Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) or Green Purchasing is generally defined as purchasing a product that has a lesser or reduced negative effect or increased positive effect on human health and the environment, when compared with competing products that serve the same purpose. Incorporating EPP in the procurement process considers raw materials acquisition, production, fabrication, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance, and disposal of the product. This term includes sourcing recyclable products, recycled products, reusable products, and products that conserve energy or natural resources.

EPP is used interchangeably to mean either environmentally preferable purchasing or an environmentally preferable product. However, for the purpose of this NASPO Guide, EPP will mean environmentally preferable purchasing or green purchasing.

Environmentally preferable products or Sustainable Products (SP) are generally defined as products and services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment, when compared to competing products or services that serve the same purpose. As buying and using sustainable products benefits the environment, improves efficiency, and often saves money, in recent years these practices have become an integral part of public procurement.

How to Use this Guide
For those new to EPP, implementing a green purchasing program is not always simple. Such efforts may be challenged by administrative hurdles, technical barriers, and skepticism from purchasers and product end-users.

As a result, NASPO has developed this Green Purchasing Guide for its members and others to use in navigating the sea of information surrounding the adoption of a green purchasing program.

This guide is intended to be a straightforward, easy-to-use document that provides purchasers with:

  • A basic understanding of the concept and benefits of green purchasing
  • Recommended steps and proven strategies to enable the implementation of a green purchasing program
  • Links to other resources offering detailed information on specific elements of the process


As more procurement managers understand the connection between broader social issues and purchasing decisions, sustainable strategies aimed at reducing the adverse environmental and social impacts of organizations’ purchasing decisions are being adopted. Environmental, health, and safety concerns are increasingly being integrating into strategic sourcing. Government waste, emissions, and environmental risks are being recognized as often being directly linked to the quantity and quality of the goods and raw materials a government buys.

As part of the largest procurement group in the nation – representing over twenty percent of the Gross National Product – federal, state, and local governments can use the clout of their buying practices to direct industry manufacturers toward making more sustainable products that are reasonably priced and do less harm to the environment and public health. As this purchasing power is used to push suppliers toward a more proactive, planet-conscious direction, suppliers are also being enabled to achieve an enhanced market position.

Although Sustainable Products can focus on different environmental attributes and pursue sustainable features with varying levels of aggressiveness, SPs tend to contain some combination of the following characteristics:

  • Contain recycled materials  recycled or re-manufactured materials or parts, such as 100% recycled paper
  • Minimize waste  minimal packaging or packaging that is recyclable or reusable (including take-back provisions)
  • Conserve energy, water, or other natural resources made from sustainable resources
  • Prevent pollution  minimize emissions such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Contain fewer toxic substances or reduce the amount of toxic substances disposed or consumed
  • Protect open-space
  • Encourage environmentally positive practices such as energy-efficient hot/cold water fountains, composting, recycling containers, engine block heaters, etc.
  • Uses energy alternatives to fossil fuel

Environmental Benefits

  • Lower toxicity – products using fewer toxic ingredients minimize the hazardous health impacts on our water and air, reduce the damage caused through accidental spills and improper disposal, and reduce health risks to building occupants and people who handle products
  • Energy efficiency – energy efficient products help limit energy consumption and lessen our carbon footprint
  • Recycled content – products made with a percentage of post-consumer recycled content instead of pure virgin content reduce the need to extract raw materials such as petroleum, trees, or metals, in general use less energy and water, and reduce demand on our overstressed landfills
  • Water efficiency – products such as plumbing devices, cooling systems, appliances, and water treatment technologies can be designed to reuse or reduce the demand for water
  • Renewable energy – utilizing renewable energy and clean technologies works toward reducing our dependency on foreign petroleum, stimulating economic development for innovative technologies, reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and meeting goals for clean energy production

Cost Savings

  • Green purchasing can help reduce liabilities and gain competitive advantage when applying for funding opportunities. It is also an excellent way of finding products with a high price-performance ratio and with improved use rates.
  • Green purchasing programs based on life-cycle costs can help identify and reduce hidden costs and develop cost reduction strategies for the entire organization. Some examples of cost savings opportunities include reduced:
    • hazardous management costs through the use of less toxic products
    • operational costs through energy savings from more efficient equipment
    • disposal costs of hazardous and solid waste
    • repair and replacement costs when using more durable and repairable equipment
    • reduced employee safety and health concerns
    • material and energy consumption
  • Many sustainable products such as carpet cleaning products, janitorial paper products, remanufactured antifreeze and traffic cones, energy efficient lighting, equipment, and appliances are equal or comparable in cost, and in addition, through the use of recycled materials these products offer the added value of reduced toxic use and waste reduction.
  • Some segments of sustainable products may cost more at the time of purchase, but often have a short “payback period,” after which the non-sustainable products represent a significant ongoing cost savings in the maintenance, operation, or disposal of the product (e.g., compact fluorescent light bulbs, plastic lumber, and integrated pest management).

While the focus of this guide is on state purchasing officials and their municipal counterparts, participation from a host of various stakeholders is necessary to maximize the success of any green purchasing program. The reason for this is explained by basic economics: the greater the demand for environmentally preferable goods and services, the greater the incentive for industry to respond and provide them. In addition, the greater the competition among industry players, the more pricing will become competitive for all levels of buyers. Below are the key participants to considfer:

  • Government and corporate procurement professionals – these individuals have the responsibility to encourage current suppliers or select new ones to improve the environmental performance of their operations and their products; and they may also coordinate procurement policies among various departments for optimal supply-chain performance and cost efficiency.
  • Higher education and public school business managers – campuses and other institutional facilities often have unique applications that invite the utilization of innovative technologies.
  • Manufacturers, suppliers, and contractors – upon receiving the clear message from the buying public, companies are given the incentive to reformulate current products to minimize environmental impacts, as a result, many products today must meet specific standards in order to be certified or to be officially labeled “environmentally preferable.”
  • Environmental managers – state and municipal personnel can assist procurement departments in identifying and assessing greener alternatives to currently used products and materials; they can also weigh suppliers’ environmental performance and initiatives in purchasing decisions; finally once government and large scale private companies work to make sustainable products available on the retail level at competitive pricing, it is incumbent upon their customer agencies and consumers to choose those sustainable products.
  • Program Managers – program managers often write the specifications for products, and as those specifications can be demanding, these individuals need information and education regarding sustainable products that exist to fill their needs.
  • Consumer level buyers and end-users.
  • Certifiers and Standard Setters – the role of the standard setter has grown as the use of standards, certifications, and government eco-label programs have become increasingly popular among green purchasing programs; understanding the methodologies that “market referees” utilize will help program managers understand the environmental credibility of certified products; furthermore, maintaining an awareness of ubiquitous standards and certifications will improve programmatic ability to identify sustainable products that are highly competitive and accessible to the marketplace.

All government agencies and departments are different, so there is no one path towards sustainability. While one organization may choose to focus on energy management, another may see an opportunity in setting up an effective recycling program. Nevertheless, regardless of the environmental initiatives chosen to pursue, most organizations face very similar issues:

  • Additional work needed to research products, plan and coordinate green purchasing programs, and implement sustainability efforts
  • Lack of commitment or interest from upper management to provide the directives necessary for more efficient implementation
  • Possible resistance from co-workers due to a lack of staff education and training
  • Lack of expertise in environmental issues and new technologies, particularly those involving technical data reporting and analysis
  • Conflicting or confusing information that may create misconceptions about the quality and performance of environmentally preferable products and services
  • Effort required to change the “business as usual” norm and work with existing suppliers,  or to find new suppliers to procure environmentally preferable products and services, and additionally, the existing relationships between purchasers and suppliers that make it difficult to switch to alternative products
  • Difficulty in determining the manufacturing impacts of life-cycle cost of products, the expense and process necessary to dispose or recycle the product, and potential cost savings opportunities in the operational and maintenance life of the product
  • Difficulty in tracking green purchases
  • Avoiding inaccurate or deceptive “greenwashing” claims such as “earth-friendly,” “eco-safe,” “all natural,” or “ozone-safe”
  • Balancing the potentially conflicting priorities of price and performance, and environmental considerations


As adopted on January 22, 2009, the NASPO Green Purchasing Policy Statement seeks to leverage the purchasing power of state and local government to conserve energy and national resources, limit environmental pollution and waste, improve public health, encourage clean technologies, and create cost savings opportunities and a balanced economy. NASPO will accomplish this through the development of policies, programs, and information resources that educate procurement decision makers on environmental issues and solutions.
NASPO is uniquely positioned to coordinate the purchasing power of state and local governments to achieve significant progress towards environmentally preferable goals. Further, NASPO believes that the greening of purchasing is critically important, and wishes to be a leader in advancing green purchasing in state and local governments. NASPO’s efforts will increase the use and availability of environmentally preferable green products, reduce environmental and health impacts, increase recycling, and reduce energy consumption on a nationwide basis.

I am text block. Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibu”Environmentally preferable goods and services” are those that have a lesser or reduced impact on the environment over the life cycle of the good or service, when compared with competing goods or services that serve the same purpose. Environmentally preferable goods may also have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • reduced packaging
  • ease of reuse, refurbishment, remanufacture, or recycling at end of life
  • reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and air contaminants
  • improved energy and water efficiency
  • use of alternative sources of energy and fuels
  • reduced waste, and practices that support reuse and recycling
  • use of renewable resources
  • reduced exposure to toxins and hazardous substances
  • promote practices that support and sustain healthy communities and social structures

For a comprehensive Glossary of Terms and definitions related to green purchasing generally accepted in the market place, refer to Green Purchasing Glossary of Terms at the end of this guide.

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Choosing Environmental Factors and Green Purchasing Considerations
A key step in establishing an environmentally preferable policy is the development of factors that should be utilized when developing green specifications for products and services. Though not every factor may influence the development of every green specification, policies should provide a comprehensive list of environmental attributes that might be applied to any product category.

The following list is a set of environmental factors commonly used in many green purchasing policies:

  • pollutant releases
  • toxicity, especially the use of or release of persistent, bio-accumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals, carcinogens, and reproductive and developmental toxins
  • waste generation and waste minimization
  • end-of-life considerations such as reusability, recyclability, or compostability
  • greenhouse gas emissions
  • energy consumption, energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy
  • water consumption
  • depletion of natural resources
  • impacts on biodiversity
  • environmental practices that manufacturers and suppliers have incorporated into their production processes or operations
  • minimized packaging
  • social responsibility, including efforts to address labor rights, human rights, and community engagement across the lifecycle of the product

The majority of state and local jurisdictions maintain green purchasing policies and Executive Orders. These policies are easily available online, so there’s no reason to take time to reinvent one, especially as policies employed in successful green purchasing programs tend to include several key components.

The following points identify and describe important elements that should be included in most policies. The Green Purchasing General Resources section of this Guide provides links to policies that embody these approaches.

  • Clear Statement of Purpose – Most policies begin with a statement indicating why the jurisdiction is developing an environmentally preferable purchasing policy, a brief statement establishing the principles of the program, and the internal stakeholders that the policy will impact. The purpose statement always addresses environmental considerations, but can also establish efforts to address social issues such as sweatshop labor or local sourcing options.
  • Legal Authority and Relevant Policies and Statutes – An environmentally preferable purchasing policy will hold added weight and authority if the policy highlights its relevance to existing laws, policies, regulations, and mandates already effective in a jurisdiction. Links to relevant laws and regulations will provide important context, and will also stimulate end-user efforts to comply with policy directives.
  • Standards and Certifications for Products and Services – Standards, certifications, and eco-labels are a key element of any environmentally preferable purchasing policy. Use of these tools allows a jurisdiction to easily identify important environmental attributes of a product, and then substantiate and verify environmental claims about the product. More information explaining the importance of environmental standards is included in the Easing the Burden of Buying Green section of this guide. Policies should include references to any specific standards or certifications that a jurisdiction recognizes. Due to the wide range of eco-label credibility and the ongoing proliferation of green marketing claims, policies should also include general guidelines and common criteria that standards and certifications must meet to be deemed credible.The Federal Trade Commission provides guidance on green claims. Similarly, many policies require that credible standards, certifications, and eco-labels be developed in accordance with Standards Development Organization standards such as ISO 14024, ANSI Essential Requirements, or ISEAL Codes of Code Practices.
  • Products and Services that the Policy Intends to Address – Though a policy should be written in a way that gives an environmentally preferable purchasing program the authority to establish criteria for any product or service, efforts should be made to prioritize product categories of special importance. Examples of common “high-priority” product categories might include the following: appliances, automobiles, cleaning products, computers, copier machines and multi-functional devices, food, furniture, industrial supplies, landscaping, lighting, office supplies, paper, playground equipment, printing services, transportation products, and servers, etc.

Example: The City of Sacramento provides a clear list of areas that its policy focuses upon along with supplemental information about each product category.

  • Definitions of Responsibilities and Roles – Successful implementation of an environmentally preferable purchasing program is dependent on the cooperation of multiple stakeholders – ranging from programs to procurement professionals. Often, policies require the creation of environmentally preferable purchasing teams or committees to explore and develop green purchasing strategies. Roles and responsibilities frequently addressed in best-practice policies include areas such as agencies, divisions, or stakeholders responsible for:
    • implementation of the policy
    • developing and maintaining product and service standards
    • developing specifications or contract language
    • education of stakeholders
    • collecting and compiling data about the program

Example:The City of Portland provides definitive language outlining the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders. Also see Seattle’s policy below.

  • Reporting, Benchmarking, and Updates – Tracking the progress of an environmentally preferable purchasing program fosters accountability among varied stakeholders and informs the need for changes in policy and procedures. Therefore, benchmarking, tracking, and regular reviews of policies and procedures are essential elements of an environmentally preferable policy. Reports should be required annually and typically include the following:
    • EPP spend data
    • progress in achieving goals and objectives of the policy
    • any changes deemed necessary to the success of the policy

Price Preferences – Approximately one-third of states allows a price premium to be applied to environmentally preferable or green purchases. Such premiums range from five to ten percent, or greater. Due to the disparate nature of products, not every product or service requires the application of a price preference. Therefore, policies tend to provide a procurement office with the flexibility to apply premiums on a product category-specific basis.For example, the City of Seattle’s policy reads as follows:

“City Purchasing does not calculate a direct price preference for recycled products in the selection of winning bidders because the City prefers to directly implement product decisions that are most environmentally preferable.

