UCSF Sustainability Stories


Robert Hood - June 2021


Save Money and the Environment with Used Office Equipment

With UC San Francisco extending its work-from-home guidance through October 1, 2021 for employees who can perform their duties remotely, many workers are creating more permanent home office spaces. UCSF can help work-at-home employees replace makeshift desks and chairs with used office equipment and furnishings, which helps the environment while saving the university money.

Rowena Eng, Sustainability Coordinator in the UCSF Office of Sustainability, runs the Equipment Reuse Program with Information Technology and Facilities Services to repurpose office furniture, external monitors, keyboards, desks, chairs, and other common office items that are in reusable condition and don’t pose a data security risk.

“The frequency and type of available equipment depend on whether IT or Facilities Services has collected any surplus materials from other departments,” she said. “For example, we typically get a large influx of used computer monitors from IT if they are helping a department upgrade their computers. If there is a building being cleared out, like with the upcoming UC Hall demolition, we will have more office chairs and desks available.”

Employees looking for computer peripherals can submit the Agreement & Request Form to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). If the requested items aren’t available, the request will be entered into a first-come, first-serve wait list. “We’re fortunate to have a collaboration with IT that enables us to store reusable electronics at Mission Hall and coordinate pickup with interested employees as items become available,” Eng said.

The process is a little different for office furniture and other large items. Furniture availability is announced as broadly as possible through the UCSF Sustainability Newsletter and other UCSF-wide listservs. “Because we don’t have the capability to move or store large pieces of furniture, we need to take inventory, identify recipients, and coordinate pickup very quickly,” Eng said. “That’s why it’s important to give the Recycling Team ample notice if your office has furniture that needs to be removed, so that Recycling can begin the redistribution process as soon as possible.”

Because UC Hall must be emptied by the end of June for demolition, there are currently office chairs and desks available to those who need equipment either for onsite or home offices. “Review the furniture inventory and make sure to fill out this Interest Form by noon on June 18th if you’d like any of the items,” Eng said. “Recipients are responsible for their own logistics when picking up any furniture from UC Hall.”

Recycling and Waste Reduction Program Manager, Daniel Chau, also recommends looking at second-hand sites to find furnishings and electronics for their home offices. “Craigslist, NextDoor, Facebook Marketplace, or your local Buy Nothing Group are all places you can check for items,” he said. “I do see things go quickly as a lot of others are trying to furnish their home office.”

Another option, Chau said, is PublicSurplus.com, a site where public entities sell their surplus furniture. “It’s a site that UCSF uses but lots of other government municipalities will sell items on the site for a very low cost.”

Since the start of shelter-in-place, the Office of Sustainability has worked with IT and Facilities Services to distribute 113 computer monitors, nine keyboards, and other miscellaneous computer peripherals. This has resulted in a reduction of 1,403 pounds of e-waste and $22,185 in equipment costs savings.

According to Burt Fong at IT Field Service, the program has reduced IT’s surplus volume at Mission Bay by 25 to 30 percent, which reduces the frequency of e-waste vendor pickups and pickup costs.

The Cancer Center at the Bakar Precision Cancer Medicine Building has picked up 63 monitors for their administrative staff and nurses, who are charting at home. Eng said they’ve worked out a system where an administrator collects requests and picks up the monitors and then notes in personnel files that the monitors are being used at home so that they are returned if employees separate from the university.

“We encourage all UCSF employees who are establishing home offices and need equipment or furnishings to contact us and help us reduce e-waste while saving the university money,” Eng said.