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Lesson 6 of 14

Buy Green

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Sustainable Acquisition or Green Purchasing refers to the procurement of products and services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose.

Benefits to using your purchase account to buy green products are that you help your agency to perform its mission while:

  • Saving money,
  • Enhancing energy security,
  • Protecting public health,
  • Promoting environmental stewardship,
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and
  • Fostering markets for sustainable technologies, materials, products and services.

In addition, regulations require federal buyers to purchase products with specific environmental or energy attributes and services under which those products will be used or supplied.

There are multiple components to the federal green purchasing program:

  • Recycled content products
  • Energy Star and FEMP-designated energy efficient products, low standby power devices, and renewable energy
  • Alternative fuel vehicles/alternative fuel
  • Biobased products
  • WaterSense and other water efficient products
  • Environmentally preferable products and services
  • Alternatives to ozone-depleting substances
  • EPA Safer Choice-labeled products (formerly Design for the Environment)

Green purchasing is required by law or executive order unless the products do not meet your performance needs, are not reasonably available, or are only available at an unreasonable price. However, most green products are commercially available off-the-shelf items and can be purchased through the GSA stock and schedule programs, Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative solutions, the Defense Logistic Agency, mandatory sources such as the National Industries for the Blind, and commercial open market sources.

GSA assists you with identifying which products have environmental requirements by consolidating federal green purchasing information into one location where you can identify applicable green purchasing requirements, legal references, potential purchasing options such as GSA's Multiple Award Schedules and GSA Global Supply, as well as other guidance for purchasing green products and services.

Buying Recycled Content Products

Recycled content products, also known as Comprehensive Procurement Guideline or CPG items, are designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Under the CPG program, EPA designates products that are or can be made with recovered materials and recommends minimum recycled content levels you should specify when buying these products. Examples of recycled content products include copier paper, file folders, and other office paper products, notebook binders, and remanufactured toner cartridges. Refer to the GPC for the current list of EPA-designated CPG products or go to www.epa.gov/cpg for EPA's recommendations and additional information.

Buying Energy Efficient Products

Energy efficient products include:

  • Energy Star products,
  • Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) low standby power devices, and
  • Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT)-registered products.

Energy efficient products typically include desktop computers, laptops, printers, and small appliances. As of early 2015, the EPEAT registry includes computers and displays (including tablets), printers and copiers, and televisions. Refer to the GPC for the current list of designated energy efficient products. In addition, refer to www.energystar.gov and http:/energy.gov/eere/femp/energy-and-water-efficient-products for efficiency recommendations, cost-effectiveness examples, buyer tips, and product sources. Refer to www.epeat.net for additional information about EPEAT-registered electronic products.

Buying Biobased Products

Biobased products, also known as BioPreferred products, are designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). They are made from agricultural materials like soy and corn and wood by-products. As with EPA’s CPG Program, USDA designates biobased products and recommends minimum biobased content levels you should specify when buying these products. USDA also manages a “USDA Certified Biobased Product” labeling program for both the designated BioPreferred products and other products that contain biobased materials. Examples of BioPreferred products typically include hand sanitizers, glass cleaners, and dish detergent. Refer to the GPC for the current list of BioPreferred products. Visit http://www.biopreferred.gov/BioPreferred/ ] for the USDA’s recommendations and additional information.

Buying Water Efficient Products

Products labeled with EPA’s WaterSense label are 20% more efficient than similar products. Water efficient products include bathroom sink faucets, shower heads, low flow toilets, and urinals. Refer to the GPC for the current list of water efficient products. In addition, refer to www.epa.gov/watersense for efficiency recommendations and information, qualified products, case studies, and a water savings calculator.

Buying Environmentally Preferable Products

President Obama’s Executive Order 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, directs agencies to purchase environmentally preferable products or services that:

  • Meet or exceed specifications, standards, or labels recommended by EPA
  • Meet other open and voluntary standards for environmental performance criteria

Environmentally preferable means "products or services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose," according to the Implementing Instructions for Executive Order 13693. This comparison applies to raw materials, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, use, reuse, operation, maintenance and disposal. To help purchasers meet this requirement, EPA’s EPP Program issued Recommendations of Specifications, Standards and Ecolabels for Federal Purchasers [https://www.epa.gov/greenerproducts/recommendations-specifications-standards-and-ecolabels-federal-purchasing] for six product and service categories: cafeteria, construction, custodial, electronics, grounds/landscaping, and office/furniture. There are hundreds of standards and ecolabels in the marketplace today claiming to validate environmental and human health benefits. The recommendations help federal purchasers select credible, effective standards and ecolabels relevant to each procurement. In general, the recommendations give preference to multi-attribute (i.e., life-cycle based) standards and ecolabels for which EPA has been able to confirm the availability of a competent certification body.

Buying Alternatives to Ozone Depleting Substances

Although the United States has been very successful in reducing releases of ozone-depleting substances (ODSs), the amount of ozone-depleting substances in the atmosphere is still significant and will be for decades to come. EPA identifies alternatives to ODSs through its Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program and provides recommendations for specific products, such as refrigerants and chemicals used in fire extinguishers. Refer to the GPC for products such as appliances that use alternatives to ODSs. Refer to www.epa.gov/ozone/snap/lists/index.html ] for the latest list of products and alternatives approved by EPA.

Buying Safer Choice-Labeled Products

President Obama’s Executive Order 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, directs agencies to purchase products labeled with EPA’s Safer Choice label. Safer Choice helps consumers, businesses, and purchasers find products that perform well and are safer for human health and the environment. Refer to the GPC for the current list of Safer Choice products. Visit http://www2.epa.gov/saferchoice for the list of Safer Choice products by product name and manufacturer.

For more information on buying green products and how GSA can help you buy green, please contact Brennan Conaway at brennan.conaway@gsa.gov.

 

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