principles can be applied to other buildings and businesses.

  • EPA – Integrated Pest Management for Schools
  • University of California Statewide IPM Program
  • Green Shield Certified Program
  • PAN Pesticides Database – Alternatives to Pesticides

Pesticide Product Specifications
There is a wide range of pesticide chemicals, and most of them are potentially harmful to public health and the environment. The best strategy is to reduce the amount of pesticides your organization uses. Still, there are some pesticides that are less harmful than others. Consider avoiding pesticides that are classified as carcinogens, reproductive or developmental toxins, endocrine disruptors, or neurotoxins.

EPA categorizes pesticide products by toxicity on a scale of I – IV, with the lowest numerals indicating the most toxic products. Consider buying products that are categorized as III or IV, and avoid those that are categorized as I or II. Categories III and IV are labeled with the word “Caution”, while Category II products carry the label “Warning”, and Category I products are labeled “Danger”.

Sample Letter To Current Suppliers

Dear _______,

[Our theatre] has initiated an effort to improve our environmental performance in all aspects of our operations. We would like to meet with you to discuss these objectives in more detail. We would also like to discuss ways to cost-effectively switch to less-toxic products within the next few years.

We would like to reduce as much as possible the harmful effects on the environment and public health that are associated with our operations, and we would like to speak with you to ensure that the products we are purchasing do not contribute to these problems. In particular, we would like to talk with you about Green Shield certification, a program that certifies environmentally preferable pest control companies.

Please call me at your earliest convenience so that we can organize a meeting to pursue this discussion.

Fertilizers

Consider consulting with your venue’s current suppliers to determine if there are less harmful alternatives to the fertilizer products that you are currently using.

Minimizing the use of fertilizers is also important and can save your venue money. Review the tips and resources below to learn more about reducing your venue’s use of fertilizer.
Fertilizer Use Reduction Tips

  • Plant native vegetation species
  • Use compost instead of chemical fertilizers
  • Plant low-maintenance vegetation
  • Do not use more fertilizer than is recommended on the label
  • Consult with your suppliers and groundskeepers concerning grass mixtures and plants that will thrive in your area with minimal fertilizer

Sample Letter To Current Suppliers

Dear _______,

[Our theatre] has initiated an effort to improve our environmental performance in all aspects of our operations. We would like to meet with you to discuss these objectives in more detail. We would also like to discuss ways to cost-effectively switch to less harmful products as soon as possible.

We would like to reduce as much as possible the harmful effects on the environment and public health that are associated with our operations, and we would like to speak with you to ensure that the products we are purchasing do not contribute to these problems.

Please call me at your earliest convenience so that we can organize a meeting to pursue this discussion.

Environmental Benefits

Pesticides and fertilizers can harm public health and the environment. Many pesticides contain potentially toxic chemicals that can cause negative health effects such as cancer and neurological and reproductive disorders. In addition, pesticides can migrate into lakes and streams as they are swept away when it rains. Fertilizers contain phosphorous and nitrogen compounds, important nutrients that aid plant growth. Unfortunately, too much of these compounds is a bad thing, especially in aquatic environments. When aquatic environments are loaded with nitrogen and phosphorous, algae in the water grows at a rapid pace. When this algae decomposes, it causes a significant drop in oxygen concentrations, killing fish and other aquatic organisms. This process is called eutrophication. By reducing your venue’s use of pesticides and fertilizers, and by buying less toxic products, you help to reduce these risks.

Additional Resources

  • Green Shield Certified Program
  • Beyond Pesticides
  • Fact Sheets for individual pesticides
  • Pesticide Alternatives
  • EPA Environmentally Preferable Purchasing – Landscaping Products
  • EPA – Pesticides
  • EPA – Fact sheets on specific pesticides
  • Pesticide Action Network
  • Pesticide Education Center
  • National Institute of Health – ToxNet
  • Pennsylvania Integrated Pest Management
  • New York State IPM for Buildings
  • USDA CSREES Program – Pesticides

 

Appliances and Electronics

Performance spaces can consume large amounts of energy from heating and cooling, ventilation, electronics, lighting, and other appliances. By increasing the efficiency of these energy consumers, your theatre can save money while simultaneously improving environmental performance.

Visit the federal government’s Energy Star products database for listings of the most energy-efficient products on the marke, for a wide range of product categories. Also consider including Energy Star and energy efficiency specifications in contracts and requests for proposal. Contract language examples and additional product specifications can be found at the EPA’s Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Database.

The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) can also help you specify cost-competitive, high-performance, and environmentally preferable computer desktops, laptops, and monitors.

For a list of energy efficiency incentives and rebates in your state, visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.

Calculate savings from energy-efficient products.

  • When buying an appliance, always try to buy one that is certified by EPA’s Energy Star program.
  • If Energy Star does not rate the particular appliance, purchase the most efficient model feasible.
  • Look for other energy saving features such as programmability and power-save functions.
  • Many products continue to use energy, even when they’re turned off. Look for products that use as little energy as possible while in “off” mode.
  • Plug appliances into a power strip instead of directly into the wall socket, so that you can easily turn off all energy demand from multiple appliances at once when they are not in use.

Sample Letter To Current Suppliers

Dear _______,

[Our theatre] has initiated an effort to improve our environmental performance in all aspects of our operations. We would like to meet with you to discuss these objectives in more detail. We would also like to discuss ways to cost-effectively switch to more efficient products within the next few years.

