Environmental Preferable Purchasing

The US government is the world’s biggest consumer and together federal, state and local governments spend hundreds of billions of dollars annually on goods and services. This purchasing power can be used to promote environmentally friendly products and practices in the economy. Government purchasing can significantly enlarge the market for a producer’s goods as well as set an example to the private sector and individuals to purchase them as well.

In recent years, the federal government and several state and local governments have set out procurement policies intended to minimize the harmful effect on human health and the environment. These policies fall under the general title of environmentally preferable procurement (EPP). The products and services procured under such a policy may include those that 1) contain recycled content, 2) minimize waste, 3) are energy efficient and/or have renewable energy systems, and 4) reduce the amount of toxics disposed or consumed by the user.

Executive Order 12873 on Federal Acquisition, Recycling and Waste Prevention (1993)required federal agencies to purchase “environmentally preferable products.” Former President Clinton issued Executive Order 13101: Greening the Government Through Waste Prevention, Recycling, and Federal Acquisition on September 14, 1998 that extended the requirements of the previous order, and contained provisions that promote greater compliance.

INFORM has provided ILSR with some rough estimates on how much it costs to set up environmentally preferable purchasing programs. The primary cost is staff time. Typically staff from the public entity’s environmental department serves as a liaison, providing technical and educational assistance to the purchasing department.

The cost to train purchasers about EPP products, depends on how extensive it is. Here are some examples:

  • Minnesota developed an EPP Guide for state and local purchasers. It cost $35,000 to print the guide and 25 percent of 7 staff over a period of one year to develop the guide.
  • A less costly option for MN has been to integrate EPP into the purchasing process. All purchasers are required to go thru an 8-hour training and obtain state certification. Now a portion of the training focuses on learning about EPP and the products available thru state contracts.
  • From 1996 – 2000, MA’s Pilot Purchase Program allocated roughly $40,000/ year to purchase and test new and innovative recycled-content and less toxic products (including such products as plastic lumber used for furniture or delineator posts, less toxic cleaners, rubber hoses, carpeting (made from plastic soda bottles), and bio-based lubricants). A few more details exist on their web site at : http://www.mass.gov/epp/info/pilotprg.htm

In addition, several state and local governments have developed environmental procurement programs.


Environmental Preferable Purchasing – Santa Monica, CA

Santa Monica was one of the first cities to require the reduction of toxicity of janitorial products. In 1993 the city implemented a Toxics Use Reduction Program, which included the trial of less-toxic or non-toxic alternative custodial products. The results of the pilot contributed to the development of bid specifications for the evaluation of bids from custodial product vendors. The specifications include environmental and public health criteria as well as performance and cost criteria.… Read More

Local Wood vs. Tropical Wood

Jim Keating, Executive Director of Rainforest Relief has been engaging communities to limit their use of tropical hardwoods in waterfront development. To that end the group has developed a model ordinance that cities can use to ensure that the use of tropical hardwoods and the associated environmental impacts are minimized. One modification to this ordinance under consideration is that there should be a provision that materials come from within 500 miles of the point of use. The New Rules Project supports this preference for a local alternative to tropical hardwoods as a modification to the model ordinance.… Read More
Follow Lisa Gonzalez:
Lisa Gonzalez

Lisa Gonzalez researches and reports on telecommunications and municipal networks' impact on life at the local level. Lisa also writes for MuniNetworks.org and produces ILSR's Broadband Bits podcast.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

seventeen + 10 =