Trends and Resources for 2006
As 2005 draws to a close, responsible purchasing advocates and practitioners are looking forward to 2006. The new year will showcase a variety of responsible purchasing efforts in a new light, which will make it easier and more important for purchasing officials across the country to integrate them into their routine practices.
The two efforts likely to draw the most attention are green computers and safer cleaning products in schools.
In addition to providing a brief preview of the green computer and school cleaning product projects, this article also includes an annotated index of the most popular, responsible purchasing Web sites in response to several reader requests.
Government agencies representing more than $20 billion in purchasing power already are referencing the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) in Requests for Proposals. EPEAT is an environmental performance-rating tool that can be used to identify safer, less hazardous desktop computers, laptops, and monitors. The tool is about to become a prime factor in information technology purchases.
Computer equipment can earn EPEAT designation at one of three levels–bronze, silver, or gold–based on an extensive series of environmental performance requirements. Earning the baseline bronze rating, for example, requires meeting 22 mandatory criteria. Higher performance ratings are possible based on a product’s ability to meet an additional 33 optional criteria.
A group of more than 30 manufacturers, federal agencies, state and local purchasing officials, information technology managers, and environmental nonprofit entities has been developing EPEAT since June 2003. The EPEAT development team currently is incorporating final comments. The final criteria will be finalized in March 2006. Manufacturers already are evaluating computer equipment and redesigning where necessary to meet the criteria.
Products earning EPEAT designation will be listed on an extensive database available at www.govinfo.bz/5197-201. The Web site also includes a copy of the EPEAT criteria, extensive information about the development of EPEAT, and links to additional information.
Safer Cleaning Products in Schools
One of every three chemicals used to clean school buildings and other public facilities in the United States is known to cause human health or other environmental problems. As a result, school administrators, principals, teachers, students, and parents increasingly are pushing for assurances that the cleaning products used in their schools are safe. New York State determined protecting student health was important enough to pass legislation requiring all schools in the state to use safer, “green” cleaning products.
Many government purchases already require cleaning products to meet Green Seal’s GS-37 or GS-40 standards. There currently are more than 180 Green Seal-certified products from more than 50 manufacturers. The products are widely available and perform as well as traditional products, without any additional cost.
To encourage more schools to require the use of safer Green Seal-certified products, environmental organizations including the Center for a New American Dream, Healthy Schools Campaign, and Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health are launching a campaign to raise awareness about the potential risks associated with traditional cleaning products and the safer alternatives available.
The green cleaning in schools campaign will include a series of nationwide contests in which $5,000 prizes will be randomly awarded to schools that are using Green Seal- certified cleaning products.
Contest organizers hope the student health benefits and potential prize money will encourage large numbers of schools to switch to safer cleaning products. If the initative is successful, schools might be clamoring for state and local purchasing officials to make the Green Seal-certified cleaning products more readily available through existing contracts.
Additional information on the green cleaning contest will be available at www.govinfo.bz/5197-202.
Over the last five years, the number of responsible purchasing Web sites has exploded. The following list offers several good places for purchasing officials to begin:
ECO-SAT (www.govinfo.bz/5197-203) – ECO-SAT is a Web-based, green purchasing self-assessment tool prepared by the North American Green Purchasing Initiative (NAGPI). The tool was designed to help professional purchasers evaluate their organization’s environmental purchasing initiatives and identify opportunities for improvement. Eventually, after sufficient numbers of organizations have used the tool, users will be able to compare their results with the results of other users.
Energy Star Program (www.govinfo.bz/5197-204) – The U.S. Federal Government’s Energy Star program establishes energy-efficiency criteria for a wide variety of products in more than 40 product categories. The site lists all products meeting the efficiency requirements. It also includes recommended purchasing specifications and online training resources.
Environmental Choice (www.govinfo.bz/5197-205) – The Environmental Choice Web site includes more than 100 environmental standards and links to companies selling products certified to meet the standards.
EPA’s Buy Recycled Program (www.govinfo.bz/5197-206) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG) program identifies all the recycled-content products that federal agencies and others spending federal money are required to buy and recommends minimum recycled-content requirements. Currently, more than 60 commodities are listed in eight broad categories, including office supplies, construction, and vehicle products. The site also includes lists of manufacturers and vendors selling the designated recycled-content products.
EPA’s Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) Program (www.govinfo.bz/5197-207) – EPA’s EPP Web site contains an extensive variety of resources documenting the rapidly growing, environmentally responsible purchasing movement. The site includes federal, state, and local government case studies, promising practices, training resources, and tools to make green purchasing easier.
EPP Contracts Database (www.govinfo.bz/5197-208) – EPA’s contract database is an online, searchable database of contract language, environmental performance standards and specifications, environmental labels, product lists, and useful information. The information is organized by commodity into several “stores” for visitors who prefer to browse the database rather than searching for specific information.
EPPNet (www.govinfo.bz/5197-209) – Established by the Northeast Recycling Council in 1998, the EPPNet listserv limits membership to purchasing professionals with an interest in responsible purchasing issues. With hundreds of purchasing professionals currently participating, the listserv has become one of the most valuable resources for purchasers seeking information on affordable, high-quality, environmentally responsible products. The site includes a searchable archive.
Global Ecolabeling Network (www.govinfo.bz/5197-210) – The Global Ecolabeling Network (GEN) is an association of the world’s environmental label organizations. The Web site includes links to member organizations. Members’ environmental standards are organized by commodity. This allows users to quickly view all the environmental standards for any single commodity. For example, clicking on “cleaning products” provides links to the standards developed by each of the 12 environmental labeling organizations around the world that has developed a green cleaning product standard.