“The City instead establishes a minimum specification with the most environmentally preferable solutions for particular products, and may also utilize a scored evaluation criteria allowing additional points for positive environmental product options, corporate practices, and other environmental solutions proposed by the Bidder.”

Waivers – Due to the dynamic nature of the EPP marketplace and the unique needs of product end-users, environmentally preferable purchasing policies tend to outline scenarios in which the purchase of an environmentally preferable product is not necessary. Policy language tends to identify the following as viable justification for a waiver from the EPP policy:

  • The sustainable product does not meet the required form, functionality, or utility
  • The sustainable product is prohibitively expensive or cannot be competitively priced
  • An emergency or compelling public health or safety reason exists to prohibit the purchase of the sustainable product

The State of New York Executive Order 4 includes the following language regarding waivers:

“State agencies and authorities shall rely on and use the procurement lists and specifications issued by the Committee when developing new solicitations and contracts for the procurement of commodities, services and technology, and for the procurement of commodities, services and technology under existing contracts, unless the head of the agency or authority determines: (a) that such commodities, services or technology will not meet required form, function or utility; (b) the cost of the commodities, services or technology is not competitive; or (c) there is an emergency or other compelling public health or safety reason not to purchase such commodities, services or technology. Such form, function, utility or other determination shall be presented in the procurement record, and notice of the determination shall be provided to the Committee Chairs.”

Ideally, waivers should be documented and incorporated into spend reports and future environmentally preferable purchasing program decisions.

Example: The State of New York  provides guidance on when a waiver may be applied.Ready to start developing a Green Purchasing program? Refer to Steps to Developing a Green Purchasing ProgramThe Green Purchasing General Resources section provides you with useful links to green purchasing policies and programs currently utilized in other states and localities.


Federal agencies and many state and local governments are encouraged or required to buy recycled content products that meet the recommended procurement guidelines established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). The U.S. EPA Comprehensive Procurement Guide, issued for the purpose of implementing some requirements of Section 6002 of the Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA) and Executive Order 13423, identifies more than sixty-one products designated in eight categories of products containing recycled materials, with particular emphasis on post-consumer recycled content. The designated products are:

    • construction products
    • landscaping products
    • non-paper office products
    • paper and paper products
    • park and recreation products
    • transportation products
    • vehicular products
    • miscellaneous products

The guidelines must be followed by federal, state, and local agencies, and contractors that use appropriated federal funds. The guidelines apply only to agencies that spend more than $10,000 per year on each covered item. The RCRA website provides an online database designed to locate documents, including publications and other outreach materials that cover a wide range of RCRA issues and topics. For more information on RCRA visit

While legislation mandating the procurement of specific SPs can be effective in jumpstarting or growing a green purchasing program, oftentimes enacting a law is a long process and difficult to achieve. At the state and local levels, the issuance of Executive Orders (EOs) by Governors, Mayors, and others is being met with a greater rate of success. Executive Orders don’t render the practice a statutory requirement, but they do provide high level directives, guidance, and support that serve as a foundation for initiating action.

There are numerous state and local governments with strong environmental purchasing programs that were built on just such Executive Orders. For instance, Massachusetts does not have any statutory requirements to purchase specific SPs. However, three Executive Orders were issued over the past ten years primarily targeting energy efficiency and renewable energy, and a fourth was issued in 2009 that established an environmental purchasing policy for the state that includes toxics reduction and recycled content products, as well as a broader range of SPs. These initiatives have served to incorporate environmental considerations as a significant component of the “best value” approach to contract evaluations, and worked toward the increased adoption of environmentally preferable business practices. By requiring the procurement of specific energy efficiency products and technologies and establishing clearly defined targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, EOs in Massachusetts have brought focus to a host of energy and cost saving opportunities. As a result, Massachusetts has increased the purchase of SPs from $5.2 million in 1994 to an estimated $400 million in 2012, and has documented annual cost savings of over $3.5 million.

The success of this program and others can be attributed in part to a comprehensive program of education and outreach to the procurement community, education on the environmental issues associated with purchasing goods and services, and outreach on the benefits – both economic and environmental – that have been realized through these efforts. While this process of educating rather than mandating may take a little longer, the program tends to do a better job of engaging both purchasers and the suppliers the in the process by providing them with a sense of ownership. Once the benefits are clearly understood and assurance obtained concerning the product performance, green purchasing becomes the preferable choice.

Although consumers at every level are burdened by the pressure of striving to get the best product they can for the lowest possible price, defining “best” has become a little more complex than it was a decade ago. Determining the best product may involve considerations for performance, durability, affirmative market participation, local production, and more. The concept is often referred to as “total cost of ownership” or “life cycle cost / analysis”.

Environmental and human health matters are increasingly becoming a significant component in this process of life cycle cost, not just because of their eco-impact, but also because of their economic impacts. With rising costs for petroleum and electrical energy, disposal, maintenance, remediation of pollution in groundwater and soil, and insurance claims brought about by the human exposure to or handling of toxic substances, it makes sense to require manufacturers and suppliers to take responsibility for the safe operation and end-of-life-management of their products, and results in an environmentally preferable purchase. Consequently, a slightly higher purchase price can easily represent “best value” when it provides an opportunity for significant cost avoidance throughout the total product life.

For example, the State of Washington is required to grant awards to the lowest responsive bidder. The state is able to award EPP products/services that may be a higher purchase price than a non-EPP product/service by using EPP performance specifications and non-cost factors to consider for evaluation purposes. This will determine the lowest responsive bidder, not just the lowest bidder. The State of Washington has developed a “best value calculator,” which helps identify the appropriate weighting for cost and non-cost considerations, such as EPP factors. The State of Washington’s Best Value Calculator is available by clicking here.

In the early years of green purchasing, several states used the practice of “set-asides” and “price preferences” to purchase recycled content products. A set-aside mandates that a certain percentage of a particular product purchased must include post-consumer recycled material. Price preferences enabled purchasers to pay more for recycled products up to a certain threshold (e.g., within five percent of the non-recycled product price). In recent years, due to increased economies of scale and greater demand for green solutions, most recycled products and many other types of SPs are competitively priced, so these practices are less necessary to encourage the use of SPs. However, as we enter the new era of a global marketplace, purchasers may find that in order to obtain the desired environmental attributes indicated, providing some price flexibility is required as part of best value procurement.

The State of Washington has developed a Best Value Calculator, which helps identify the appropriate weighting for cost and non-cost considerations, such as EPP factors. The State of Washington’s Best Value Calculator is available by clicking here.

Whether you are issuing a contract for a new product or service or re-bidding an existing contract, consider including a solution-based category.  A solution-based approach begins with a “what is meant to be achieved” approach instead of beginning with a specific problem. This creative method can often simultaneously explore both the problem and possible solutions, and potentially capture innovative technologies in that particular procurement area. Such a category should be generic enough to allow bidders the flexibility to describe and offer their technology for consideration, yet specific enough to meet certain basic environmental criteria. The purpose of introducing such a section in your contract bid is to gather information on what’s new in the marketplace that may offer environmental as well as economic benefits. This will also give your agency the chance to put it on the contract as an alternative to the conventional product you will award in the main category. Once on contract, it allows interested agencies to try the new product or technology to determine its effectiveness.

For instance, in their bid several years ago for water treatment chemicals, Massachusetts included a solution-based category and requested alternative technologies to any type of water treatment. They received a bid for swimming pool ionization which offered the opportunity for agencies such as the Parks Department to reduce the amount of chlorine needed to sanitize their pools by as much as seventy percent. The technology was tested in two public pools and by one of the state universities. Since then, the system has shown to do an equal job of keeping the pools clean, with the added bonus of eliminating human health issues such as skin rashes and respiratory problems among lifeguards and pool users. In addition, the system paid for itself within the first two years because the purchase of chlorine was significantly reduced as well.


While it takes an entire organization to implement a green purchasing program, to get it started it only takes one dedicated individual with an interest to champion the change. Are you are that lone green champion in your organization? Do you represent an organization that is not sure how to start buying green, or perhaps you’ve found your initial efforts have slowed for one reason or another? No matter the reason, you can begin forming your green team by following the steps outlined above, and encouraging the organization to undertake a few initial tasks to get your program on track and get back into the game.

Products are considered low-hanging fruit if they save money at the point of purchase or are cost neutral and also address some of the prioritized environmental attributes. These products and services represent the greatest opportunities for early successes.

The following are some easy opportunities ripe for jumpstarting green procurement:

  • Recycled content products – Utilizing materials collected in municipal, business, and other recycling programs strengthens revenue markets for those reused materials, reduces the waste stream going to landfills and incinerators, and works to create economic development opportunities within the emerging industry. Products containing post-consumer recycled content (see Green Purchasing Glossary of Terms) are available for paper goods, plastics, metals, petroleum products, and more. Such products include office papers and envelopes, packaging, plastic lumber, traffic cones, re-refined motor oil, antifreeze, and toner cartridges, just to name a few.
  • Energy efficient products – The U.S. Energy Star program is a universal and credible means of verifying a product’s energy efficiency. This program maintained an estimated sixty standards for products such as copiers, faxes, other office equipment, mail machines, computers, lighting (including traffic lights), appliances, air conditioners, heating, ventilation equipment, and more. Purchasers commonly include requirements in their contract that products meet the most recent Energy Star standard available in order to reduce their operational costs through reduced electricity consumption and decreased volume of pollution related to climate change conditions. (See more about Energy Star tools available to calculate cost and energy savings and environmental benefits in the Measuring and Marketing section). More recent developments include Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) or UL Environment. If these aren’t familiar to you, check out the links in the Green Purchasing General Resources section of this guide.
  • Green cleaning products – According to various reports, as many as one of three cleaning chemicals is considered hazardous due to their flammable, corrosive, or toxic properties. There also may be safety, health, and cost concerns in the handling, storage, and disposal of these chemicals. Some of the chemicals may not cause immediate injury, but rather are associated with cancer, reproductive disorders, respiratory, skin damage, and other health conditions. As a result, many state, local governments, and schools are requiring the use of more benign – but equally high-performing green cleaning products, and they are requiring the products meet the standards of third-party organizations like Green Seal, UL Environment, or EcoLogo. There are an ever growing number of products now being used by states across the country that not only provide improved environmental and health benefits, but will also save money.
  • Green computers and office equipment – While maximizing energy efficiency remains an important consideration in procuring computers and office equipment, purchasers now are able to examine the environmental impacts that come into play within each phase of a product’s life, from raw materials extraction and the quantities of energy and water consumed in the manufacturing process, to the end-of-life handling and disposal of hazardous materials in certain components. Using EPEAT, purchasers can evaluate, compare, and select desktop computers, notebooks, and monitors based on their environmental attributes. Products are required to meet nearly two dozen environmental criteria as well as numerous other options. As of early 2008, federal government agencies are required to procure EPEAT registered computer products, with other state and local governments following suit. (Details can be found at UL Environment also offers a similar standard for printers, scanners, copiers, and other office equipment.
  • Environmentally preferable papers – Admittedly, paper products may not always be the easiest low-hanging fruit to pluck. Markets for paper recycling are ever-changing, but paying attention to environmental attributes is particularly important because this industry has such a huge impact on forests and is one of the largest consumers of water and energy. It is crucial for complying with federal standards for recycled content on janitorial papers, office paper, and envelopes, to specify a goal of being 100% post-consumer recycled content paper, processed chlorine-free, or post-consumer recycled content to the maximum practicable level. For less than 100% post-consumer recycled content, use post-consumer recycled content to the maximum extent practicable. Also use non-recycled content derived from a sustainably-managed renewable resource and certified as such through an appropriate third party certification program recognized by the paper industry, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). Depending on the volume of paper purchased and the region of the country, many buyers are able to procure environmentally preferable paper without increasing costs. Others implement paper reduction strategies and offset differences in price by setting office equipment to default to duplex printing, widening margins, and encouraging paperless practices to. It is also recommended that publications and other printed items use processed chlorine-free (PCF) paper to the maximum extent possible.
  • Ink – Printing should require the use of water or vegetable-based lithographic ink to the maximum extent practicable, which will reduce the amount of VOCs released into the environment. Wherever possible, printing should reduce or eliminate the use of color.
  • Don’t forget services – Buyers may also include these requirements in service contracts, including landscaping, custodial, printing, pest control, and other services contracts.

With so many attributes and environmental issues to consider, how is a purchaser to keep up with the multitude of greener options, locate suppliers, and determine which will be the most cost-effective solution for their needs? The good news is that this task is no longer as overwhelming as one may believe. As more governments, private companies, colleges, universities, businesses, institutions, and others continue to adopt environmental purchasing policies, a clear message that green solutions are needed is sent to industry. Consider a few strategies already being used by purchasers across the country:

  • Let the contract do the work – To weed out unacceptable products from the start, establish minimum standards and specifications concerning environmental criteria (e.g., certain percentages of post-consumer recycled content, Energy Star compliance, cleaning products certified by an independent third party). If needed, give preference in the evaluation to bidders who can provide SPs, or require all bidders to provide an EPP alternative along with other bid items. Include flexibility in the contract that requires awarded contractors to add green items during the contract term.
  • Tap the resources of suppliers – Require all contractors to offer training on the products, equipment, or services they are providing (e.g., require that copier suppliers train customers on power management and paper-saving features and guarantee that recycle paper will not be faulted for equipment problems, and require cleaning distributors to include staff training at no additional charge). Require suppliers to identify SPs in catalogs and online ordering systems and take back products for recycling after their useful life, and provide annual reports to agencies on EPP purchasing.
  • Require contractors to green their operations – Include language in the bid document that requires contractors to examine their operations and suggest areas in which they may implement environmental initiatives or purchase SPs. This type of initiative does not create a burden on the bid process, as it only applies to suppliers receiving an award. However, it does enable states to increase the positive impact of their purchasing and educate suppliers on the benefits of greening their operations. Such initiatives may include asking suppliers to identify clearly the recycled content of packaging, use recycled content papers for marketing materials, use alternative-fuel vehicles for deliveries, equip diesel vehicles with emission-control retrofit technologies, and work toward a goal of zero waste in their warehouse, manufacturing, or office operations.

