Duke University – Compost Procurement

Duke University (Durham, NC) has developed an Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) policy that will reduce the collegiate community’s environmental impact, while developing a local market for compost. The EPP Guidelines require that Duke give preference to “environmentally friendly products whose quality, function, and cost are equal or superior to traditional products.” One area of focus is the university’s purchasing practices when it comes to landscaping selection of compost used on its large campus. Duke now gives preference to regional compost suppliers, which minimizes transportation impacts while also creating demand for local compost. Given the university’s size and overall influence in the surrounding area, there is significant potential benefit for not only the university, but community composters as well. The landscaping portion of the EPP reads as follows:

Supporting low maintenance and environmentally sensitive landscapes minimizes the unnecessary use of fertilizers and water resources, therefore reducing the University’s impact on the natural environment. Procurement activity may include:

  • Employ sustainable landscape management techniques for design, construction and maintenance. These techniques include, but are not limited to, integrated pest management, grasscycling, drip irrigation, composting, and procurement and use of mulch and compost that give preference to those produced from regionally generated plant debris and/or food waste programs.

The policy stresses the importance of reducing organic waste through further design, maintenance, and procurement tactics:

  • Minimize waste by selecting plants that are appropriate to the microclimate, species that can grow to their natural size in the space allotted them; Place preference on native and drought-tolerant plants that require no or minimal watering once established
  • Limit amount of impervious surfaces by producing permeable substitutes such as permeable asphalt or pavers for walkways, patios and driveways

Duke serves as a national model for academic institutions looking to implement environmentally conscious operational policies, and is a prime example of how private institutions can implement environmental policies to benefit their own finances and local economies. Similar sustainable campus landscaping policies are also in place in procurement departments at several other universities around the country, for example the University of Utah, George Washington University, and San José State University in California.


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Original post from July 30, 2012
Updated July 9, 2021

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Brenda Platt

Brenda Platt directs ILSR's Composting for Community project.