‘Green’ policy saves money, environment
King County, Wash., has instituted a “green” purchasing policy that directs county agencies to buy products that produce less waste, are less toxic and consume less energy than typical products. The policy has helped the county save money and protect the environment.
The policy is the outgrowth of King County’s “buy recycled” program, which began in 1989. That year, local recycling companies approached the county council with concerns about finding stable markets for the materials they collected. Because the county promoted recycling programs for residents, it decided to lead by example and be the first in line to buy recycled products.
The county council adopted a policy directing county agencies to purchase recycled products “whenever practicable.” In 1995, it revised the policy to also include products that reduce waste/toxic materials and conserve energy.
Since then, the county has saved approximately $500,000 annually by purchasing environmentally preferable products instead of customary products. Those savings are measured in product costs and in reduced maintenance or replacement costs, says Eric Nelson, program manager for the county.
In addition to saving money, King County has saved resources by refurbishing products. For example, it dry-cleans vehicle air filters and hydrostrips signs instead of buying new products.
During fiscal year 2001, county agencies spent about $2.6 million on recycled paper, which comprises the majority of the county’s “green” purchases. Additionally, county agencies spent about $1.2 million on non-paper materials including remanufactured antifreeze, plastic lumber, re-refined oil and retreaded tires.
King County officials continue to evaluate products for inclusion in the countyÕs “green” purchasing program. This year, they are evaluating biodiesel, “green” cleaning chemicals and vegetable oil lubricants.