Energy use is one of the principal contributors to air pollution and global warming. By reducing our consumption of energy, we can reduce these impacts and save money at the same time. We would like to reduce as much as possible the harmful effects associated with our operations, and we would like to speak with you about more efficient alternatives to the energy consuming products that we are currently using.

Please call me at your earliest convenience so that we can organize a meeting time to discuss this further.

Environmental Benefits

Energy use is one of the largest environmental impacts in any facility, and also one of the greatest costs. Most energy consumed in the United States comes from coal and other fossil fuels, which contribute significantly to global warming, smog, soot, and numerous negative health conditions. In addition, coal mining – especially surface mining and mountaintop removal – is devastating many of the world’s most biologically important habitats and ecosystems.

Reducing energy use can have a positive impact on all of these factors and will also have a beneficial impact on the bottom line, and one of the best ways to reduce office energy use is to buy products that use less energy. EPA’s Energy Star program rates electronic products on energy use and grants their seal to those products that meet their standards.

Additional Resources

 

Laundry

Many common laundry care products release potentially harmful substances into our air and water, and some washers and dryers are inefficient, wasting water and energy. Use the product specifications, sample letter, and other resources below to ask your venue’s suppliers about the products that you are currently using. Find out about available environmentally preferable alternatives, and consider including guidelines to encourage the purchase of environmentally preferable products in contracts and requests for proposal.

Greener Laundry Care Tips

  • When replacing washing machines, consider purchasing front-loading Energy Star rated laundry appliances. If purchasing a new dryer, look for products that feature with a moisture sensor, which shuts off the machine when clothes are dry.   Calculate savings from energy-efficient products.
  • Encourage Wardrobe departments and venue staff to wash clothes in cold water – water heating accounts for 90% of the energy used by a typical washing machine.  Even switching from hot to warm water can cut energy use in half.  If you switch to cold wash, use cold-water detergents.
  • Use high spin speed or extended spin settings on washers where possible to decrease dry times.
  • Clean lint filters after each dryer load to maintain proper airflow and dryer efficiency, and scrub filters monthly.
  • Wash and dry full loads, or use appropriate water level setting when washing smaller loads.

Laundry detergent product specifications

When purchasing laundry detergents, look for products with the following attributes:

Detergent product specifications

  • Low phosphate content (1% or less)
  • Low toxicity to people and aquatic organisms
  • Biodegrades into low-toxicity compounds
  • Contains little or no chlorine bleach
  • Concentrated products with less packaging

Sample Letter to Current Suppliers

Dear _______,

[Our theatre] has initiated an effort to improve our environmental performance in all aspects of our operations. We would like to meet with you to discuss these objectives in more detail. We would also like to discuss ways to cost-effectively switch to less toxic and harmful laundry care products as soon as possible.

We are concerned about products used in the laundry room that contain compounds that are harmful to both public health and the environment. These include detergents containing phosphorous and types of bleach that also produce harmful byproducts. We would like to reduce as much as possible the harmful effects associated with our operations, and we would like to speak with you about less toxic alternatives to the products that we are currently using in our laundry.

Please call me at your earliest convenience so that we can organize a meeting to pursue this discussion.

Environmental Benefits

Detergents and other laundry care products often contain toxic or otherwise harmful compounds that can find their way into the natural environment, causing damage to aquatic ecosystems. Many detergents, for example, contain a large amount of phosphate, which can cause oxygen depletion in aquatic systems. Oxygen depletion causes excessive algae growth, loss of habitat, and when oxygen levels are too low fish and other animals cannot survive. By reducing the concentrations of phosphates and other harmful compounds in your laundry care products, your theatre can help reduce these impacts.

Additional Resources

 

Interiors and Décor

Décor items such as furniture, carpet, plants, and paint can have a range of environmental and health impacts based on their production, transportation, use, and disposal. By purchasing products produced locally and in a more sustainable manner, your venue can reduce its contribution to global warming, water pollution, habitat destruction, and many other negative impacts. When designing interiors or décor items, give preference to products that can be reused, contain recycled or bio-based content, are non-toxic, and are locally grown.

When purchasing set pieces, furniture, floor coverings, and construction materials, look for wood products that are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wherever possible, and at minimum ensure that any wood products are guaranteed to be legally harvested. See the Wood section for details.

Environmentally preferable alternatives to virgin wood products include repurposed wood or recycled content plastic lumber. For additional environmental considerations when purchasing wood-based products, visit The NRDC Consumer’s Guide to Buying Wood.

Whenever possible, reuse set pieces and furniture and store them for later events. When disposing of these items, consider donating furniture to senior centers or other charitable organizations for reuse, and recycle construction materials (ask your waste hauler for assistance).

When purchasing carpet, choose carpet that is reusable, non-toxic, and contains recycled content, and ensure these products do not contain PVC and are low-VOC emitters. Where possible, look for Green Label/Green Label Plus products. Instead of purchasing carpeting for an event, where feasible rent carpeting that can be returned to the manufacturer afterwards for reuse, and ultimately recycled.

When purchasing paints, finishes, or wood preservatives, choose low-VOC emitting products. See the Low-VOC Products section for more information.

When decorating, give priority to live plants rather than cut flowers. Choose plants that are locally and organically grown when possible. If you plan to use plants as décor for an individual event, consider renting plants that can be returned to the vendor for reuse. If you use cut flowers or plants that require disposal, consider donating them afterwards to charitable organizations, give them to event attendees, or compost them. When choosing plants for landscaping, select plants that are drought-resistant and native to the climate and location of your facility. See the Landscaping section for more information on water-efficient irrigation practices and drought-tolerant plant species.

Additional Resources