Skip to main content

Sustainable Purchasing

Meet the Sustainable Purchasing Guide: This guide is a helpful tool that gives you the power to transform everyday purchases into action toward a more sustainable future. Whether you are buying for yourself or your whole department, this guide can help you make more informed, sustainable purchases.

Ready to make more informed, sustainable purchasing decisions for your office? Contact to request the Sustainable Office Worksheet, a resource designed by the Harvard Office for Sustainability to help purchasers follow best practices.


Practice Patience

Be mindful about the harms of an immediacy economy (e.g., next-day deliveries may have a higher emissions footprint than a 2-day order).

Right-Size Orders

Avoid excess by right-sizing orders of office materials and food for events.

BPI Compostable

Choose Reusable & Compostable

Choose BPI-certified compostable products when reusables are not a viable option.

Consider equity in the supply chain

Give preference to companies that have healthier and safer labor practices.

Prioritize durability

Purchase for quality and long-term durability, not quantity.

Reduce unnecessary packaging

Buy in bulk when needed to reduce unnecessary packaging.

Bulk Order

Stop Before Your Shop!

Do you need the product?

Can you share or borrow the product instead of purchasing it? Check with your department administrator if this resource already exists.

Recycle arrows icon in dark green.

What will happen to the product when you are done using it?

Can you reuse this product? Donate it? If not, what is the proper and most sustainable way to recycle this product? Learn more about zero waste.

Graphic, green icon of trees and shrubbery.

What are the impacts of the product?

What are the upstream resources necessary to create the product (Scope 3 emissions)? What are the supply chain impacts on climate, health, and equity?

Sustainable Purchasing Guide

Purchasing decisions can send signals to vendors, indicating a preference for more sustainable practices. Our community can influence market transformation by considering climate impacts and natural resources, as well as equity, health, and waste prevention when purchasing goods and services.


The Office for Sustainability (OFS) collaborated with Strategic Procurement and others across the University, including faculty and students, to create this Sustainable Purchasing Guide. The categories included represent some of the areas where the University spends the most, as well as categories where University-wide Sustainability Standards (Cleaning, Food, and IT) already exist.

Read the GuideOpens new window

Sustainable Purchasing Guide Cover

Sustainability Resources

Explore sustainability resources at Harvard.

Learn More
2023_Harvard Spring Campus Beauty-05