February 27, 2008

C.U. Joins Consortium to Obtain Sustainable Products

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Cornell recently joined forces with five fellow Tompkins County institutions and municipalities to form the Finger Lakes Environmentally Preferred Procurement Consortium. This “green” consortium is the first of its kind in the state of New York.
The main purpose of the consortium is to help negotiate pricing for environmentally friendly products, according to The Ithaca Journal.
“The biggest thing now is the price difference. In many cases the sustainable and recyclable products are 30 to 40 percent more expensive than their non-sustainable counterparts. We want to get the best prices and become competitive with other markets,” said Edmund Wilson, manager of Cornell procurement services.
Kat McCarthy, coordinator of the consortium, said that in order to lower the cost of such products, they must first introduce them to the community.
“We try to figure out how we can utilize our power and resources to make the products available to consortium members,” she said. “By purchasing large amounts of sustainable products we hope to drive down the prices and make such products more affordable for the rest of the community.”
Wilson stressed the importance of universities in the success of such environmentalist projects.
“Tompkins County is considered a leader in sustainability partly because of all the schools here,” Wilson said. “Universities are at the forefront of many sustainability efforts around the country.”
According to The Ithaca Journal, Cornell is the largest entity in the consortium, and has the most purchasing po­wer, which, according to Wilson, is beneficial in several ways.
“Through the University’s connections, we have the ability to negotiate with suppliers that others don’t have. We want to use this advantage and pass on our savings to members of the community,” he said. “Because of our size and money, we have cooperative extensions in every county in the state. As a world university, there’s a value for suppliers in doing business with Cornell.”
Dean Koyanagi, the University’s sustainability coordinator, agreed with Wilson on the importance of Cornell’s role in facilitating the needs of the community.
“We are a big part of the community. It’s our responsibility to play a role in the environmentalist efforts,” Koyanagi said. “We try to see what we can offer to best fit the community’s needs.”
Adding to Wilson’s statements, Koyanagi explained that Cornell’s task within the consortium is to help find ways to save money for smaller purchases, such as those in Ithaca schools, county offices, or individual agencies.
“If we can work with them, the price point could drop. That is the only way they will be able to afford to buy the more expensive sustainable products,” Koyanagi said.
In a comment to The Ithaca Journal, Jean McPhee­ters, president of the Chamber of Commerce, said, “Ithaca is often touted as one of the ‘greenest’ cities in the country. The formation of this consortium demonstrates the commitment of our area business community to work together with our educational partners to advance regional sustainability.”
Wilson hopes the consortium, which also includes Ithaca College, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca, the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce and Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga Board of Cooperative Educational Services, will prove that such efforts have the ability to change the market and spread sustainability, and that such efforts will be replicated.
“We want to do good for the community we operate in and for the earth itself,” Wilson said. “We want to set an example for New York State and to show how a university can be a leader in sustainability. There are a lot of colleges in N.Y.: all of these schools can pool their resources to create similar consortiums and increase sustainability.”