Environmentally Preferable Purchasing

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Environmentally preferable purchasing

Environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP) invokes the practice of buying products with environmentally-sound qualitiesreduced packaging, reusability, energy efficiency , recycled content and rebuilt or re-manufactured products. It was first addressed officially with Executive Order (EO) 12873 in October 1993, "Federal Acquisition, Recycling and Waste Prevention," but was further enhanced in September 14, 1998, in by EO 13101 also signed by President Clinton. Entitled, "Greening the Government through Waste Prevention, Recycling and Federal Acquisition," it superseded EO 12873, but retained similar directives for purchasing. The "Final Guidance" of directives was issued through the Environmental Protection Agency in 1995.

What the federal government would adopt as a guideline for its purchases also would mark the beginning of environmentally preferable purchasing for the private sector, and create an entirely new direction for individuals and businesses as well as governments. At the federal level, the EPA's "Final Guidance" was issued to apply to all acquisitions, from supplies and services to buildings and systems. It developed five "guiding principles" for incorporating the plan into the federal government setting.

The five guiding principles are listed as follows:

  • Environment + Price + Performance = Environmentally Preferable Purchasing
  • Pollution prevention
  • Life cycle perspective/multiple attributes
  • Comparison of environmental impacts
  • Environmental performance information

Through its web site, in an entire section devoted to environmentally preferable purchasing, product and service information is provided that includes alternative fuels, buildings, cleaners, conferences, electronics, food serviceware, carpets, and copiers.

In the private world of business, environmentally preferable purchasing has promised to save money, in addition to meeting EPA regulations and improving employee safety and health. In an age of environmental liability , EPP can make the difference when a question of environmental ethics , or damage arises.

For the private consumer, purchasing "green" in the late 1960s and 1970s tended to mean something as simple as recycled paper used in Christmas cards, or unbleached natural fibers for clothing. By 2002, the average American home is affected in countless additional waysenergy efficient kitchen appliances and personal computers; environmentally-sound household cleaning products; and, neighborhood recycling centers. To be certified as "green" things such as recyclability, biodegradability, organic ingredients, and no ozone depleting chemicals are tested.

Of those everyday uses, the concern over cleaning products for home, industrial, and commercial use has been the focus of particular attention. Massachusetts has been one of the state's that has taken a lead in providing leadership on the issue of toxic chemicals with its Massachusetts Toxic Use Reduction Act. With a focus on products that have known carcinogens and ozone-depleting substances, excessive phosphate concentrations, and volatile organic compounds, testing has been continued to provide alternative products that are more environmentally acceptableand safer for humans and all forms of life, as well. By 2002, the state had awarded contracts to six firms selling environmentally preferred cleaning agents.

The products approved for purchasing must follow the following mandated criteria:

  • contain no ingredients from the Massachusetts Toxic Use Reduction Act list of chemicals
  • contain no carcinogens appearing on lists established by the International Agency for Research on Cancer , the National Toxicology Program, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ; and not contain any chemicals defined as Class A, B. or C carcinogens by the EPA
  • contain no ozone-depleting ingredients
  • must be compliant with the phosphate content levels stipulated in Massachusetts law
  • must be compliant with the Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) content levels stipulated in Massachusetts law

The National Association of Counties offers an extensive list of EPP resources links through its web site. In addition to offices and agencies of the federal government, the states of Minnesota and Massachusetts, and the local governments of King County, Washington and Santa Monica, California, the list includes such organizations as, Buy Green, Earth Systems' Virtual Shopping Center for the Environment (an online database of recycling industry products and services), the Environmental Health Coalition, Green Seal , the National Institute of Government Purchasing, Inc., and the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable. Businesses and business-related companies mentioned include the Chlorine Free Products Association, Pesticide Action Network of North America, Chlorine-Free Paper Consortium, and the Smart Office Resource Center.

[Jane E. Spear ]



Argonne National Laboratory, (U.S. Department of Energy). Green Purchasing Links. [cited June 2002]. <http://www.anl.gov/P2>.

Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Environmentally Preferable Products Procurement Program. [cited June 2002]. <http://www.state.ma.us/osd>. Environmental Protection Agency.

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing. 1998 [cited April 2002]. <http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/epp/finalguidance.htm>.

National Association of Counties. Environmentally Preferred Purchasing Resources. [cited July 2002]. <http://www.naco.org/links/env_pur.cfm>.

National Safety Council/Environmental Health Center. Environmentally Preferable Purchasing. May 8, 2001 [June 2002]. <http://www.nsc.org/ehc>.

NYCWasteLe$$ Government. Environmentally Preferable Purchasing. October 2001 [June 2002]. <http://www.nycwasteless.org/gov-bus/citysense/epp.htm>.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Environmentally Preferable Purchasing. [cited June 2002]. <http://www.epa.state.oh.us/opp/eppmain.html>.


Earth Systems, 508 Dale Avenue, Charlottesville, Virginia USA 22903 434-293-2022, <http://www.earthsystems.org>

National Association of Counties, 440 First Street, NW, Washington, D.C. USA 20001 202-393-6226, Fax: 202-393-2630, <http://www.naco.org>

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. USA 20460 202-260-2090, <http://www.epa.gov>

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