Technologies & Research

The core mission of the SSIL is to serve as a high-impact research, outreach and education hub which will help accelerate and deploy innovative and sustainable business practices in the following areas:

1. Raw material choices and designs for products and packaging

2. Manufacturing, supply chain, and reverse logistics

3. Retail store and warehouse distribution design

4. Customer and employee engagement and awareness building

5. Other areas of sustainable innovation relevant to business

The Staples Sustainable Innovation Laboratory provides high quality research opportunities, facilities, and funding to help GIS faculty and staff shape the future of sustainable office products and business processes. These projects are selected through a competitive process from exceptional research teams working on foundational process and materials technologies that have high impact and contribute to quantifiable sustainability impacts in the business environment.


Projects Initiated in 2014

Low cost and sustainable home use office chair design class

This project is collaboration between the Golisano Institute for Sustainability (GIS) and the College of Arts and Imaging Science (CAIS) to support the development of a class in industrial design. This project will develop and provide 3-4 workshops with support from the results of a prior project: Evaluation of greener design alternatives for office furniture at affordable price points, and other sources. These workshops will be provided to a CIAS 2nd year graduate level industrial design class which will then incorporate the workshop information into the development of design concepts of inexpensive yet sustainable home use office manager’s or task chairs. The underlining theme of the class is to design a low cost chair that will be returned at its end of life.

Case Study coming soon...

Sustainability 101 Educational Video

This project intends to inform individuals about the impact they have when making a purchasing decision as it relates to the environment and sustainability as a whole. This first video, in a series of potentially four videos, will provide an overview of sustainability, “Sustainability 101” in its simplest generic terms, so that the viewer has an understanding of the concept of sustainability and how purchasing decisions can impact the world around them.

YouTube video

Building Data Analysis of Selected Staples Buildings

The motivating research hypothesis of the proposed study is that analysis of energy consumption data from commercial buildings will identify opportunities for improving economic and environmental performance of the buildings and their occupants.

This project will have two components: exploratory and targeted data analysis. The exploratory statistical analysis will learn general trends and make comparisons among different buildings, or loads, with possible anomaly and outlier detection. Targeted analysis will initially focus on several specific predefined goals, but will be open to expansion as the data knowledge discovery takes its course. The predefined goals may include, but are not limited to analysis of utilization of on-site storage and generation, load forecasting, peak power demand analysis, and relationship of power draws among various loads. The savings opportunity and potential of any of the identified opportunities will be quantified in a form of estimation. The main findings of the study will be reported and opportunities for future work will be identified.

Case Study coming soon...

Hydrogen Infrastructure for Product Distribution Centers - Phase 1: Fuel Cell-Powered Material Handling Equipment

Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must address the impact of buildings and industrial facilities, as they contribute approximately 25% of total emissions in the U.S. Many multi-national corporations have established aggressive targets for reducing their GHG impact, and are moving toward implementing sustainable energy technologies which offer environmental benefits relative to incumbent technologies based on fossil hydrocarbon combustion. Fuel cells can potentially replace fossil energy systems, because of the much higher efficiencies attained by electrochemical conversion. Moreover, hydrogen fuel can be derived from a number of renewable pathways, including solar and wind. One of the most promising applications for new fuel cell technologies is material handling equipment (MHE). Because the incumbent technology (battery-powered lift trucks) is expensive and cumbersome to deploy, fuel cell-based MHE is now considered a commercially viable alternative.

Motivating research questions include:

  • What is the state-of-art in fuel cell MHE technology, what companies have commercialized systems, and what large distribution companies are already using the technology?
  • How would broad fuel cell MHE deployment benefit large distribution systems, and contribute to U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets?
  • What is a realistic roadmap and timeline for executing the transition to fuel cell MHE within typical U.S. operations?
  • How would fuel cell MHE deployment help accelerate the transition to hydrogen fuel cell stationary power systems, transport vehicles and renewable electrolysis for hydrogen production?

Case Study coming soon...

Projects Initiated in 2013

Alternate fiber paper assessment

LCAs of alternative fiber papers typically show a smaller carbon footprint compared to tree fiber papers; however, these LCAs have neglected the use phase of the product by deeming the use phase equivalent and only focusing on the materials and processes. This environmental message however may change if the use phase is different. Use phase impacts can increase if the resulting image quality on alternate fiber paper is degraded requiring additional print cycles to achieve an acceptable print, or paper performance issues cause additional maintenance cycles. Additionally, there is a risk of burden shifting if limited environmental metrics are covered.

