Eco-purchasing committee to aid in College sustainability
Starting next semester, Obies will benefit from the presence of a new committee designed to coax the College into purchasing a greater amount of sustainable products. Junior Steven Wong and sophomores Kimberly Buzdygon and James “Whit” Forrester are currently developing the policy infrastructure for this new eco-purchasing committee, which will work with the college purchasing department and recommend against the purchase of environmentally and socially destructive goods.
Several factors have contributed to the advent of this organization, including goals outlined in the Strategic Plan identifying greater sustainability as one of Oberlin’s priorities in the coming years. According to Wong, there is also a great deal of student support for the presence of an oversight body that would monitor purchases and ensure that supplies are obtained in a way that is sensitive to both environmental and social justice concerns.
According to sophomore senator Ezra Temko, the idea for the committee first originated at the “Oberlin, the Environment, and More” forum held on Feb. 27. President Nancy Dye asked the senate to follow up on the creation of the body which will be “an administrative committee under the Office of the President and not a general faculty committee,” said Temko Nevertheless, Senate will be in charge of interviewing interested students and appointing them to the eco-purchasing committee.
The current purchasing committee, a body composed of students, faculty and administrators, already works with the College’s purchasing department to ensure that Oberlin does not buy products from companies that promote unsafe working conditions. The committee’s work has manifested itself in, among other guidelines, the recent ban on Coke products. The committee focuses on sweatshop and labor concerns and employs an intern who works several hours a week to research the businesses patronized by the College.
Wong and his associates on the eco-purchasing committee planning group are currently assembling a code that would guide the body in its work. They have decided to mimic the purchasing committee’s structure and policies in order to capitalize on the older group’s success and save time in writing the code. Indeed, Wong insisted that “sustainability coincides with social responsibility” and hopes to see the two committees acting as “two halves of a whole” in advising the purchasing department. Temko added that the two committees might end up helping each other “with logistics” but that they will remain separate entities.
The eco-purchasing committee, which may be billed as the sustainability committee or the environmental purchasing committee, will be holistic in its approach. Wong would like to start by reviewing “things like office supplies and office paper, constant use products” before tackling the purchase of environmentally-friendly “construction supplies like carpeting.”
Interested students can contact the student senate and should keep an eye out
for the eco-purchasing committee’s debut next semester.