As the demand for EPP is becoming more universal among all levels of purchasing, many manufacturers are responding with cost-effective, greener solutions to all types of products. However, in the rush to stay competitive in a green world, some manufacturers are unwilling to make the necessary investment to achieve a greater environmental standard, and instead invest in creative advertising, or exaggerating a product’s environmental benefits. Such a practice is called “greenwashing,” and is often illustrated by using unproven or useless claims like “earth-friendly,” “eco-safe,” “all natural,” “ozone-safe,” and others. Although verifying claims may be challenging, fortunately there are tools available to assist purchasers and supply chain managers to determine which environmental claims are accurate and relevant, and which ones should be ignored.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – The FTC issued guidelines for the use of environmental marketing claims in the early 1990s, and then updated them in 1998. The guidelines are not legislative rules so they do not have the force of law. The FTC states an environmental marketing claim should:

  • Have qualifications and disclosures that are clear enough to prevent deception
  • Make it clear whether the environmental attribute or benefit being asserted refers to the product, the product’s package, or to a portion or component of the product or packaging
  • Not overstate the environmental attribute or benefit, expressly or by implication
  • Include a statement that makes the basis of comparison clear so that the consumer should be able to understand the claim

According to the NACo Green Purchasing Toolkit, there are four basic categories of eco-labels:

  • eco-labels issued by an independent third party
  • partnership and recognition programs
  • eco-labels issued by a trade group or industry association
  • eco-labels issued by a company for its own product or “self-declared”

Independent Third-Party Certifications –While the FTC guidelines helped to remove a good portion of the most misleading claims, they have not eliminated the problem. To reduce the likelihood of being misled, purchasers often must rely on environmental certifications established by reliable, third-party organizations. Third-party certification is a scientific process by which a product, process, or service is reviewed by a reputable and unbiased auditor who verifies that a set of criteria, claims, or standards is being met.

The basic values of third-party certification are to provide a measure of conformity, satisfy customer demands, and limit supplier risks without the expense of duplicating tests. Certifying organizations are anxious to maintain their reputation and can provide an excellent way to validate marketing claims while protecting consumers from myths, misconceptions, misleading information coming from overzealous manufacturers.

Other Documentation – In the absence of a third-party certification, purchasers may also require that bidders submit documentation from the product manufacturer to substantiate the recycled content or other environmental claims. Such documentation may include test results, MSDS, and affidavits submitted on the manufacturer’s letterhead and signed by a senior company official. The NACo Green Purchasing Toolkit also lists sources for EPP calculators and a verification template. Visit

An environmental standard is a policy guideline that regulates the effect of human activity upon the environment. The most credible, respected standards are those that have been developed in an open, transparent process by organizations that do not have a vested interest in the outcome, and usually focus on a balance of multiple environmental attributes or considerations throughout a product’s life cycle. Purchasers also need to be aware that some standards require comprehensive third-party audits, while others may simply permit manufacturers to determine or “self-certify,” whether they actually comply with a standard. Both can be valuable and effective, but purchasers need to recognize the distinction.

In an attempt to eliminate deceptive advertising practices that make it difficult for consumers to compare the environmental benefits of a manufacturer or product, as mentioned above, the FTC published guidelines that require manufacturers to explain environmental claims. Initially, the guidelines decreased greenwashing dramatically. However, as competition in a market that demands green products increases, greenwashing is reemerging.Characteristics of modern greenwashing are outlined below:

  • Fibbing – making false claims that a product meets UL Environment, EcoLogo, or Green Seal standards
  • Unsubstantiated claims – commonly known as “just trust us,” manufacturers are unable to prove their environmental claims
  • Irrelevance – making factually correct environmental statements that are no longer relevant due to modern bans and/or laws
  • The hidden trade-off – making claims about a single environmental attribute, thereby leading consumers to think that it is the only environmental attribute of concern
  • Vagueness – broad environmental claims such as “100 percent natural,” “Earth Smart,” and “Ozone Safe”
  • Relativism – as compared to other products in a given category, a product may be the most environmentally friendly, but still a poor choice

Because of potential greenwashing, and the distance between purchasers and production, third party certifications are an important component in verifying green claims. The most frequently cited environmental certification and guidance programs are as follows:

Energy Star Program –

Independent, Third Party Certification Organizations:
Chlorine Free Products Association –
Ecolabel Index –
UL Environment –
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) –
Green-e –
Green Seal –

Non-Third Party Label (Partnership Program):
Design for the Environment (DFE) –

Visit the sites above to obtain a current list of companies certified or registered by these organizations. Such lists promote increased exposure and availability of products manufactured to these standards by suppliers nationwide and provides tools for measuring benefits. A more expansive list of resources can be found in the Green Purchasing General Resources section of this guide.


The term Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is a business economic term that should not be confused with Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), a term more closely aligned with environmental considerations. As a consideration of costs, TCO focuses more on the useful life of a purchased item including the cost of acquisition (price + delivery), operation (including energy use if applicable), and disposal.

By contrast, Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) considers the environmental costs and impacts from capture of raw materials, manufacturing (including waste by-products), useful-life including recycle/reuse potential, operations/energy consumption, and disposal. Refer to the definitions in the Green Purchasing Glossary of Terms for additional context.

The StEP (Solving the E-Waste Problem) initiative provides excellent information and guidance on current issues and solutions being implemented worldwide with regard to the handling of Electronic Waste products. (See This organization is endorsed and hosted by United Nations University – Institute for Sustainability and Peace through Sustainable Cycles (SCYCLE), as a stakeholder group using science-based holistic approach to reduce electronic waste impacts. See the Green Purchasing General Resources section for more information.

Some manufacturers offer take-back and disposal options for certain electronic devices. This option could be made a part of the specifications, solicitation, and resulting purchase documentation, and should include language that requires acceptable environmental disposal practices. When available and advantageous, government entities should also investigate the option of leasing certain electronic equipment, which puts the onus of responsibility on the manufacturer/supplier for products at the end of their useful life. Solicitations can include language that requires offerors to address their environmentally preferable practices, and include a cost-option line for take-back, or even a trade-in allowance for replacement or upgrade at end-of-life. When available and allowable, take-back options can be made part of the evaluation and scoring aspects of a solicitation.


Because of the added time required to compile and document this information, it is often difficult for efforts to measure the success of an overall program or even an individual contract purchase. However, it may be the single most important action you can take if you want to grow a strong and robust environmental purchasing program. Measuring your success allows you to identify both the environmental and cost saving benefits of your efforts, arm you with information so that you can recognize and reward outstanding achievers as a means to inspire others, identify any problem areas that may need correcting, and meet reporting and recordkeeping requirements that may also serve to justify any additional funding that may be required to maintain the program.

One of the best ways to share your achievements and challenges as well as create an ongoing chronicle for your own reference is through the issuance of annual reports. Annual reports enable purchasers to highlight current purchasing and manufacturing trends in their region, strategies used to grow environmental purchasing programs, and also to discuss both progress and potential barriers of purchasing various SPs and services. The Environmental Purchasing Program in King County, Washington issues a relatively detailed annual report, as does Massachusetts. However, there are many others that can also be referenced on the Responsible Purchasing Network website.

As you consider drafting an annual report or an assessment of your program, below are four simple steps in establishing a process to measure and track your results. It is recommended to start small with product purchases that have a relatively high likelihood of success. Learning through experience is best teaching tool you can use, and early successes will provide credibility for future efforts within your organization.

  • Identify what you would like to measure and establish goals to meet those metrics – Such measurements may include an annual increase in purchasing volume or dollars, the number of contract designations, cost savings, energy reduction, or environmental benefits. Goals can be defined based on your desired metric, the number of new EPP contracts you would like to issue, the types of recycled materials you may want to target, or a certain level of purchasing (dollars) you want to achieve. Performance contract requirements will also enable purchasers to track high and low performance of the contractor.
  • Establish a current baseline on which to measure progress – The information to include in the baselines will depend on some degree upon the goals you have set, but generally will include such data as the type and number of products currently purchased, the cost of those products, the percentage of recycled content, the current process and cost to dispose or recycle that product, and the energy and water requirements, etc. Baselines can also include trends in purchasing activity and contractor performance.
  • Determine the means of recordkeeping used to document the measurement – This is likely the most difficult of the four steps as no one method is without shortfalls. If your agency or department has a central accounting system through which all transactions are processed, this is perhaps the most reliable means of collecting the majority of the purchases. It is then incumbent upon the central purchasing office to include the identification of environmentally preferable products within that system so that the information can be broken-out from the other purchases for reporting purposes. If this is not available to you or you would like to have a backup system to catch any glitches, the advice is to rely on your suppliers.
    • Some states such as Massachusetts require all contractors to submit annual reporting information that breaks-out the SPs within the reports. This requirement enables Massachusetts to obtain data on municipal purchases not captured by the central system, and to get accurate reporting on the recycled content in products, take back options, and disposal costs, etc. However, as not all contractors are as timely in submitting their reports as others, to secure the needed information it is helpful to have assistance in following-up on the contractors.
    • In an effort to ensure that contractors provide complete and comprehensive information in a user-friendly format for analysis, states may want to provide a template for contractors to use to submit this data. An excel spreadsheet is not a recommended means as it can be easily manipulated to track multiple activities.
  • Market and reward achievers – Once the information has been obtained, don’t miss the opportunity to reward your participants and market your success, particularly with the higher levels of your department. Recognition can be given through something as simple as a thank you letter, credit toward an employee’s performance review, or more publicly via a special awards program. Piggybacking on the annual meetings of various organizations (e.g., school business managers, and public purchasing officials, etc.) and offering an “Environmental Purchasing Award” at their annual event can be one way to increase visibility and avoid the time and cost of a separate event. In addition, featuring the success story of an agency or department in a case study can be an excellent peer-to-peer example of how to implement green purchasing. Whatever means you chose should help build support for your program and encourage cooperation for future efforts.

Purchasers should also strive to use their tracking data to demonstrate project success to your management, other co-workers, and stakeholders outside of the organization. Take advantage of tools and resources to convert hard-to-understand metrics, such as kilowatt-hours or tons of waste into vivid equivalents: numbers of cars removed from the road or numbers of trees saved. A variety of such tools are already available on-line to render these calculations for multiple environmental attributes.

Some examples include:

  • Environmental Benefits Calculator designed by The Northeast Recycling Council, Inc. (NERC) is an easy-to-use means of generating estimates of the environmental benefits of a study area, based on the tonnages of materials that are source reduced, reused, recycled, landfilled, or incinerated (includes waste-to-energy).
  • EnviroCalc is a downloadable spreadsheet-based tool designed by Massachusetts’ EPP Purchasing Program that in a single tool, estimates the environmental benefits of purchases of recycled-content and energy efficient products.
  • Energy Star Website contains a number of calculators created to estimate the potential savings and payback period for purchases of energy efficient products.
  • Other calculators and tools are listed in the General Resources section of the guide.

Environmental benefit estimates and their “real life” equivalents presented in both “OUTPUT” tables were created using EnviroCalc based on the information provided by Massachusetts suppliers during the course of one fiscal year for purchases of energy efficient desktops, monitors, CFLs, recycled paper, plastic and mulch products, re-refined motor oil, and anti-freeze.OUTPUT: Commonwealth of Massachusetts Environmental Benefits

Environmental Benefits Estimate Equivalent to….
Energy Savings 9,690,412 kWhrs Annual energy needs of 855 households
Carbon Dioxide Emissions 21,709 tons Annual tailpipe emissions of 4263 cars
Landfill Space Savings 16,582 cubic yards 829 loaded garbage trucks
Number of Trees Saved 52,911 529 acres of wood plantation
Non-electrical Energy Savings 77,288 million BTUs Energy content of 13,325 barrels of oil
Weight of Materials Recycled 4,519 tons Annual solid waste generation of 2123 households

OUTPUT: Massachusetts Energy Cost Savings

Environmental Benefit Estimate Equivalent to…
Energy Cost Savings $1,065,945 13 MA EPP Program’s budgets


This section includes sample general resources as a starting point for finding information related to sustainability or environmentally preferable purchasing. It also includes examples of numerous online tools, organizations, and informational links to help educate users about green purchasing.

BEES: Building for Environmental and Economic Stability – A software decision-making tool that was first developed by the National Institute of Standards and Testing (NIST) Engineering Laboratory in 1994. The tool was created for and primarily aimed at designers, builders, and product manufacturers, and includes actual environmental and economic performance data for two hundred and thirty building products. BEES measures the environmental performance of building products by using the life-cycle assessment approach specified in the ISO 14040 series of standards.

All stages in the life of a product are analyzed: raw material acquisition, manufacture, transportation, installation, use, recycling, and waste management. Economic performance is measured using the ASTM standard life-cycle cost method, which covers the costs of initial investment, replacement, operation, maintenance and repair, and disposal.

There are currently over 18,000 users worldwide. BEES provides understandable, science-based information that is often lacking from green marketing claims. BEES’ development has been supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. EPA Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program.

BuildingGreen.Com – A resource-filled website related to sustainable design and construction. The site includes current product reviews, blogs, case studies, discussion, and articles from Environmental Building News, a monthly newsletter featuring comprehensive practical information on a range of topics related to sustainable design in the built environment. Users can subscribe to receive monthly news from Environmental Building News by email.

Consumer’s Union “Greener Choices” Guide to Environmental Labels – this (Consumer Reports) site has a label search tool and expert evaluation of labels on food, wood, personal care products, and household cleaners.

Ecolabel Index – The site allows users to search by product, category, or certifier organization, offers information to research label content, and also provides a chronological list of articles about eco-label claims and issues. The indices provide a comprehensive, global, and independent database of over 400 eco-labels, and also provide searchable databases encompassing over two hundred countries and multiple industry sectors.

The following are links to green purchasing policies and programs currently utilized in other states and localities:

Agricultural Marketing Service manages the National Organic Program (USDA Organic) label for products meeting federal standards that addresses pesticide and fertilizer use as well as other approved methods used to grow, harvest, and process food and other agricultural products.

BioPreferred Program was linked to the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bill, created and managed by USDA to increase the development, purchase, and use of bio-based products via two initiatives: procurement preferences by federal agencies and their contractors, and voluntary product certification and labeling for consumers. Site includes a searchable catalogue database of bio-based products.

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Program (EERE) focuses on energy efficiency solutions for homes, buildings, manufacturing, and government applications. In addition, the program offers current renewables and transportation- related strategies, guidance, and resources.

Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) helps agencies save energy, taxpayer dollars, and demonstrate leadership with responsible, cleaner energy choices. The product recommendations and other useful tips help users identify the most efficient equipment for offices and facilities.

Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG) recommends minimum recycled-content levels for dozens of products. U.S. EPA has also developed a suite of tools to help facilitate EPP, including a database listing that includes contract language, specifications, and policies created by federal, state and local governments,; vendor lists of product brands that meet federal EPP standards, and EPP updates, guidance documents, fact sheets, and case studies.

Design for the Environment (DfE) was launched by the EPA in 1995, with a mission to reduce risk to people and the environment by finding ways to prevent pollution by working in partnership with industry, environmental groups, and academia. Because the DfE certification program reviews every chemical ingredient regardless of percentage in the formulation, recognition by DfE ensures that the product does not contain highly toxic ingredients that could be masked by dilution. Additionally, DfE supplements the list of chemicals of concern (e.g., carcinogen lists) with the expertise of U.S. EPA scientists who can make scientific determinations on chemicals not already reviewed by an authoritative body. Other chemicals may pose similar toxicity hazards because of structural similarity to a known problem chemical. U.S. EPA’s DfE Safer Chemistry certification program allows products, including cleaners, biological based products, deicers, odor removal, printer inks, and more, that it has determined to be effective and protective of health and the environment to carry its logo.

ENERGY STAR is a joint energy-efficient products program of the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. EPA, where users can find certified energy-efficient products such as light fixtures, exit signs, appliances, and office equipment, etc.

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program (EPP) website provides an overview of current federal EPP policy, guidance, green purchasing tools, and examples of various federal program efforts.

The Green Vehicles Guide (GVG) webpage provides procurement-oriented tools to find and compare green vehicle attributes.

Office of Federal Sustainability promotes sustainability and environmental stewardship throughout federal government operations. Created by Executive Order in 1993, the Office is housed at the President’s Council on Environmental Quality, is administered by U.S. EPA, and hosts the interagency Steering Committee on Federal Sustainability.

WaterSense is a partnership program by the U.S. EPA that seeks to protect the future of the U.S. water supply by offering people a simple way to use less water with water-efficient products and services.

Federal Trade Commission – Shopping Green Web Site provides relevant trade market rules and guidance with electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR) links that deal with environmental marketing claims. It provides general consumer information and overview of green marketing claims, seals and certifications, green terminology, and standards to help identify “truth in green advertising.”

EcoLogo is part of the Underwriters Laboratories (UL Environment) network of programs. EcoLogo was originally launched by the Canadian federal government in 1988, serving buyers and sellers of green products throughout the United States, Canada, and around the world. It is North America’s oldest environmental standard and certification organization, and the second oldest in the world. By setting standards and certifying products in more than one hundred and twenty categories, EcoLogo helps identify, buy, and sell environmentally preferable goods and services. On this website, users will find more than 7,000 EcoLogo-certified products from hundreds of manufacturers.

Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is an independent program that certifies green electronic equipment such as computers, monitors, and laptops.

GreenCircle Certified, LLC is an independent, third-party certification body established to ensure specificity in third-party certification after encountering many unsubstantiated claims in the marketplace. Through a rigorous evaluation process, GreenCircle provides independent verification of environmental claims. Products labeled with the GreenCircle Certified mark have been thoroughly assessed and their claims verified to applicable standards.

GreenCircle provides certification of environmental claims of products, buildings and manufacturing operations, including health product verification, sustainable biodiesel certification, and Certified Environmental Facts (Multi-Attribute Certification)

GREENGUARD Certification is part of UL Environment, an Indoor Air Quality-focused business unit of UL (Underwriters Laboratories) acquired in 2011. GREENGUARD Certification improves the quality of the air in which the products are used by helping manufacturers create and buyers identify interior products and materials that have low chemical emissions.

Green Seal is a nonprofit organization that sets standards for many products such as janitorial cleaners, floor strippers, and paints, and certifies products that meet those standards.

GSA_DOE Verification Guide for Purchasers of Sustainable Products  This April 2015 guide outlines how to ensure compliance with the sustainability requirements included in a contract. It provides best practices that can be used during both pre-award and post-award stages of a procurements to help ensure contractors deliver the sustainable products enumerated in a contract or purchasing agreement. In addition, it provides guidance and resources to check whether a contractor or lessor has provided acceptable documentation to show compliance for many of the commonly used sustainable requirements (e.g. WaterSense, EPEAT, Green Seal, SNAP).

Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) is a U.S. Green Building Council program and green building tool that addresses the entire building lifecycle recognizing best-in-class building strategies. LEED provides third-party verification of green building projects that satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification. Prerequisites and credits differ for each rating system, and teams choose the best fit for the project Based on varied points achieved, LEED offers “Certified,” “Silver,” “Gold,” and “Platinum” levels by project type applied to categories ranging from new or existing building construction, to schools, homes, commercial interiors, and others. Points are achieved as an aggregated score from incorporating numerous green products and practices that produce environmentally measurable project outcomes.

Alliance for Environmental Technology is an international association of chemical manufacturers dedicated to improving the environmental performance of the pulp and paper industry. Provides educational and technical resources relating to Chlorine Dioxide use in papermaking, supports the use of chlorine dioxide bleaching (also known as Elemental Chlorine-Free or ECF).

Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) is a not-for-profit association of key individuals and groups from government, industry and academia created to educate manufacturers, legislators and consumers about the importance of science-based standards for compostable materials that biodegrade in large composting facilities. BPI promotes the use and recovery of compostable materials through municipal composting.

Carpet and Rug Institute is an industry-focused label and organization providing science-based information about carpet and rugs– from health benefits to improved air quality to care and cleaning.

Chlorine Free Products Association is an independent, not-for-profit accreditation and standard setting organization whose focus is promoting sustainable manufacturing practices, implementing advanced technologies free of chlorine chemistry, educating consumers on alternatives, and developing world markets for sustainability-produced third party certified products and services. The CFPA has no financial interest in any manufacturer or company of the products it certifies.

CleanGredients is an online database of cleaning product ingredient chemicals that provides verified information about the environmental and human health attributes of listed ingredients. CleanGredients is a project of GreenBlue®, a nonprofit that equips business with the science and resources to make products more sustainable.

Conserveatree provides expert advice on best practices resources for making sustainable paper purchasing decisions.

Environmental Defense Fund works to preserve natural systems by focusing on critical environmental problems relative to climate and energy, oceans, eco-systems, and health by partnering with private and public organizations to achieve positive environmental results.

Forest Stewardship Council certifies lumber and other building products made with sustainably harvested wood or that reduce wood consumption.

Green-e is a labeling program established by the nonprofit organization, Center for Resource Solutions, which verifies electricity that has been generated using renewable sources such as solar and wind energy.

Green Electronics Council (GEC) founded in 2005 to bring focus to the special issues of electronics and sustainability, selected by stakeholders to manage EPEAT. GEC coordinates the development of standards for the EPEAT Registry through a voluntary, multi-stakeholder process.

Institute for Local Self-Reliance hosts the Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative, which helps purchasers, policymakers, and NGOs navigate the maze of new and emerging bio-based plastics, and provides guidance for the marketplace regarding sustainable biomaterials. Based on work for the 1992 International Workshop on Biodegradability, the concept of a Carbohydrate Economy was developed and is the current basis for their work today: the use of plant-based chemicals to replace petro-chemicals.

Institute for Supply Management leads and serves the supply management profession. It includes a network of 40,000 supply management professionals.

Product Stewardship Institute is a national, membership-based nonprofit committed to reducing the health, safety, and environmental impacts of consumer products across their lifecycles, with a strong focus on sustainable end-of-life management.

Scientific Certification Systems, Inc. (SCS Global Services) verifies third-party environmental, sustainability, and food quality certification, auditing, and testing and standards development. SCS’s goal is to identify and drive practices, policies, and processes that advance the goals of sustainable development for policy-makers, procurement officers, company decision-makers, and consumers to make informed decisions based on the highest level of environmental, ethical, and quality accountability.

State Electronics Challenge is administered by the NorthEast Recycling Council, and provides resources to assist organizations in the public sector, as well as private schools and colleges, that sign up as “Partners” to become leaders and address the challenges posed by electronics. SEC encourages state, tribal, regional, and local governments to responsibly manage office equipment by purchasing greener office equipment and reducing the impacts of those products during use, and by managing obsolete electronics in an environmentally safe way.

Sustainable Forestry Initiative is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting sustainable forest management, working with conservation groups, local communities, resource professionals, landowners, and numerous organizations and individuals who share a passion for responsible forest management.

Sustainable Packaging Coalition is a non-profit industry working group dedicated to a more robust environmental vision for packaging.

US Composting Council is a national, non-profit trade and professional organization promoting the recycling of organic materials through composting. Their site provides various resources and links promoting composting and related sustainable practices.

International Organization for Standards (ISO) 1400 Family of Environmental Standards is responsible for international quality standards. Environmental management standard ISO 14001 is a useful approach in realizing an environmentally conscious management system. ISO 14001 provides training sessions for auditors and many articles about ISO 14001.

Blue Angel was the first environment-related label for products and services in the world. In 1978 Blue Angel set the standard for eco-friendly products and services selected by independent jury with defined criteria. The (German) Blue Angel label is awarded to products and services that from a holistic point of view, are of benefit to the environment and at the same time, meet high standards of serviceability, health, and occupational protection.

The Global Ecolabeling Network (GEN) is a non-profit association of third-party, environmental performance recognition, certification and labeling organizations founded in 1994 to improve, promote, and develop the eco-labeling of products and services.

Environment Canada is an agency responsible for coordinating Canada’s environmental policies and programs, and monitoring conservation, climate impacts, and rules impacting Canadian natural resources including flora, fauna, air, water, and soils.

Environmental Choice is New Zealand’s environmental product certification program. It has issued standards for over 300 product categories, such as flooring, paint, electricity, cleaners, office equipment, and paper products.

European Commission Environment provides guidance and a framework for Green Public Procurement (GPP) from the European perspective.

GIPPERS Guide (2002) (Ontario, Canada) is an early guide created by a Toronto area governmental forum to address environmental purchasing and its effects on waste, surprisingly relevant and similar to current approaches and programs.

Intercontinental Exchange Group, Inc. Chicago Climate Exchange is North America’s largest and longest running greenhouse gas emission reduction program. From 2003 through 2010 CCX operated as a comprehensive cap and trade program with an offsets component. In 2011 CCX launched the Chicago Climate Exchange Offsets Registry Program to register verified emission reductions based on a comprehensive set of established protocols.

Clean Air-Cool Planet works collaboratively with campuses, communities, and corporations to develop innovative solutions aimed at reducing carbon emissions and preparing for climate change, and building support for environmentally effective and economically efficient national climate policies.

GreenBiz includes the GreenBuzz e-newsletter provides latest insights for emerging green technologies, sustainable practices and products, and business report cards, etc.

Consumer Reports provides an online database for comparing Eco-labels, products, and certifying entities. Articles cover a wide range of current and emerging sustainability-focused topics.

Eco IQ is an online magazine that supports and promotes a transition to sustainability, providing media and educational products and services, and focusing on the strategies, tactics and tools needed by leaders, educators, and advocates working for sustainability.

Environment Guardian is an online periodical resource providing current environmental issues and topics across a wide spectrum.

Environmental Paper Network provides expert guidance, tools, and current insights into the rapidly changing paper industry, including a blog, calculator, fact sheets and reports from around the world.

Green Technology is a non-profit initiative designed to inform government efforts toward sustainability, providing a forum in which government officials can communicate with those in the private sector who are developing and distributing green technologies.

The Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability (MTS) brings together a coalition of sustainable products manufacturers, environmental groups, and key state and local government leaders using market mechanisms to increase sales and market share of sustainable products. By identifying consensus protocols for sustainable products, they believe it is possible to transform manufacturing and retail practices worldwide so that by 2015, sustainable products are available in ninety percent of the global marketplace. Their stance is that sustainable products increase corporate profits while enhancing society as a whole because they are cheaper to make, have fewer regulatory constraints, less liability, can be introduced to the market quicker, and are preferred by the public.

Sustainable Industries is a magazine for sustainable business that provides news on the west coast and beyond, and contains information about products, companies, trends, and topics pertaining to sustainability.

National Association of Educational Procurement (NAEP) is an organization of Higher Education Procurement members formed to facilitate the development, exchange and practice of effective and ethical procurement principles and techniques within higher education and associated communities, through continuing education, networking, public information and advocacy. The Sustainability micro-site provides members a number of resources including a library of case studies and topic specific member contributed information.

National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) provides a Green Purchasing Guide for its members and interested public sector users for navigating sustainable purchasing resources, and reflects ongoing changes in the marketplace for various Environmentally Preferable products and services.

National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP) publishes Government Procurement, (GoPro) Magazine providing monthly articles of interest to government procurement professionals, including an ongoing section on sustainability issues. Current and prior issues can be found using the site menu under resources, publications.

Responsible Purchasing Network (RPN) is a member-based network of procurement stakeholders that maintains an online clearinghouse of information on EPP policies, programs, purchasing guides, reports, upcoming events, and other related resources.

Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC) is one of NASPO’s strategic partners. SPLC fosters a collaborative stakeholder effort between public and private sector members interested in advancing sustainable products and practices.

U.S. Communities is a cooperative purchasing organization providing a “Go-Green” program to identify green products, services, and resources primarily directed at local governments.

American Petroleum Institute Re-refined Oil Products provides information and resources for recycling used motor oil to be re-refined into base stock for lubricating oils.

Earth911 provides fact-based online waste reduction ideas and resources for consumers to make informed decisions about products and low-waste lifestyle choices.

Freecycle Network is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a network material swap resource where rather than sending the materials to landfills users can search local affiliates to “give” discarded but still serviceable materials.

Global Recycling Network was established in 1994, now part of RecycleNet Corporation, and operates as part of a network of worldwide recycling websites, portals, and exchanges. It provides marketplace directories and resources to identify recycling opportunities and information for various commodity categories.

National Recycling Coalition is a national, non-profit, professional membership advocacy group. NRC’s over 6,000 members span all aspects of waste reduction, reuse, and recycling, including local recycling coordinators, state and federal regulators, corporate environmental managers, environmental educators, consumers and waste management professionals. The Coalition represents and advocates for every sector of the recycling industry on the local, state, and federal level.

Northeast Recycling Council is a non-profit organization that conducts research, hands-on projects, consulting services, training, and outreach on issues associated with source reduction, recycling, composting, environmentally preferable purchasing, and decreasing the toxicity of the solid waste streamAs part of its mission, NERC administers and supports several programs including the State Electronics Challenge and EPPnet.

