Breaking new ground this fall, Portland State became the first university in Oregon to join the statewide Healthy Purchasing Coalition, an effort to align large organizations in the shared goal of increasing demand for innovative products that tread lightly on the environment.
The coalition, formed in 2012 as part of the Healthy Purchasing Initiative, promotes sustainable purchasing and addresses the issue of toxic chemicals found in products we use every day.
According to the research cited by the Oregon Environmental Council, which leads the Healthy Purchasing Coalition, there are approximately 83,000 chemicals used in everyday commerce, but the federal government has health hazard information for less than 10 percent of them.
One goal of the coalition is to create demand for non-toxic products and better disclosure of product information by aligning the purchasing policies of large organizations.
Portland State joins Multnomah County, the Port of Portland, Portland Development Commission and the cities of Portland, Eugene, and Hillsboro as a member of the coalition.
Darin Matthews, director of contracting and procurement for PSU, said membership in coalition formalizes a lot of the work that the University is already doing through its sustainable procurement policy.
“I’m a geek, I love this,” Matthews says. “We got a report about how we’re doing in different areas in our green purchasing and it became very clear to me that a lot of people care about this and we’re doing a lot of good things.”
Matthews said that PSU was active in the coalition before formally joining the group. The group provides a forum for sharing best practices in purchasing and procurement.
“As the largest university in Oregon, Portland State University can make a big impact in the marketplace through its purchasing decisions,” said Colin Price, Oregon Environmental Council’s director of research and market innovation and a graduate of PSU’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning program.
Will PSU be the only university in the coalition for long? Probably not, Matthews predicts.
“I would not be surprised to see the other big universities sign on,” he said. “I would like to think that they’ll follow our lead.”