This study will document current LCAs to examine the boundaries, assumptions, and metrics used to analyze alternative fiber papers. The performance of alternate fiber papers will be measured to determine if it meets the current requirements of tree fiber paper. The results in conjunction with the LCA results will be used to project whether there will be a significant environmental impact based on the performance variation, potentially changing the environmental preference.

Click here for the Case Study

Evaluating greener design alternatives for office furniture at affordable price points

This study seeks to identify key metrics or attributes for popular office product categories that contribute to a reduction in environmental and social impacts. Chairs and furniture items for example are a category where there are many new and competing environmental claims in the marketplace. Complexity in material types used, influence of LEED, and significant end of life management are several considerations. This project will identify the environmental and social “hot spot” areas in furniture and how manufacturers and resellers can reduce those hotspots through better design or sourcing approaches.

Click here for the Case Study

Remanufacturing toner cartridges more than once

The predominant practice within the laser toner cartridge remanufacturing industry is to select once-used Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) cartridges for remanufacturing. These are known in the industry as “virgin cores.” Toner cartridges which have already been remanufactured at least once are known as non-virgin cores. This study will identify the criteria and a remanufacturing process for reusing laser printer toner cartridges for multiple lifecycles which would, by definition, require the use of non-virgin cores. The results of the RIT Staples Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) on toner cartridges indicated a significant environmental benefit for multiple lifecycle toner cartridges.

Case Study coming soon...

IAQ in the Office Environment: Prioritizing Products for Future Innovation

The impact of office products on indoor air quality will be evaluated using a matrix of criteria that considers hazards associated with product emissions, the availability of alternatives and other market drivers. The resulting prioritized list of product categories will be an important starting point for implementation of the Staples’ Chemical Management Policy, which encourages supplier engagement and sustainable product innovation.

Case Study coming soon...

Life cycle environmental assessment of the office product “ecosystem”

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a powerful tool for quantifying and managing whole-systems environmental impacts of modern products. However, traditional LCA methods only account for a single product at a time, often overlooking the reality that products are consumed in a highly interactive manner. This interaction is exemplified in a modern office environment, which relies on hundreds of products – including office supplies, furniture, and electronics – to provide necessary business services. For example, transitions toward mobile computing products may primarily lead to proliferation of portable electronic devices, but this trend may also have an ancillary effect on design of office space and selection of furniture to create more interactive, collaborative spaces to enable maximum use of the electronic devices.

Moving towards a more sustainable office of the future requires a holistic view of the environmental impact of the entire office environment. This project will expand traditional “per product” LCA approaches to analyze the environmental impact of an entire office product ecosystem. LCA results, focusing on cumulative energy intensity and carbon footprint, will help identify environmental “hotspots” within the office product ecosystem to prioritize future improvements. Potential sustainable solutions, such as transitions from paper-based to digital systems, will be re-analyzed by LCA and synthesized into user-friendly and graphical recommendations for Staples clients.

Case Study coming soon...

Multi-stakeholder perspectives on sustainable office product design

Eco-design tools are powerful methods that can guide development of sustainable office products by specifying environmental attributes in a product as early as the conceptual design phase. However, success of these tools is often limited by a knowledge gap between practitioners who create eco-design principles (sustainability experts) and those who apply them (product designers). This rift originates early on in students disciplinary training, where traditional university education places each of the fields into a disciplinary “silo.” As a result, practitioners putting eco-design tools in use in a commercial setting often cannot evaluate the tradeoffs introduced as a natural result of the multiple stakeholders involved with the design process, often forcing manufacturers and consumers to compromise product quality and user experience when choosing a “greener” product.

This project will address this challenge, with a focus on office products, through an integrated research and curricular approach. First, a new pedagogical approach will be developed by way of a multidisciplinary course in which design and sustainability / engineering students must collaborate to develop integrated eco-design solutions for office products, through team-based projects. Research will be conducted on the course itself, studying the extent to which training in a cross-disciplinary perspective can enhance a student’s ability to create sustainability solutions. Finally, research will address the product solutions developed by students in the course, analyzing each concept using streamlined life cycle assessment, technical feasibility, and economic tradeoffs, to ultimately determine effective strategies for green design of office supplies and electronic devices.

Case Study coming soon...

GIS Research Centers

The Staples Sustainable Innovation Laboratory