Recycling at Work is a national voluntary initiative led by Keep America Beautiful, in partnership with the Alcoa Foundation as part of their Clinton Global Initiative Commitment. The initiative challenges businesses, government agencies, schools, hospitals and other institutions to commit to increase workplace recycling by 10 percent. By taking the pledge and becoming a Pledge Partner, businesses and organizations can access special recycling bin discounts, free tools, and other resources to help them increase recycling, encourage employee participation, and earn recognition for their actions.

The Green Grid Association is a 501(c)6 non-profit, open industry consortium of end-users, policy makers, technology providers, facility architects, and utility companies that works to improve the resource efficiency of information technology and data centers throughout the world. The Green Grid seeks to unite global industry efforts, create a common set of metrics, and develop technical resources and educational tools to further its goals.

EPA’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM)

Basel Action Network is an organization focused on confronting the global environmental injustice and economic inefficiency of toxic trade (toxic wastes, products and technologies) and its impacts, including the issues of environmental justice at a macro level, preventing disproportionate and unsustainable dumping of the world’s toxic waste and pollution on the poorest global residents.

Fair Trade USA is dedicated to fair trade and equitable value/exchange rates practices. Fair Trade USA maintains a Fair Trade label issued to companies that import products such as coffee, tea, chocolate and rice that have been manufactured and sold under fair and safe working conditions.

Green for All is an organization dedicated to improving the lives of vulnerable Americans through a clean energy economy through collaboration with business, government, labor, and grassroots communities to increase quality jobs and opportunities in the green industry.

StEP Initiative was developed in 2004, founded on scientific assessments and incorporates a comprehensive view of the social, environmental and economic aspects of e-waste. StEP conducts research on the entire life cycle of electrical and electronic equipment and their corresponding global supply, process and material flows, and seeks to foster safe and eco and energy-efficient reuse and recycling practices from a socially responsible perspective.

SweatFree Communities covers issues relative to manufacturing, trade, workers, and fair labor wages.

American Colleges and Universities Climate Commitment is a consortium of college and university leadership committed to reducing GHG and global warming by embracing a joint resolution to integrate sustainable practices into their operations as they educate students to develop environmental leadership and policies that address critical, systemic global challenges, enabling them to benefit from the economic opportunities that will arise as a result of their solutions.

EPPnet hosted by the Northeast Recycling Council is a subscriber listserv that links federal, state, and local environmental officials and private procurement specialists charged with purchasing green products and services and developing policies for the procurement of these products. EPPnet is intended to provide subscribers with quick access to information, such as availability of product specifications, suppliers of particular products, pricing information, and strategies to achieve recycled product procurement goals and federal procurement policies. Private suppliers are precluded from joining the listserv.

Portland, Oregon provides website sustainable living resources for residents on a wide variety of topic areas.

Rutgers University is an early leader in developing research relative to the interplay between products, energy, waste, economics, and supply chain. Rutgers continues to develop and support sustainable measures and policies that influence public and private sector decision makers.

NAGPI (North American Green Purchasing Initiative- Eco-Eval) designed to help professional purchasers evaluate their organization’s environmental purchasing initiatives and identify opportunities for improvement.

The ULS (Use Less Stuff) Report is a newsletter committed to issues of source reduction and waste prevention, provides “CalcuLess” Environmental Impact Analyzer.


Steps to Starting a Program
The key to a successful green purchasing program is broad based buy-in to the program. Despite best intentions, the majority of us are inherently resistant to change. To get a program up and running, it is desirable to have a statement of intent issued from an executive level. Prior to the issuance of such a statement it is important to have a structure in place that will allow for immediate action.

    1. Find a leader – In order for your efforts to succeed, your organization needs to choose a point person for green initiatives. Whether self-selected, elected, or appointed, this will be the person to whom the core team will come with questions as well as someone who would be accountable for your organization’s progress.


    1. Build a team – Regardless of where you start and how good a leader you have, “going green” will require expertise and support of a wide range of agency personnel. This should be your core program team. The team should be limited to a size such that decisions can be effectively made and acted upon. Assemble a green team of like-minded individuals representing different organizational functions such as facilities management, purchasing, accounting, and communications, etc. End-users know what they need and having a green team will help you tap into departmental expertise, as well as gain broader support for sustainability initiatives.


    1. Start small – The key to longevity of the program is the ability to report on success as early in the program as practical. Inside and outside your organization, you will find advocates for sweeping changes in the way your office operates. While many of these suggestions will be well-intended, begin your work with simple projects that have a relatively high likelihood of success. This will help you gain “green expertise” as well as build credibility for your efforts within the organization. Learn from your experiences and the experiences of others, don’t reinvent the wheel. Maintain flexibility and modify your initiatives wherever necessary. Keep the initial changes simple and use any temporary set-backs as learning tools. You will have succeeded when you have changed the buying habits of a single person, and build on that to go onto the next person. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be developing a plan for more significant undertakings. In fact, you need to have at least one sizeable initiative ready to roll out as soon as the program has established a confidence-building track record of small successes.


    1. Establish a baseline/benchmark – Change is impossible without understanding the way things are currently. Consider what you are presently buying and target those items you know have recycled or environmentally preferable alternatives. Use your green team’s expertise to gain access and analyze baseline information, and use it to plan your green efforts. Be wary of a blanket approach such as across the board sourcing of products with either reduced packaging or packaging with high recycled content. You will quickly become challenged in tracking success on the wide assortment of products your organization buys. Rather, pick a product group to focus on – perhaps technology products – and strive to increase eco-friendly packaging by a defined percentage. A further benefit to this approach is that as you start on your path to success, this approach allows for engagement with a focused number of stakeholders.


    1. Involve stakeholders – Some sustainability efforts may not be very visible to your co-workers, but in most cases staff support will be vital for your success. Whether you are advocating double-sided printing or thinking about changing office temperature settings for weekends and nights, your co-workers will have their own opinions about whether and how these ideas should be handled. Don’t be discouraged by a few naysayers, focus on working with those who are open to providing meaningful feedback and getting involved. Have departments test and evaluate new products so you don’t make the decision for them.


    1. Get management “buy-in” – As mentioned at the beginning of this section, a green procurement program will be much more successful if you have the management on your side. The type of support you are looking for may range from sending out an email or memo to all staff regarding a specific green initiative, to adopting an official sustainability policy. In any event, publicly expressed support from your superiors will serve to legitimize your efforts, educate your co-workers about sustainability, and ensure their support for your work.


    1. Develop EPP Specifications for Contracts – Work with your purchasing staff to make sure that green products are available and accessible for purchase on your contracts.  This means including green specifications into RFP language, either as “desirable” category or for products that have market acceptance including a “mandatory” category.   The District of Colombia Office of Contracting and Procurement has and the Responsible Purchasing Network has as well.  In addition, the NASPO Green Purchasing Committee and the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council are developing resources for states to help with identifying current green specification language for a number of products/services. Several entities have developed model specifications for products, some of these include


    1. Track progress – as you are planning and implementing your green initiatives, allocate time and effort for measuring and tracking the changes that take place. This will keep you on track in project implementation and help you identify possible issues. Tracking data will also provide a basis for assessing the overall cost savings, health, and environmental benefits of your work. Partner with your suppliers on measuring the benefits of change. Eco-friendly initiatives are increasingly common in organizations of all sizes. There’s a good chance that your suppliers are already capturing information that will assist you in tracking benefits associated with your progress.


    1. Reward supporters – Once a green project is complete, be generous in sharing credit for its success. Use the green team and the support of your management to recognize and reward your supporters (even if their contribution was minimal). Such recognition will help you build support for future efforts, whether it is done through a personal thank-you letter, public award, or additional points in the employee evaluation process.


    1. Market your success – Changing the way an organization functions is no small feat. Use your tracking data to demonstrate project successes to your management, co-workers, and to stakeholders outside of the organization. Take advantage of tools and resources to convert hard-to-understand metrics, such as kilowatt-hours or tons of waste, into vivid equivalents – numbers of cars removed from the road or numbers of trees saved. Research recognition programs that exist outside of your organization. An internet search of “environmental merit awards” will provide a host of ideas.


    1. Use existing resources and identify a mentor – however small a green project, it will definitely require additional time and effort. Share this work within your green team and use the expertise of company departments, but don’t forget that there are resources outside of your organization. A comprehensive list of green procurement resources is provided in the Green Purchasing General Resources section of this guide. These resources can be used as mentors in helping you throughout your journey to environmentally preferable practices. Many public agencies have publicly accessible green procurement plans as well.


    1. Don’t forget your suppliers – Talk to your suppliers about the recycled content or other environmentally preferable alternatives that may be available. Many large manufacturers across various industries advertise the fact that they are implementing environmentally preferable initiatives throughout their operations, and thus it should not be a new idea to request environmentally preferred or sustainable products from your suppliers. If it is, you may want to shop around for another supplier.


  1. Assess your current purchase – If you are still confused as to where to start when beginning an EPP program, conduct an assessment of your current purchases in all facets of your operations: Click here for a step-by-step assessment process:


Terms defined in this Glossary are based upon definitions generally accepted in the marketplace. NASPO’s use of these terms and definitions does not mean implicit endorsement.

Agricultural Bio-Based Products means commercial or industrial products that utilize agricultural crops or residues (other than those used for food or feed) but does not include products made from forest-related materials. Products derived from renewable resources, including fiber crops such as industrial hemp and kenaf, chemical extracts from oilseeds, nuts, fruits, and vegetables, agricultural residues such as wheat straw and corn stover, and wood wastes generated from processing and manufacturing operations are considered plant-based products. Terms such as “agri-based,” “bio-based,” or “naturally-derived” are often used when referring to plant-based products. These products stand in contrast to those made from extracted fossil fuels and other less renewable resources.

Air Pollution means a substance in the air that can cause harm to humans and the environment. Pollutants can be in the form of solid particles, liquid droplets, or gases. In addition, they may be natural or man-made. (See also, “Emissions”)

Air Quality Index or AQI means U.S. EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standard. The AQI reflects evolving health effects information and is reviewed and adjusted every five years as required by the Clean Air Act (U.S. 1990). The AQI is a function of measured pollutant concentrations and is measured daily by most large population centers. It is based on mathematical formulae, with the concentrations resulting in color-categorizing regional air quality as Good, Moderate, Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups, Unhealthy, Very Unhealthy, or Hazardous. See See also RACQ.

Alternative Energy means energy derived from such sources as solar, wind, geothermal (heat from the Earth’s interior), biomass, and hydropower (water or wave).

Bio-accumulation means the accumulation of substances, such as pesticides or other organic chemicals in an organism. Repeated exposure even to very low levels of toxins can be lethal over time.

Biodegradable means the ability of a material to be broken down into simpler compounds by microorganisms or other decomposers. Many different definitions and tests for biodegradability exist. Definitions of the different tests are available from the U.S. EPA, such as “Reliable scientific evidence that the entire product or package will completely break down and return to nature, i.e., decompose into elements found in nature within a reasonably short period of time after customary disposal” (16 C.F.R. § 260.7 (b)).

Biodiesel means an alternative fuel derived from biological sources. There are two kinds of biodiesel: Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO) and Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO). WVO is made from used vegetable oil that can be burned in a diesel-burning engine, often from fast-food restaurants or cafeterias. Making WVO into fuel involves a simple conversion process called trans-esterification. SVO is biodiesel made directly from plants like soy, switch-grass, flaxseed or rapeseed or even algae. SVO has been criticized as a culprit of driving up food prices, and for pollution caused by pesticides and herbicides used to grow crops. Biodiesel is considered cleaner than petroleum-based diesel as it releases less carbon monoxide, aromatic hydrocarbons, and particulate matter (soot). Common sources of bio-fuel include corn, soybeans, flaxseed and rapeseed.

Bio-diversity means the variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or even the entire earth as a bio-system. Bio-diversity is often considered a measure of the health of biological systems. Man-made products can adversely impact such systems by poor management or practices, including the introduction of harmful pollutants to soils, air, and water. (See also “Bio-accumulation”).

Bio-fuel means any fuel created from plants, including methane produced from plants or landfills, biodiesel, ethanol, wood or wood waste, and others.

Carbon Footprint means the amount of greenhouse gases and specifically carbon dioxide, emitted directly or indirectly, that is caused by an organization, event, product, or person, during a given period.

Carbon Neutral means the emerging international trend that describes products, operations, and activities that have had their emissions calculated and reduced wherever possible. The remaining carbon dioxide emissions are then “offset” through credits that fund renewable, emission-free energy projects such as wind farms and solar installations. The carbon offset market allows businesses to recognize and financially support the shift from fossil fuel to renewable energy. The exchange or offset purchase of clean or renewable energy credits from sources such as wind or solar power is a means of financially supporting alternative clean power technologies to the level that the company otherwise uses in the manufacture of goods from non-renewable and polluting sources. Think of this as a transitional “paying it forward” mechanism that provides corporate and private funding sources for the development of cleaner technologies at levels close or equal to the current resource or power consumption levels/ pollution caused by using current technology.

Example: “Products are made carbon neutral within production processes by offsetting thermal manufacturing emissions with Verified Emission Reduction Credits (V.E.R.C.) and the emissions from purchased electricity with Green-e certified wind-power Renewable Energy Credits (R.E.C.).” Several emerging businesses “broker” these “carbon reduction credits” between emerging clean energy projects (seeking funds), and emission generating businesses seeking to offset their current pollution-generating, energy consumption practices.

Carbon Offset means the specific quantity of GHG emission reductions (i.e.. a ton of carbon dioxide absorbed or avoided) from a project-based activity that is purchased in order to negate or diminish the impact of the recipient’s GHG emissions. When you purchase an offset, you alone have the right to all associated claims about the environmental benefits it embodies. An offset is to be regarded as real environmental commodity, and not a donation or investment in a future project. Green-e Climate Certified offsets are sourced from verified projects and pass stringent qualifications to ensure environmental quality. The purchase of a certified offset helps stimulate market demand for emission-reduction projects that can help mitigate the effect of climate change.

Carbon Trading means any trading system designed to offset carbon emissions from one activity such as burning fossil fuel to create electricity, driving, or flying, with another that is more efficient or less polluting.

Chlorine means a chemical used to disinfect water and as a bleaching agent for many cleaning and paper products. The process of making chlorine creates an extremely dangerous and damaging bi-product called dioxin.

