Purchasing and reuse with 50 George Square

50 George Square Sustainability Awards case study

50 George Square, School of Literature, Languages and Cultures took part at silver level of the Sustainability Awards in 2016. Their stand out theme was purchasing and reuse. They streamlined ordering procedures, started a book sharing scheme, and increased the use of Warp It, the University’s reuse network.

Our team

Our Sustainability Team consists of three people who coordinate the Office Awards submission for 50 George Square. Two of us share an office, so most of our discussions happen outside of formal meetings. We’re most productive when discussing the Sustainability Awards on the go, or when a sustainability-related matter arises in the building. We also meet officially with our third team member every three months. They give us more support from a senior position. We share the necessary tasks between us according to our areas of expertise. Up to this point our team has decided on what activities or events to run as part of the Awards, but in the future, we hope to get more input from staff and students. We recently installed a suggestion box to collect ideas.

Where we are now

50 George Square first joined the Office Awards in 2016, achieving Silver. We took a year out in 2017 and are now preparing to work towards Gold in 2018. Our team is in the process of gathering suggestions from staff and students. They range from launching an outreach programme, to tie in with recent security issues we’ve encountered, to building an outdoor gym.


Since joining the Awards, 50 George Square has cut down on purchasing and increased reuse by;

  • Streamlining ordering procedures
  • Redistributing excess stationery
  • Starting a book sharing scheme
  • Phasing out individual printers
  • Increasing the use of Warp It across the department

Other activities have included;

  • A Fairtrade Pancake Day
  • Macmillan Coffee Mornings
  • Screens to highlight the building’s energy usage

Our school is definitely more aware of sustainability since taking part in the Awards. It challenged us see the bigger picture of our actions, and people started noticing opportunities to improve sustainability where they hadn’t before. Staff are also more comfortable discussing sustainability issues with us, from reporting dripping taps to wanting to see actions taken to save energy.

When first starting out with the Awards, we realised that many of the purchasing criteria were also beneficial from a financial perspective. We got in touch with the Resource Team to see how we could build upon the school’s existing practices to make them more streamlined and sustainable. At that time ordering was devolved across the school, so we started by making a few specific staff members responsible for purchasing.

We regularly redistribute excess stationery around the building’s different stationery cupboards to avoid ordering new items. We are also planning to introduce a fairly strict policy whereby all requests will go through one person and ordered at the beginning of the week. This new system will further help us avoid over-ordering and duplication. All of this should reduce the number of deliveries to our site, which in turn will reduce carbon emissions.

Our team also tries to be known for things other than telling people they are not allowed to have personal printers or purchase things independently. We organise fun activities, such as our annual Fairtrade Pancake Day, and use these events as an opportunity to talk to colleagues and students. We also started a Book Sharing Scheme by setting up a shelf with a few used books. Staff and students use it and it actually has quite a high turnover. It promotes reuse and shows people that sustainability can be fun!

Tips and advice

Work with what you’ve already got set up

As mentioned above, we did not reinvent the wheel when it came to the purchasing criteria but rather worked with colleagues to improve existing practices. Whether your department already has a commitment to sustainable business travel, or holds paperless meetings, remember to use these initiatives in your Awards submission. There will be more staff support and it will cut down on the workload too.

Make it fun

Taking part in the Awards is not just about enforcing rules; it’s also about having fun. Try to incorporate as many enjoyable activities as possible. After all, conversations about energy efficiency are easier with a slice of cake in hand!

Ask for help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help if your team lacks practical knowledge or experience in a particular area. We are lucky at 50 George Square to have a very sympathetic school administration and support from the College. We have also used our connections to other departments to implement new actions. When in doubt, the Department for SRS are always happy to assist with any enquiries.

Communicate your reasons

When convincing staff to adopt more sustainable behaviours, it’s important to let them know what different the change will make. People will naturally be more engaged once they understand the bigger picture and realise the impact of their actions. This is why we are using our display screens to spread information about the amount of energy used in our building. It’s surprising how many Mars Bars it consumes in a day! (6018, not fun size)

Don’t underestimate the value of face-to-face communication

Like everyone, our staff are bombarded by emails. It can be difficult to keep people interested and engaged by email, so we try to talk to everyone as much as possible. We also have a Sustainability page on Sharepoint with information about sustainability initiatives at 50 George Square. We are looking at how to move it to a blog or newsfeed where people can more actively participate in the conversation.

Put a positive spin on things

When we moved away from individual printers to Cloud printing, we avoided telling staff that they had to get rid of their personal printers. Instead, we explained how easily they could access the Cloud printing facilities. We said that they could keep their individual printers, but that the school would no longer support them with supplies or repairs. This way, people have slowly bid their dear printers good-bye, rather than having them ripped from their begrudging arms.


Find out more about the Sustainability Awards

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