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Another Gold for PPPL: Laboratory Wins 2nd Gold GreenBuy Award

PPPL has received a gold GreenBuy award from the U.S. Department of Energy for its green purchasing program in 2012 – winning the award for the second year.

The Laboratory was only one of four laboratories to receive the highest honors for its green buying program and one of two, with the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., to receive the award for the second year.  

“For a facility of this size with the complexity of purchasing that takes place, I think it’s a tribute to the folks who use these supplies every day and the contractors with whom we are working,” said Robert Sheneman, head of the Environmental Services Division.

The Office of Sustainability Support and the Office of Procurement and Assistance Management, which administers, the GreenBuy awards, has intensified the requirements for entry to the competition, in its second year, increasing the difficulty of achieving special recognition.

Continually expanding 15-year program

The Laboratory has had a green purchasing program for about 15 years. Over that time, the program has greatly expanded. For example, anyone going online to purchase paper or other products is encouraged to consider buying recycled paper or other products.

“Early on, we spent a lot of time trying to identify suitable products and trying to encourage people to try out different products,” said Sheneman. “As people have become more aware of it, we’ve spent less time promoting that and people are working on identifying those things on their own.”

The cafeteria’s use of compostable cups and lids, bowls and plates, take-away containers and other items and using metal utensils, all as part of its contract with PPPL, was also new over the past year. Rest room paper towels are also composted. As a result, PPPL’s composting increased 50 percent since the last fiscal year.

Building products can be recycled

The facilities department has been very active in buying green building materials and products that are not only made from environmentally friendly material but can also be recycled when they outlive their usefulness.  All new furniture the department purchases is SteelCase furniture that contains recycled content and can ultimately be recycled  

PPPL also uses green products for renovations, including sheet rock. Recycled carpet tiles purchased through the program can be reused and contain no volatile organic chemicals that are conventionally used in the adhesives for larger pieces of carpeting. Those purchases are also aimed at maintaining good indoor air quality, Sheneman said.

Bio-based cleaning products

The custodial staff has long used green cleaning products, including bio-based hand soaps and hand sanitizers and they are currently using 100 percent bio-based cleaners. 

“It shows that we care about the employees that work here,” said Margaret Kevin-King, PPPL’s Buildings and Grounds Supervisor. “It also shows that we care about the environment and we want to make sure that whatever we’re using is not having a negative impact on the environment as well as the staff.” 

Even the Laboratory’s new roofs are considered green because none of the roofing materials contain volatile organic chemicals and the roofs meet LEED and Energy Star standards to keep the building cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

PPPL has moved to a non-toxic, biodegradable de-icer that won’t harm animals, is environmentally friendly and is less corrosive than traditional de-icers. In addition, it poses no harm to plants and does not eat away at concrete  

The Laboratory also uses 100 percent native plants in its rain garden, which is designed to filter ground water and prevent erosion, and uses wildflowers in the meadows surrounding the site.

Numerous environmental awards

PPPL has received numerous awards for its environmental programs. It was named the 2012 Federal Partner of the Year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WasteWise Program for reducing the amount of waste the Laboratory sends to landfills. The Laboratory also won a federal Sustainability Award last year for cutting its carbon footprint nearly in half in three years. The Laboratory’s main office building is LEED-gold certified and is an EPA ENERGY STAR building.

Sheneman said the Gold GreenBuy award is a sign that the Lab’s green policies have become part of everyday life. “I would say it’s a pretty significant thing,” he said. “To me, it’s a recognition that the approach we have taken to try to integrate these sort of preferred purchasing mechanisms into our system, to make them transparent to employees, to basically direct or drive purchasing in that way, is an effective tool.”


U.S. Department of Energy
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.

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