Chlorine-free generally means paper products processed using minimal chlorine or chlorine derived processes.

  • ECF, Elemental Chlorine Free means a bleaching process that substitutes chlorine dioxide for elemental chlorine. Compared to elemental chlorine bleaching processes, ECF bleaching reduces the formation of many chlorinated organic compounds. However, it does not completely eliminate them and the quantity of effluent from mills is not reduced. Enhanced ECF with extended or oxygen delignification means a process that removes more lignin from the wood before bleaching than the traditional ECF method, and thus, fewer bleaching chemicals are required. In addition, compared with traditional ECF, this process reduces energy consumption by 30%, improves the quality of mill wastewater, and reduces the quantity of mill wastewater by nearly 50%.
  • PCF, Processed Chlorine Free means the recycled and de-inked recovered paper fibers are whitened without any chlorine. Since both forest conservation and reducing unnecessary chemical use is valued, PCF is advocated as the most environmentally preferable option.
  • TCF or Totally Chlorine Free means paper that is whitened without any chlorine bleaching, as applied to virgin fiber paper and not to recycled paper. If TCF is the option you desire then you should make sure all virgin fiber is 100% FSC-certified, and not extracted from endangered forests or illegally logged areas.

Climate Change means the change in long-term weather patterns, where climate is measured by the long-term average of a region’s weather. Based on the type of change, climates can become warmer or colder, and annual amounts of rainfall or snowfall can increase or decrease. (Also see “Global Warming”)

Cost Analysis means comparative pricing utilizing Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) or Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), as it relates to EPP.

Dioxins and Furans mean a group of chemical compounds that are classified as persistent, bio-accumulative, and toxic by the U.S. EPA.

Durability means the ability of a product to be reused for its intended purpose for a greater period than the average useful product life-span of other similar products, without significant degradation.

Durable Good means a product that can last for a relatively long time and yields service or utility over time rather than being completely used up when used once. Durable goods, non-durable goods, and services together constitute economic consumption. (See also “Soft Goods” or “Non-durable Goods”)

Eco-label means the term for a seal or logo indicating that a product has met a set of environmental or social standards.

Efficient means a product or service that has the least environmental impact on resources:

  • Energy Efficient means a product that is in the upper 25% of energy efficiency for all similar products, or that is at least 10% more efficient than the minimum level that meets federal standards. The term generally applies to electrical energy consumption
  • Water Efficient means low-flow use that is the least water-consumptive
  • Fuel Efficient means the highest rating in miles per gallon or lowest consumption of a convertible energy resource such as LPG, CNG, Natural Gas, or Oil, etc.

Electronic Waste or E-waste generally means unwanted electronic equipment, such as computers, VCRs, stereos, copiers, cell phones, fax machines, and other energy-consuming appliances containing circuitry (such as televisions and refrigerators) that although at the end of their useful life, sometimes can be salvaged, reused, refurbished, resold, or recycled. Whether discarded, surplus, obsolete, or broken, E-waste is produced by households, businesses, governments, and industries, and frequently contains such hazardous materials as lead and mercury, cadmium, beryllium, and brominated flame retardants. The processing of electronic waste in developing countries causes serious health and pollution problems. Especially in developed countries recycling and disposal of e-waste involves significant risk to workers and communities, and great care must be taken to avoid unsafe exposure in recycling operations and leaching of materials such as heavy metals from incinerator ashes and landfills.

Energy Efficiency means the use of less energy to accomplish the same task. Using less energy means less air pollution and lower costs. To save energy in your home, you can use weather stripping, a water heater blanket, or compact fluorescent light bulbs. Also when shopping for household appliances, look for the Energy Star label to find appliances that use less energy and lower electricity costs.

Emissions means the introduction of chemicals, particulates, biological materials, or other harmful materials into the Earth’s atmosphere, and possibly causing disease, damage to food crops, the natural or built environment, or death to humans. (See also Air Pollution and Air Quality Index)

ENERGY STAR® means the U.S. EPA’s energy efficiency product labeling program.

Environmental Labeling means any printed label on a package or product that provides environmental information regarding recycled content, recyclability, and reduced packaging, etc.

Environmental Policy means an organization’s overall aims and principles of action with respect to the environment, including compliance with all applicable legal requirements relating to the environment and the organization’s commitment to continual improvement of its environmental performance.

Environmentally Preferable Product or Sustainable Product (SP) means a product or service that has a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment, when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose. Such products or services may include products that contain recycled content, minimize waste, conserve energy or water, and reduce the amount of toxics disposed or consumed. (“See Sustainable Product (SP) or Environmentally Preferable Product”)

Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) means management practices that have two general objectives: the prevention of incidents or accidents that might result from abnormal operating conditions, and the reduction of adverse effects that result from normal operating conditions. For example, fire, explosion, and the release of harmful substances into the environment or the work area must be prevented. Also action must be taken to reduce a company’s environmental impact under normal operating conditions, such as reducing the company’s carbon footprint, and preventing workers from developing work-related diseases. Regulatory requirements play an important role in both approaches and consequently, EHS managers must identify and understand relevant EHS regulations, and the implications of which must be communicated to top management (e.g., the board of directors) so the company can implement suitable measures. Organizations based in the United States are subject to EHS regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations, particularly CFR 29, 40, and 49. Still, EHS management is not limited to legal compliance and companies are encouraged to do more than is required by law.

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) means the purchase of a product that has a lesser or reduced negative effect or increased positive effect on human health and the environment, when compared with competing products that serve the same purpose. Incorporating EPP in the procurement process considers raw materials acquisition, production, fabrication, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance, and disposal of the product. This term includes sourcing recyclable products, recycled products, and reusable products.

Environmental Product Declarations (EPD’s) means a third-party verified, internationally recognized, single comprehensive disclosure of a product’s environmental impacts throughout its entire life cycle. ISO 14025 defines the requirements for an EPD, and resembles a product nutrition label. The process requires four steps: 1) Identification or development of a set of Product Category Rules (PCR’s), 2) Conducting a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), 3) Third Party verification of LCA, and 4) Creating the EPD.

Environmental Profile Data Sheet (EPDS) means the information representing credible and comprehensive environmental information on the environmental burdens associated with the life cycle of products. The environmental profile is based on a holistic consideration of the raw material acquisition and manufacturing stages of a product’s life cycle, and incorporates additional tools such as risk assessment and environmental management systems. As a reporting mechanism, the EPDS provides a standard, cost-effective, understandable, and credible method of reporting environmental information. It is based on sound science, life cycle considerations, and third-party independent verification for information related to national and international issues and concerns.

Ethanol means the bio-fuel most commonly derived from the fermentation of corn into alcohol. New methods of transforming straw and other plant wastes into ethanol are making the production process even greener.

Electric Vehicle or EV means the term used to describe an all-Electric Vehicle. Power for these vehicles currently relies on batteries recharged primarily by plugging into an available electric power source. This technology has seen increasing innovation that has led to improved mileage range between recharging. Typically, most EV cars are limited to short-range commuting options of 100-200 miles between recharging, and are usually found in higher density urban settings with available recharging infrastructure. (See also “Hybrid Automobiles”)

Extended Producer Responsibility/Manufacturer’s Responsibility means a system whereby the producers or distributors/retailers of a packaged consumer product assume primary responsibility for the management and recycling of a product’s packaging.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) means plants and animals that through bioengineering are genetically altered to include traits that are not found in nature. Some corn, canola, cotton, and soy are commonly found GMOs. There are no GMO labeling requirements in the United States.

Global Warming means the increase in the near-surface temperature of the Earth. The warming (and cooling) of the Earth has occurred in the distant past as the result of natural influences, but the term is most currently used to refer to the warming predicted to occur as a result of increased emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide and methane, that make the Earth warmer by trapping energy inside the atmosphere. Scientists have recently suggested that the Earth’s surface has warmed by about 1 degree Fahrenheit in the past 140 years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently concluded that increased concentrations of greenhouse gases are causing an increase in the Earth’s surface temperature, while increased concentrations of sulfate aerosols have led to relative cooling in some regions, generally concentrated over and downwind of heavily industrialized areas. Fossil fuels used in the production of electricity contribute to two-thirds of these gases found in the atmosphere, which in turn causes changes in climate. A warmer Earth may lead to changes in rainfall patterns, a rise in sea level, and a wide range of impacts on plants, wildlife, and humans.

Green Chemistry means the reduction or elimination of hazardous substances in the design, manufacture, and application of chemical products.

Green-e (Green Electricity) means the nation’s first voluntary certification and verification program for green electricity products. The criteria require that at least fifty percent of the supply is generated from the sun, water, wind, burning of wastes (biomass), or geothermal heat from the earth. In addition, in the use of any traditional fuel, emissions of sulfur dioxide, (which causes acid rain), nitrogen oxide (which causes smog) and carbon dioxide (which causes climate change) must be lower than average. The companies that receive the Green-e designation must agree to an annual audit to ensure they have purchased a satisfactory amount of renewable power:

Green Public Procurement (GPP) means the European Union term for Sustainability-focused public purchasing (similar to EPP).

Greenhouse Effect means the effect produced as greenhouse gases allow incoming solar radiation to pass through the Earth’s atmosphere, without allowing most of the outgoing infrared radiation from the surface and lower atmosphere from escaping into outer space. This process occurs naturally and has kept the Earth’s temperature about 60 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it would otherwise be. Current life on Earth could not be sustained without the natural greenhouse effect.

Greenhouse Gases (GHG) means any of the gases in the Earth’s atmosphere whose absorption of solar radiation is responsible for the greenhouse effect. Changes in the concentration of certain greenhouse gases due to human activity such as fossil fuel burning increase the risk of global climate change. Greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, halogenated fluorocarbons, ozone, perfluorinated carbons, and hydrofluorocarbons.

Green-wash means the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.

Grid means the network of wires and cables which transport electricity from a power plant to your home.

Hazardous Waste means any refuse, sludge, or other waste materials or combinations of waste materials in solid, semisolid, liquid, or contained gaseous form that because of its quantity, concentration, or chemical, physical, or infectious characteristics and when improperly treated, stored, transported, or disposed of, or otherwise managed, may cause or significantly contribute to an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible or incapacitating reversible illness, or pose a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment. Categories of hazardous waste materials include explosives, flammables, oxidizers, poisons, irritants, and corrosives. Hazardous waste does not include source, special nuclear, or by-product material as defined by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954.

High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) means a type of plastic that is commonly used in milk and water jugs.

Hybrid Automobiles (and related terms) means automobiles that are part electric-part internal combustion hybrids that represent a green step forward for the automobile. Better mileage, lower emissions, better performance, and lower fuel bills make hybrids a great idea for both people and planet.

  • Advanced Hybrid means a hybrid-electric vehicle (HEV) that uses advanced energy recovery technologies (e.g., regenerative braking) and is capable of driving in all-electric mode. (See also “Hybrid-electric Vehicle” and “Hollow Hybrid”)
  • B20 meansbio-fuel composed of 20% biodiesel and 80% gasoline. (See also “Biodiesel”)
  • Biodiesel means a substitute for petroleum based diesel fuel that is produced from agricultural crops such as soybeans.
  • Cellulosic Ethanol meansa high-energy yielding ethanol fuel produced from cellulose, a naturally occurring carbohydrate commonly found in plant cell walls. Cellulosic ethanol has better life cycle energy and emissions profile than corn ethanol, but is currently more expensive to produce. (See also “Ethanol”)
  • CNG means compressed natural gas used as vehicle fuel.
  • Ethanol means a fuel type made by fermenting plant sugars. Nearly all ethanol produced in the U.S. today is from corn sugars. (See also “cellulosic ethanol”, “E85”, and “flex-fuel”)
  • E85 means a vehicle fuel type composed of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. (See also “Ethanol” and “Flex-Fuel”)
  • Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicles (FCHV) means the combining of pure hydrogen with air to create water, a reaction that also produces electricity. The fuel cell channels the electricity to a drive motor, powering the car. It is essentially an electric car, with the advantage that hydrogen tanks take much less time to fill than a battery takes to recharge.
  • Flex Fuel means apassenger vehicle with specially designed engine capable of running on E85 or pure gasoline. (See also “Ethanol” and “E85”).
  • Fuel Economy means fuel efficiency as a measure of fuel needed per unit of distance traveled, e.g. miles per gallon.
  • Hybrid-electric Vehicle or HEV is a fuel efficient vehicle type that combines an internal combustion engine with a battery-powered electric motor and other energy efficiency features.
  • Hollow Hybrid means a vehicle marketed as an HEV but lacking advanced fuel economy features such as regenerative braking and all-electric drive mode. (See also “Hybrid-electric Vehicle” and “Advanced Hybrid”)
  • Natural Gas Vehicle or NGV means a vehicle fueled by natural gas. (See also “CNG”)
  • Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle or PHEV means a vehicle type similar to HEV, but with smaller gasoline engine and larger battery pack that can be charged using a standard electrical outlet and provide an all-electric driving range of between 20 and 60 miles. (See also “Hybrid-electric Vehicle”)

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) means the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. IAQ can be affected by gases such as carbon monoxide, radon, VOCs, particulates, microbial contaminants such as mold and bacteria, or any mass or energy stressor that can induce adverse health conditions. Source control, filtration and the use of ventilation to dilute contaminants are the primary methods for improving indoor air quality in most buildings. Building materials including carpeting and plywood emit formaldehyde (H2CO) gas, and paint, solvents, and cleaning supplies can give off VOCs. Lead paint can degenerate into dust and be inhaled. Limiting toxic substances in purchased materials that will enter an indoor environment can improve IAQ.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) means an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties. Pesticides are used only after monitoring indicates they are needed according to established guidelines, and treatments are made with the goal of removing only the target organism. Pest control materials are selected and applied in a manner that minimizes risks to human health, beneficial and non-target organisms, and the environment. This pest management strategy includes using traps to monitor infestations, using better sanitation practices and beneficial insects to control the identified pests, and applying pesticides so that they pose the least possible hazard, and are used only as a last resort when other control methods have failed.

International Green Construction Code (IGCC) means the comprehensive set of requirements intended to reduce the negative impact of buildings on the natural environment. It is a document that can be readily used by manufacturers, design professionals, and contractors, and was created to be administered by code officials and adopted by governmental units as a tool to drive green building beyond the market segment that has been transformed by voluntary rating systems. It was developed by the International Code Council (ICC) in association with cooperating sponsors ASTM International (ASTM) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Other organizations indicating their support include the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), producers of the LEED green building rating systems, and the Green Building Initiative (the GBI), producers of the Green Globes green building rating system.

