Buy Green

Both Congress and the President directed Federal agencies to be good stewards of the environment by conserving energy and other precious natural resources. One way that we can be good stewards is to buy products and services that conserve resources. This is generally referred to as “green” purchasing. When you use your purchase charge card to buy "green" products, you and your agency are helping to perform the mission in a cost-effective manner, enhancing energy security, creating markets, increasing worker safety, and promoting environmental stewardship.

There are six 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
  • Biobased products
  • Alternative fuel vehicles/alternative fuels
  • Environmentally preferable products and services
  • Non-ozone depleting substances

The purchase of these products 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. Many of these products are commercially available off-the-shelf items and are available through GSA stock and schedule programs, the Defense Logistics Agency, mandatory sources such as the National Industries for the Blind, and commercial open market sources.

GSA makes it easy for you to identify which products have environmental requirements. The Green Procurement Compilation (GPC) consolidates federal green purchasing information into one location, making it easy for users to identify applicable green purchasing requirements, potential purchasing options such as GSA's Multiple Award Schedules, and other guidance for purchasing green products and services.

Buying Recycled Content Products

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act requires the purchase of recycled content products designated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These products are also known as Comprehensive Procurement Guideline or CPG items; the CPG is EPA’s list of designated products. The EPA maintains a list of designated recycled-content products and recommends recycled-content levels that you should use when buying these products. Examples of recycled content products typically purchased with purchase charge cards are recycled content copier paper and other office paper products, notebook binders, and remanufactured toner cartridges. Refer to www.epa.gov/cpg for the list of products, EPA's recommendations, and additional information.

Buying Energy Efficient Products

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires agencies purchasing energy consuming equipment to purchase Energy Star products or energy-efficient products designated by the Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program FEMP). "Energy efficient" includes products in the top 25th percentile of efficiency and standby power devices. Energy efficient products typically purchased with a purchase charge card include desktop computers, laptops, printers, and small appliances. Presidential Executive Order 13221, "Energy-Efficient Standby Power Devices" requires you to buy products that use minimal standby power. E.O. 13423, "Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy and Transportation Management," requires that when agencies purchase products covered by Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) standards 95% of what they buy must be EPEAT-registered products.  As of early 2009, there are EPEAT-registered computers, monitors, and laptops. Printers, copiers, and personal digital assistant devices will be added in the future. Both the Energy Star program and FEMP have websites identifying energy efficient products and guidance for purchasing these products. FEMP also has established a Stand by Power Device Product Listing with information on such products as computers, fax machines and printers. Refer to www.energystar.gov and http://www.eere.energy.gov/femp/procurement/ for efficiency recommendations, cost-effectiveness examples, buyer tips, product sources.  Refer to www.epeat.net for additional information about EPEAT-registered products.

Buying Biobased Products

BioPreferred was created by the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (2002 Farm Bill), and expanded by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill) to increase the purchase and use of biobased products. The United States Department of Agriculture manages the program. BioPreferred includes a preferred procurement program for Federal agencies and their contractors, and a voluntary labeling program for the broad scale consumer marketing of biobased products.

Under the procurement program, BioPreferred designates items, or generic groupings of biobased products, that are required for purchase by Federal agencies and their contractors. As a part of this process, the minimum biobased content is specified and information on the technical, health, and environmental characteristics of these products are made available on the BioPreferred Web site. Beginning in 2009, biobased intermediate ingredients and feedstocks will be included in the designation process. These intermediates are used to make finished consumer products.

Under the voluntary labeling program, biobased products that meet the BioPreferred program requirements will soon carry a distinctive label for easier identification by Government, businesses and consumers.  Click here for the list of designated products, USDA’s recommendations, and additional information.

Buying Environmentally Preferable Products

Presidential Executive Order 13423, "Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management," emphasizes the significance of purchasing green products, including environmentally preferable products. These products can be viable alternatives to products that contain hazardous materials or toxic chemicals, such as green cleaning products or mercury-free thermometers. They also can have multiple attributes, such as a printer that is energy efficient, prints two-sided, and uses recycled content copier paper and remanufactured toner cartridges.. To date, agencies have conducted more then 30 EPP projects that range from renovation of the Pentagon parking lot and building construction to acquisition of janitorial products or services. Agencies are encouraged to purchase green cleaning products. Refer to www.epa.gov/epp for summaries of the pilot projects, sample contract language, standards information, product sources, and additional information. Refer to http://www.epa.gov/epp/pubs/products/cleaning.htm for more information about green cleaning products and other environmentally preferable products and services.

In conjunction with Presidential Executive Order 13423, “Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management,” it is important to reference Executive Order 13514, “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance,” which was signed on October 5, 2009.  This Executive Order enhances the energy reduction and environmental performance requirements of E.O. 13423, and lists specific energy requirements in the following areas:  Accountability and Transparency, Strategic Sustainability Performance Planning, Greenhouse Gas Management, Sustainable Buildings and Communities, Water Efficiency, Electronic Products and Services, Fleet and Transportation Management, and Pollution Prevention and Waste Management. Refer to Federal Energy Management Program: Executive Order 13514 for more information on Presidential Executive Order 13514.

Buying Non-Ozone Depleting Substances

Although we have been very successful in reducing releases of Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODSs), the ozone hole over the Antarctic is still huge. EPA identifies alternatives to ODSs through its Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program and provides recommendations for specific products, such as refrigerants and fire extinguishers. Refer to www.epa.gov/ozone/snap/lists/index.html for the list of products and alternatives.

For more information on using your purchase charge card to buy "green" products, please contact Dana Arnold at dana.arnold@gsa.gov or (703) 605-0534. 

The GSA SmartPay® program provides charge cards to agencies/departments throughout the U.S. government, as well as tribal governments, through master contracts that are negotiated with major national banks.

SmartPay® Charge Cards are for Official U.S. Government usage only.

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