Green Seal (www.govinfo.bz/5197-211) – The Green Seal Web site includes detailed environmental standards for dozens of commodities. The site also includes a list of all Green Seal-certified products with links to the manufacturers. Purchasers are using the site to research or develop purchasing specifications and to formulate potential bidder lists.
King County, WA (www.govinfo.bz/5197-212) – The King County Web site is one of the most extensive non-federal Web sites devoted to responsible purchasing issues. The site includes the county’s annual green purchasing reports dating to 1994, specifications and contract language, and model procurement policy language. The site offers extensive resources plus almost 100 back issues of its green purchasing bulletins dating to 1997. They describe purchases of products ranging from remanufactured toner cartridges to lead-free wheel weights.
Massachusetts (www.govinfo.bz/5197-213) – Provides information on Massachusetts’ extensive experience with environmentally preferable products and services.
New American Dream (www.govinfo.bz/5197-214) – The New American Dream site includes a useful “getting started” section that provides an overview of the responsible purchasing movement, information on establishing a responsible purchasing policy, and a review of successful strategies government purchasers are using. The site also tracks responsible purchasing policies and practices.
White House Office of the Federal Environmental Executive (www.govinfo.bz/5197-215) – The Office is tasked with ensuring that all federal agencies are meeting their green purchasing obligations. Web site includes case studies, resources for federal purchasers, and an extensive overview of the federal government’s green purchasing effort.
Editor’s Note: Scot Case is the Director of the Faculty Institute at Alvernia College in Reading, PA. The institute provides a
wide range of consulting services, including helping purchasers buy more responsible products and services from more environmentally responsible companies. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Soy Biodiesel Fuel, Lubricants, and Solvents Gain Acceptance
In the 10 months since the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an amended rule to the 2002 Farm Bill supporting biobased products, government agencies and the military continue to expand their use of environmentally safe, soy-based products.
In March 2005, the U.S. Navy enacted a policy stating that the majority of nontactical vehicles must operate on a B20 blend of biodiesel fuel (20 percent soy biodiesel and 80 percent No. 2 diesel) whenever possible. The Navy is one of the U.S. government’s largest consumers of petroleum diesel fuel.
In September 2005, the USDA released a draft rule on the first of several designation lists that will outline which products have significant biobased materials content and are priced competitively for government agencies to consider purchasing.
These six items have been officially designated:
Hydraulic fluids (for mobile equipment) – 24% Minimum biobased content
Penetration lubricants – 71% Minimum biobased content
Diesel fuel additives – 93% Minimum biobased content
Urethane roof coatings – 62% Minimum biobased cContent
Bedding, bed linens, and towels – 18% Minimum biobased content
Water tank coatings – 62% Minimum biobased content for use
USDA will invite manufacturers and vendors to post lists of their products that fall under these categories as soon as this rule has been officially published.
In addition to the U.S. Navy, a significant number of government entities already are using biobased products, including the U.S. National Park Service. Twenty-three national parks now use biodiesel in vehicles and equipment, and 31 national parks use soy-based lubricants, bar and chain oils, and hydraulic fluids in their operations.
“We are excited to see that our government is doing more than just considering purchasing soy-based products. They are backing U.S. soybean farmers, researchers, and manufacturers by using them,” says Todd Allen, Chair of the United Soybean Board (USB) New Uses Committee.
The USB and the Soybean Checkoff, a soybean marketing program funded by soybean farmers and administered by the USDA, support research and development of soy technology to deliver safe alternatives to petroleum products on the market. Soy biodiesel substantially reduces unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter; increases cetane and oxygen content; and features high fuel lubricity that enhances the performance of diesel engines. Soybean Checkoff research has shown that when compared with petrochemical-based oil, soybean oil lubricants have a higher viscosity index, lower evaporation loss, and enhanced lubricity.
To learn more about how biodiesel is impacting government agencies, visit the National Biodiesel Board by logging on to www.govinfo.bz/5197-216.
For more information about soy-based product use by government entities, visit www.govinfo.bz/5197-217.
To learn about the USB’s Soy Products Guide, see the sidebar, “A Guide to Soy-Based Products.”
A Guide to Soy-Based Products
Soy-based technology has gained support among government agencies as more soy products offer attractive alternatives to petroleum cleaners and contribute to the reduction of U. S. dependence on foreign oil.
The Soy Products Guide, developed by the United Soybean Board (USB) and the Soybean Checkoff, a soybean marketing program funded by soybean farmers and administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has provided unbiased information on commercial and industrial soy-based products for customers seeking to buy “green” since its first publication in 1991.
The guide, available in both print and online versions, lists soy-based products in three categories: Consumer Products, Ingredients and Intermediates, and Industrial Products. Each listing includes a product description and technical information provided by the manufacturer, plus company contact data. The online version of the guide is updated daily. The printed version is updated each fall. (USB does not endorse or guarantee any product listed in the product guide.)
Companies may submit product listings for the guide by sending product names and descriptions, and company name, mailing address, phone/fax numbers, and e-mail and Web site addresses, via e-mail to USB at email@example.com.
To view the online version of the Soy Products Guide, log on to www.govinfo.bz/5197-218 and click on the products guide tab. To order a print copy of the catalog, send an e-mail request to firstname.lastname@example.org.