Kilowatt-Hour means the standard unit of measure for electricity. One kilowatt-hour is equal to 1,000 watt-hours.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™) means the system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council designed for rating new and existing commercial, institutional, and high-rise residential buildings that assigns a point rating scale for energy efficiency, water efficiency, EPP, materials management, and other factors related to sustainability in design and systems elements.

Lead-free means the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive or RoHS that was adopted in February 2003 by the European Union. The RoHS directive took effect on July 1, 2006, and is required to be enforced and become law in each member state. This directive restricts the use of six hazardous materials in the manufacture of various types of electronic and electrical equipment. It is closely linked with the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) 2002/96/EC which sets collection, recycling and recovery targets for electrical goods, and is part of a legislative initiative to solve the problem of huge amounts of toxic e-waste.

Life Cycle means the consecutive and interlinked stages of a product system from raw material acquisition or generation of natural resources, to its final disposition.

Life-cycle Assessment and Life-cycle Analysis mean the comprehensive examination of a product’s environmental impacts throughout its lifetime, including new material extraction, transportation, manufacturing, energy footprint, use, and disposal. It further means the compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs and the potential environmental impacts of a product system throughout its life cycle. These terms differs from a Total Cost of Ownership or Life Cycle Costing assessment, which focuses on the lifetime costs of acquiring, operating, and disposal.

Life-cycle Costing means the procurement evaluation technique that determines the total cost of acquisition, operation, maintenance, and disposal of items being acquired.

Life-cycle Design means an approach for designing more ecologically and economically sustainable product systems, and integrating environmental requirements into the earliest stages of design. In life cycle design, environmental, performance, cost, cultural and legal requirements are balanced. (The U.S. EPA Introduction to Environmental Accounting June 1995).

Life-cycle Impact Assessment means the phase of life cycle assessment aimed at understanding and evaluating the magnitude and significance of the potential environmental impacts of a product system.

Low VOCs means products with a smaller amount of chemical compounds that are typically found in industrial solvents such as petroleum fuels, paints, paint thinners, and dry cleaning agents, that have been positively correlated with better indoor air quality. Using products with low VOCs is especially important for chemically sensitive individuals.

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) means the compilation of information on a given product’s chemicals, health and physical hazards, exposure limits, and necessary precautions for use. MSDSSEARCH NATIONAL REPOSITORY

Megawatt means one thousand kilowatts, or 1 million watts; standard measure of electric power plant generating capacity.

Municipal Solid Waste means any garbage, refuse, and other solid waste from residential, commercial, industrial, and community activities that the generator of the waste aggregates for collection. Municipal Solid Waste does not include auto hulks, street sweepings, ash, construction debris, mining waste, sludge, tree and agricultural wastes, tires, lead-acid batteries, motor and vehicle fluids and filters, and other materials collected, processed, and disposed of in separate waste streams.

Net Metering means the method of crediting customers for electricity generated on site in excess of the customer’s own electricity consumption. Customers with their own generation offset the electricity they would have purchased from their utility.

Ordering Frequency primarily means the recurring instance of product inventory replenishment. Depending on end user storage capacity, this can be a valuable sourcing strategy that reduces the inefficient cycle of “convenience purchasing” (frequent ordering, shipping, handling, redistribution, invoicing, and payment processing). Reduced ordering frequency not only offers the opportunity to reduce overall costs, but also the chance to improve air quality by reducing transportation GHG effects.

Organic Food means food produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Thus “organic” refers to a specific set of standards used throughout the entire process of food production. Food that is certified organic comes from farms that have been inspected and approved by a third-party agent under the USDA’s guidelines. Organic certification prohibits the use of most conventional pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, bioengineering, and irradiation (also called ionizing radiation or “cold pasteurization”). Organic meat, eggs, poultry, and dairy come from animals not treated with antibiotics or growth hormones. Certified organic food is, by definition, free from GMOs. Also, any handling or processing of organic food must be done by certified companies. For example, organic beer is made from certified-organic malted barley, hops, and yeast, ingredients grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers.

Organic Pest Management means the pest management solution that does not introduce adverse materials or elements to the environment that could be considered harmful to humans, plants, or wildlife. The system prohibits the use and application of toxic chemical pesticides and strives to prevent pest problems through the application of natural organic horticultural and maintenance practices. All organic pest control products must be toxin or chemical free. Refer to California Certified Organic Foods (CCOF) for effective products and practices not using conventional chemicals.

Passive Solar means the process of using or capturing energy from the sun to heat water or for other heating purposes.

Persistent Organic Pollutants or POPs means organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation through chemical, biological, and photolytic processes. They therefore are capable of long-range transport, bio-accumulate in human and animal tissue, bio-magnify in food chains, and having potentially significant impacts on human health and the environment.

Polyethylene Terephthalate, PET or PETE means a thermoplastic polymer resin used to make soft drink bottles and other kinds of food containers. PET is also used to make fabric, food, and other liquid containers. (See also, “resin identification code”)

Photovoltaic or PV means the process of using technology to convert sunlight into electricity, and is often referred to as solar electric.

Plant-based Products means products derived from renewable resources, including fiber crops such as industrial hemp and kenaf, chemical extracts from oilseeds, nuts, fruits, and vegetables, agricultural residues such as wheat straw and corn stove, and wood wastes generated from processing and manufacturing operations. Terms such as “agri-based,” “bio-based” or “naturally-derived” are often used when referring to plant-based products. These products stand in contrast to those made from extracted fossil fuels and other less renewable resources.

Pollution Prevention means activity that diminishes or reduces the use, generation, or release of hazardous waste, toxic pollutants, hazardous substances, fugitive emissions, pollutants, or contaminants into the environment or the entering into the waste stream prior to recycling, treatment, or disposal, and thereby reduces hazards to public health and environmental.

Post-consumer Content means the manufacturing of a new product using materials that have already served their intended uses, and have been separated for recycling to be used as a raw material. In paper products, post-consumer content is a finished material made from paper that has been used by end consumers, been diverted from landfill and reconstituted into post-consumer recycled fiber in a recycling mill.

Post-Industrial Materials means materials generated by manufacturers or product converters, such as trimmings, overruns, and obsolete products that are incorporated back into the manufacturing process of the same or different products.

Pre-consumer Materials means materials and manufacturing by-products that would be destined for disposal had they not been diverted from the waste stream for reuse or recycling (e.g., paper trimmings left over after cutting envelopes from paper that are sold to another manufacturer to be used to make paper products) are consider pre-consumer materials. Pre-consumer material does not include materials and by-products generated by and commonly used in an original manufacturing process. (See also “Industrial Scrap”) For paper, pre-consumer/post-industrial recycled content means material or by-products generated after a paper product is manufactured but before it reaches the end-consumer (e.g., mill ends or products with finish flaws that aren’t sold at the store).

Post-consumer Materials means materials generated by consumer, business, or institutional sources that have served their intended use or completed their lifecycle and would be destined for disposal had they not been diverted from the waste stream for recycling (e.g., paper placed in a recycling bin by a consumer/end-user that is collected and re-pulped to make new paper products) are considered post-consumer materials.

Product Stewardship means an approach to product and materials management designed to improve resource utilization efficiency and promoting waste minimization. Product stewardship programs seek to establish responsibility and to apportion the costs of waste management among the specific participants in the various stages of a product’s life cycle. In this way, rather than being left to the consumer or the municipality, the full environmental costs of a product are internalized and end-of-life product management responsibility is clearly assigned to either the manufacturer, the retailer, or to other specific participants in the product life cycle.

RCRA means Section 6002 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 that directs the U.S. EPA to designate items that are or can be produced with recovered materials, and recommends practices for buying these items. Among other things, RCRA Section 6002 also provides criteria for the U.S. EPA to consider when selecting items for designation, and requires procuring agencies to establish affirmative procurement programs for designated items.

Reclaimed means the specialized process of cleaning and refurbishing an item for reuse. For example, carpet broadloom and tiles can be cleaned and refurbished to replace overly worn segments.

Recovered Material means fragments of products or finished products of a manufacturing process that has converted a resource into a commodity of real economic value, and includes pre-consumer and post-consumer material (for example, scrap material collected for remanufacturing into recycled finished products), but does not include excess resources of the manufacturing process. U.S. EPA’s definition for “recovered”, which is most widely accepted, does not include scrap such as paper created in the initial papermaking process, but it does include scrap created in a mill after the paper comes off the paper machine.

Recyclable Product means a product that can be diverted from the solid waste stream for use as a raw material in the manufacture of another product after its intended end use, and preferably one of higher value uses.

Recycled Content means the percentage of recovered material, including pre-consumer and postconsumer materials, in a product. (The amount of material by weight “collected, separated or otherwise recovered from the solid waste stream for use in the form of raw materials, in the manufacture or assembly of a new package or product (16 C.F.R. § 260.7 (d)).”

Recycled Content is the amount of pre and post-consumer recovered material introduced as a feed stock in a material production process, usually expressed as a percentage.

Recyclability means the potential of a material to be diverted from solid waste stream for the purpose of recycling and reprocessing into a new product.

Recycling is a series of activities that includes collecting materials that would otherwise be considered waste, and sorting and processing recyclables into raw materials such as fibers, and manufacturing raw materials into new products. (

Refurbished means the process of restoring a product by cleaning, repairing, recovering, and reusing the item for its original intended use, while maximizing the reuse of its original materials.

Remanufacturing is the dismantling of a spent product to clean and repair the product for the same use. Replacement parts must be new after-market parts that meet the same specifications as original equipment manufactured parts.

Renewable Energy means Green-e power. The non-profit organization Center for Resource Solutions established the Green-e Renewable Electricity Certification Program to encourage consumer confidence in buying green electricity.

Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) means tradable, non-tangible energy commodities that evidence that 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity was generated from an eligible renewable energy resource. These certificates are sold separately from commodity electricity, can be sold, traded, or bartered, and represent the environmental attributes of the power produced from renewable energy projects. RECs incentivize carbon-neutral renewable energy by providing a production subsidy to electricity generated from renewable sources.

Resin Identification Code means the internationally used resin identification coding system found on plastics to identify the polymer type, as developed by the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI). The primary purpose of the codes is to allow efficient separation of different polymer types for recycling.

Reuse means the use a product more than once, either for the same purpose or for a different purpose. Reusing is preferable to recycling because the item does not need to be reprocessed before it can be used again.

Reusable Product means any product designed to be used many times for the same or other purposes without additional processing except for specific requirements such as cleaning, painting, or minor repairs.

Shared Product Responsibility means the new trend in waste and pollution prevention policies that seek to expand the assignment of responsibility for waste management of packaging and spent consumer goods beyond the producer and consumer to include all participants along the life cycle of a product (including designers, suppliers, manufacturers, fillers, distributors and disposers, as well as consumers and governments).

Soft Goods or Non-durable Goods mean those consumable goods that are used-up when used once, or that have a lifespan of less than 3 years. Examples of nondurable goods include food, cleaning products, fuel, office supplies, packaging and containers, paper and paper products, personal products, rubber, plastics, textiles, clothing and footwear.

Source Reduction means products that result in a net reduction of the generation of waste compared to their previous or alternate versions, and includes durable, reusable and remanufactured products, products with no or reduced toxic constituents, and products marketed with minimal, or reduced, packaging. Examples are activities that prevent waste at its source, reducing the amount of material used or the toxicity of the material used to accomplish any task, the reuse of a product in its original form, and the use of repairable, refillable, or durable products that result in a longer useful life.

Specification means the concise statement containing a set of requirements to be satisfied by a product, material, or process that may also indicate the procedures to determine whether the requirements are satisfied. As far as practicable, the requirement should be expressed in terms appropriate to the desired end result.

  • Design Specification means the statement setting forth specific features, functional attributes or characteristics determined necessary for an item to possess, and provides precise and explicit information about the requirements for a product design. A design specification provides in-depth details about the functional and non-functional design requirements including assumptions, constraints, performance, dimensions, weight, reliability and standards. This type of statement limits a supplier’s response flexibility.
  • Performance Specification means statement setting forth performance requirements determined necessary for an item to perform its intended purpose and last. Tests or criteria may be developed to measure a product or service’s ability to perform and to last. This type of specification allows for flexibility in a supplier’s response.

Standard means a characteristic or set of characteristics for an item that is generally accepted by the manufacturers and users of the item as a required characteristic for all such items.

Supply Chain means the all-inclusive set of links from raw materials to customers, including extraction, transportation, fuels, and manufacturing. Examples include networks of retailers, distributors, transporters, storage facilities and suppliers that participate in the sale, delivery, and production of a particular product.

Surplus means any amount remaining after satisfying need or use.

Sustainability means the meeting of the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to fulfill their own needs.
Includes the “Triple Bottom Line”:

  • Equity – providing equal access to the natural resources that are needed to sustain societies around the globe. These resources include water, energy, and food, all of which come from the environment. Social disruptions divert resources from areas of greatest human need, reduce the capacity of societies to plan for the future, and generally threaten human well-being and the environment. The concept also includes inter-generational equity, providing future generations with the same resource potential as currently exists.
  • Economy – integrating social, cultural, environmental, health-related and monetary/financial aspects into our money supply chain. It must be ensured that  more resources are not being used than can be replenished so that there will be resources and financial stability in the future. The challenge for sustainability is to curb and manage Western consumption and raise the standard of living of the developing world without greatly increasing its resource use and environmental impact.
  • Ecology – managing resources today so they will continue to thrive and feed into biological cycles. Healthy ecosystems provide vital goods and services to humans and other organisms. By ensuring environmental adaptability and resilience, the adaptive capacity of the environmental system depended upon can be maintained and enhanced.

Sustainability Certification means compliance with a rigorous set of environmentally preferable criteria designed to meet specified performance and quality requirements similar to traditional, non-green counterparts. Certification is not a one-time activity, as companies are expected to commit to annual compliance monitoring, and to work towards continuous improvement.
U.S. EPA’s requirements for third-party certification:

  • Open and transparent standard development processes and award criteria
  • Criteria based on life-cycle (multi-attribute) approach
  • Clear consumer communication on the nature of certification
  • Regular updating of standards criteria
  • Facility inspection/site audit
  • Protocols for testing institutions/ labs
  • Access to certification for companies of all sizes

Sustainable Product (SP) or Environmentally Preferable Product means a product or service that has a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment, when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose. Such products or services may include those which contain recycled content, minimize waste, conserve energy or water, and reduce the amount of toxics disposed or consumed (See “Environmentally Preferable Products or Sustainable Products (SPs)”.

Sustainability Standards means standards for products, services, and companies that are based on life cycle research, developed in an open, transparent, and stakeholder-involved process. Standards provide criteria and guidelines for manufacturers, service providers, and companies to work toward sustainability and certification (see above).

Sustainable Development means the process of conducting business and commerce in a resource conservative and resource efficient manner such that operations do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The essential elements of this trend are the promotion and maintenance of business and community development strategies that lead to a better business environment in the future, one sustained by stable, healthful communities within a clean, safe environment.

Sustainable Purchasing means the process of purchasing materials, products, and labor in a manner that reflects fiscal responsibility, social equity, and environmental stewardship.

Sustainable Reuse means sustainable when it includes social supply chain considerations and the product is:

  • Reused indefinitely, maintaining performance and quality characteristics and environmental integrity without harmful releases to health or environment, as part of a closed loop take-back program in which only chemically contaminated used product is disposed of, or
  • Reused, and then returned safely to natural systems without any adverse effects to public health and environment

TheThree “Rs” mean reduce, reuse, and recycle:

  • Reduce means using less of a product or doing business differently when possible to reduce the amount and toxicity of trash discarded
  • Reuse means to repair/refurbish or find another use for something or redirect it to someone who can repair it or use it in its current state
  • Recycle means to reclaim, process, or disassemble for salvage and reuse something or its components, that were already used for an original purpose

Third-party Certification means the scientific process by which a product, process, or service is reviewed by a reputable and unbiased auditor (third party) to verify that a set of criteria, claims or standards are being met. (See also “Sustainability Certification”)

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) means the comprehensive accounting of the total cost of ownership, including initial costs, energy and operational costs, longevity and efficacy of service, and disposal costs. TCO may also include Life-cycle Assessment or Life-cycle Analysis for environmental impact. (See also “LCA”)

Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) means the publicly available U.S. EPA database that contains information on toxic chemical releases and other waste management activities reported annually by certain covered industry groups as well as federal entities.

Tree-Free means products that are made from agricultural residue or agricultural fibers.

Validation means the confirmation by an environmental verifier that the information and data in the organization’s environmental statement and performance report are reliable, credible, correct, and meet certain requirements.

Verification means the conformity assessment process carried out by an environmental verifier to demonstrate that an organization’s environmental policy, management system, and audit procedure fulfills certain requirements.

Virgin Products means products that are made with 100% new raw materials and contain no recycled materials.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) means chemical compounds containing carbon (with exceptions) that under normal conditions readily evaporates or vaporizes (e.g., chemicals that evaporate readily at room temperature). Typically, VOCs are industrial solvents often found in petroleum fuels, paints, paint thinners, and dry cleaning agents. The most common VOCs are emitted by consumer products such as cleaning solvents, paints, and printers in an indoor environment. Many building materials such as paints, adhesives, wall boards, and ceiling tiles, new furnishings, wall coverings, and office equipment such as photocopy machines can also off-gas VOC particles into the air.

Waste Disposal means the act of getting rid of unwanted items and material having no value in excess of their basic material content. Mixed municipal solid waste (MSW) is typically disposed of at landfills, mixed-waste composting facilities, or energy recovery facilities.

Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment or WEEE means the European Union directive adopted into law in February 2003 that sets collection, recycling, and recovery targets for electrical goods, and is part of a legislative initiative to solve the problem of huge amounts of toxic e-waste. The directive imposes the responsibility for the disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment on the manufacturers of such equipment. Those companies should establish an infrastructure for collecting WEEE, in such a way that “Users of electrical and electronic equipment from private households should have the possibility of returning WEEE at least free of charge”. Also, the companies are compelled to use the collected waste in an ecologically-friendly manner, either by ecological disposal or by reuse/refurbishment of the collected WEEE. (See also “E-waste”)

Waste Management means the collection, transport, processing, recycling, or disposal and monitoring of waste materials. The term usually relates to materials produced by human activity, and is generally undertaken to reduce their effect on health, the environment or aesthetics. Waste management is also carried out to recover resources from discarded materials.

Waste Prevention is an activity that prevents waste at its source, which includes reducing the amount of material used or the toxicity of the material used to accomplish any task, reuse of a product in its original form, and use of repairable, refillable, or durable products that result in a longer useful life. (See also “Zero-waste”) Waste Prevention is also known as source reduction, and means any change in the design, manufacturing, purchase, or use of materials or products (including packaging) to reduce their level or toxicity before they become municipal solid waste. Waste prevention also refers to the reuse of products or materials.

Waste Reduction means preventing or decreasing the quantity of waste being generated through waste prevention, recycling, or purchasing recycled and environmentally preferable products.

WasteWise means the free, voluntary U.S. EPA program through which organizations eliminate costly municipal solid waste and select industrial wastes, benefiting their bottom line and the environment. WasteWise participants can join as partners, endorsers, or both. WasteWise helps its participants meet goals to reduce and recycle municipal solid waste and selected industrial wastes.

Water-saving Products means products that are in the upper 25% of water conservation for all similar products, or at least 10% more water-conserving than the minimum level that meets federal standards.

WaterSense means the U.S. EPA partnership program that offers simple ways to use less water with water-efficient products, homes, and services.

Xeri-scaping means the practice of incorporating native (indigenous) and drought-tolerant plants or naturally low or zero-water consuming methods or product design elements into outdoor landscaping that promote the most efficient, lowest use of water or energy. An environmentally conscious form of landscaping intended to conserve water or energy resources as much as possible, that uses low impact features such as drip irrigation systems, mulch, natural and hard-scape materials (rock, brick, and wood, etc.), and solar lighting, etc.

The Xeri-scape concept (originated by is based on seven principles: 

  • planning and design
  • limiting turf areas
  • selecting and zoning plants appropriately
  • improving the soil
  • using mulch
  • irrigating efficiently
  • maintaining the landscape

Yard Waste means leaves, grass clippings, garden waste, weeds, shrub and tree waste that result from raking, cutting, digging, pulling or pruning activities in a yard, garden, park, whether from landscaped or natural open space environment.

Zero Waste means the philosophy that minimizes waste and resource consumption in order to conserve energy, mitigate climate change, reduce water usage, prevent toxics creation, and minimize ecosystem destruction. With almost one-third of greenhouse gas emissions attributed to the acquisition of materials, reducing consumption has the potential to significantly affect climate change. As more and more local governments and businesses commit to achieving zero waste, innovative techniques to reach this goal are being piloted across the country. From source reduction to product re-design, to reuse, to eliminating incentives for raw material extraction and land-filling, the path to zero waste requires moving beyond recycling to a more integrated and holistic resource management system.


Many states are required to award to the lowest responsive bidder. There are ways however to allow for award of green products. As an example of this, by using EPP performance specifications and non-cost factors to consider for evaluation purposes, the State of Washington is able to award EPP products and services that may be a higher purchase price than its non-EPP product and service. This will determine the lowest responsive bidder – not just the lowest bidder. Consider incorporating EPP performance specifications and non-cost evaluation factors into future solicitations.

Companies that claim breach of warranty for using remanufactured toner cartridges in their machines should be reminded of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Improvement Act, under Title 15, Chapter 50, Section 2302:

“(c) No warrantor of a consumer product may condition his written or implied warranty of such product on the consumer’s using, in connection with such product, any article or service (other than article or service provided without charge under the tears of the warranty) which is identified by brand, trade or corporate name; except that the prohibition of this subsection may be waived by the commission if:

      1. The warrantor satisfies the Commission that the warranted product will function properly only if the article or service so identified Is used in connection with the warranted product, and
      2. The Commission finds that such a waiver is in the public interest”

The manufacturer of the printer cannot void the warranty on the printer for customer use of a cartridge or refill kit manufactured by someone other than the printer manufacturer. This prohibition includes the use of compatible cartridges, and remanufactured cartridges. This is to help prevent against manufacturer monopolies and unfair pricing practices.

The Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Law also provides precedent:

The Supreme Court held that IBM could not threaten customers with termination of their data processing equipment leases just because they did not use supplies manufactured by IBM. Such practice constituted a “tying agreement” and was found to be to violation of the Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Law (IBM vs. the United States)

Procurement professionals don’t have to be intimidated when printer suppliers claim they will void a warranty on equipment if Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) ink or toner is not used. Nor should they be allowed to try to charge extra for not using the OEM ink or toner. This is illegal because this is referred to as product linking or a “tying agreement”. This knowledge can help buyers stand up for their right to free choice of supplies and suppliers because doing so is acting within the letter of the law. OEMs and printer service people are aware of lower priced supplies, so it’s in their best interests to convince buyers not to use competing products. Use this knowledge to defend against attempts by suppliers to infringe on warranty rights.

In Washington, the current contractor for remanufactured toner cartridges makes available the Clover Remanufactured cartridges and covers more than just the cartridge replacement. The guarantee/warranty of the Clover product (Office Depot Label) goes as far as to warrant the cost of service calls to the cost for a replacement printer if the issue is related to the cartridge itself. So the issue of the warranties or cost to replace them is not an issue.

Renewable energy is energy produced from naturally derived sources that replenish themselves over a period of time without depleting the Earth’s resources. The only way to ensure that green electricity is being used at a particular site is to produce it at that site through photo-voltaic panels (energy from the sun), a windmill, a small hydro turbine, or geo-thermal energy. Green Tags are certificates that are used to support the investment in green power production facilities. Visit Green-E for information regarding energy certification labels and renewable energy claims, or US DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for further information about renewable electricity generation.

There is truly an enormous volume of information available on the internet, and it is sometimes hard to differentiate which resources will provide the best information for decision-making. This guide provides a good starting point and resources for learning more about Environmentally Preferable Products and green purchasing options. Please refer to the resources and links provided in the attached Appendices.

The NASPO Green Purchasing Committee plans to develop a library of basic green specifications for commodities, and is interested in capturing such language that has been successfully applied to solicitations by states, institutions of higher education, and political subdivisions. There are currently several online resources and examples provided by the Responsible Purchasing Network (by subscription), and the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council that offer some guidance and suggested green purchasing language.

There are a number of certification standards and online resource sites available in the Green Purchasing General Resources section of this guide. When a supplier makes green claims, ask for clarifications:

      • Is their product or service certified under an existing label or standard?
      • How does their company define “green”?
      • Where are they located; does transportation have any bearing on their product or services?
      • What are the main features of their product or services that make them green?

Once this information is obtained, the claim can be validated or challenged. Refer to the Easing the Burden of Buying Green section of this guide regarding Verifying Claims, and specifically to the concept of “greenwashing.”

The listed resources and links found in the Green Purchasing General Resources section of this guide provide several online product-specific sites, as well as organizations that offer category specific product guidance. A bit of research using these provided resources will help users better understand what is available, and how to approach specifications tailored to their particular customer needs. See also FAQ #5.

Not all EPP goods are more expensive than OEM counterparts. For example, Remanufactured Toner cartridges can cost up to seventy-five percent less than their OEM counterparts. Some might argue that the quality of printing may not be equal, which may be true of some brands. Purchasers should do their diligence by requiring performance specifications, requesting and testing samples, and warranties that provide acceptable protections. Other examples include recycled content copy paper, and certain cleaning supplies. If customers are duplex printing, and only when necessary, lowered paper consumption should easily offset any small difference in the cost between virgin and recycled content paper. In recent years, thirty percent PCW paper has nearly dropped to the price point of virgin copy paper. The old argument that recycled paper is an inferior product is also outdated; again, ask for and test samples of these paper types, it is difficult to find any difference.

Cleaning supplies are a good example of TCO. When indoor air quality, VOCs, and employee health and sick leave risk from exposure to toxic chemicals are factored, the choice of reduced toxicity cleaning supplies becomes a measurable cost consideration.

First and foremost, there must be support from management or the highest possible authority, or trying to convince customers to “go green” will meet difficult resistance. If the organization is not interested in supporting or practicing sustainable values, change will be difficult at best. Once policy and support is in place, it is easier to make the case for green products, though it will still be challenging at times.

Review of the Green Purchasing Glossary of Terms; and the Green Purchasing General Resources section; will provide a basic idea of the difference between independent, science-based standards entities and industry self-certifying green label entities. Each has its place, depending on the level of EPP scrutiny users are willing to accept. Various industries are making positive strides toward environmentally-focused stewardship, acquisition, production, operations, transportation, and reductions in waste and pollutants to compete for market share. As sustainability becomes a greater part of the business equation, third party standards provide examples for business to compare theirs to, but often as not, industry standards provide a good measure of how business is trying to improve practices and become more environmentally responsive.

Despite best intentions, sometimes there are reasons for not fully investing in green products. Understanding motivations and presenting findings to decision makers from an economic, health and safety standpoint are a good approach. Gathering spend data, comparing green to existing products, and conducting a cost/benefit analysis are the most direct approach to convincing leadership to consider EPP. Small pilot projects often work better than large scale change.

The primary consideration for most purchasers is price, but sometimes performance can be a point of contention. An EPP product should not be disproportionately expensive or work less efficiently when compared to OEM, virgin, or comparable industry-standard products. Shipping can be another negative issue when considering LCA, as the GHG footprint is significant. Buying locally is usually better (if available) than acquiring a product from great distances. There are similar trade-offs to be considered that aren’t very different from considering the total cost of ownership for any procurement: local, regional, off-shore; meets minimum performance requirements, available at a reasonable cost, time, and does/ does not provide value-add features.


NASPO Green Purchasing Webinar Series


These profiles were created by the Responsible Purchasing Network (RPN) for NASPO.

RPN provided contracting assistance to the State of Oregon’s Department of Administrative Services on a two-state janitorial supplies contract that would serve the states of Oregon and Washington. The contract covers seven product categories including cleaning and building maintenance chemicals, hand soaps and sanitizers, waste can liners, disposable janitorial paper products, general cleaning supplies and related custodial equipment, powered janitorial equipment, and disposable food service ware. Assistance included product usage analysis, development of specifications and green core list, and creation of bid sheets with model product information for all seven product categories.

States with Green Purchasing Programs or Activities

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