Massachusetts– Launching the Next Green Purchasing Revolution
Massachusetts– Launching the Next Green Purchasing Revolution
By Scot Case and Dmitriy Nikolayev
In 1773, a group of disgruntled colonists boarded ships docked in Boston Harbor and tossed crate after crate of British tea overboard. Their actions served notice that business as usual was no longer acceptable. The colonists in Massachusetts wanted a greater say in the world.
That independent spirit continues today in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts central purchasing department, the Operational Services Division (OSD). In 1994, unsatisfied with the human health and environmental performance of many products, the purchasing department began researching and buying safer alternatives while continuing to obtain high quality products at low prices.
Massachusetts now buys almost $145 million in safer, more environmentally preferable goods and services. The improved environmental and cost performance of these higher-quality products generates savings of more than $1.7 million annually.
This article highlights some of Massachusetts’ experiences and recommends strategies others can adopt.
A 1993 Executive Order required all Massachusetts state agencies to implement a pollution prevention plan. OSD launched the Environmentally Preferable Products Procurement Program (the EPP Program) the following year as part of its pollution prevention plan.
When Massachusetts reformed its procurement laws in 1996 to embrace best-value strategies, state purchasing officials were even better equipped to introduce human health and environmental considerations into the purchasing process.
The Massachusetts EPP Program currently employs two people working within OSD. The EPP employees integrate environmentally preferable goods and services into state contracts. They are responsible for three key activities:
- Researching new products.
- Writing specifications.
- Promoting greater use of the safer products available on state contract.
Massachusetts executive-branch agencies are required to use the statewide contracts negotiated by OSD, many of which now include environmentally preferable options. Using the statewide contracts is optional for the court system, legislative branch, cities, towns, schools, other public and quasi-public agencies, and eligible not-for-profit corporations. Even when not required, however, many organizations prefer using statewide contracts to conducting their own procurements. The EPP Program encourages all eligible entities to use the statewide contracts for both the environmental and cost saving benefits.
The Massachusetts EPP Program has been involved in a wide variety of ground-breaking green purchases since its inception. Some of the most recent or innovative purchases include the following:
Computers are associated with significant environmental impacts throughout their entire lifecycle. They consume significant amounts of electricity, up to 40 percent of the electricity needed to power a typical office or school environment. They also contain hazardous metals like mercury, cadmium, and lead, which can make them dangerous to manufacture, dispose of or recycle.
In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to include substantial human health and environmental considerations into a computer purchase. When designing the request for response (RFR), Massachusetts incorporated a set of purchasing principles developed by a national coalition of more than 50 organizations facilitated by the Center for a New American Dream (www.govinfo.bz/5957-243). The resulting contract, worth almost $70 million a year, included provisions for reduced toxic materials, design for recycling, energy efficiency, recycled content, recycled or reduced packaging, and manufacturer take-back programs.
Massachusetts has also been very involved with the development of the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), a rating system that can be used to compare the environmental performance of desktop and laptop computers and monitors. After almost two years of development in an extensive multi-stakeholder process funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the EPEAT criteria are expected to be formally released in June 2006. Additional information on the criteria is available at www.govinfo.bz/5957-244. The Web site will eventually include a list of products meeting the criteria.
To ensure computers meeting the EPEAT standard will be available on state contract, Massachusetts requires contractors to work with the state “and interested environmental partners…to support future efforts aimed at improving the environmental design and performance of electronics in the marketplace. Such programs may include, but not be limited to, incorporating any upcoming Energy Star specifications…and meeting certification standards established by EPEAT.”
Copiers and Printers
Photocopiers and printers pose many of the same environmental risks as computers. To address these concerns, Massachusetts incorporated human health and environmental considerations into a single large contract covering “everything that prints.” The contract covers copiers, printers, fax machines, multi-functional products, and all of the supplies and services necessary to operate them.
The 2004 contract requires all medium- and high-speed copiers and printers to include double-sided printing and copying capabilities. It also prohibits equipment contractors from sharing any unsubstantiated information that might discourage the use of recycled-content paper and remanufactured toner and ink-jet cartridges.
The contract also expressed a strong preference for toner and ink-jet cartridges without imbedded technologies designed to limit remanufacturing options. Other desirable specifications included equipment that was easy to upgrade, use of recycled materials in plastic components, design for recyclability, the reduction or elimination of certain toxic substances, environmentally sound equipment take-back options, and compliance with the relevant European Union directives on equipment take-back and toxic substances.
In addition, rather than simply requiring Energy Star compliance, manufacturers were asked to provide specific energy use data so Massachusetts could calculate the true energy costs associated with each product. Massachusetts used the figures to determine the cost per printed page for each piece of equipment, a figure that was considered as part of its best value determination.
For additional information on the Massachusetts contract, visit the OSD Web site at: www.govinfo.bz/5957-245.
Most carpet fibers are petroleum-based synthetic materials. They are manufactured in a process that requires high inputs of energy and water that can also produce significant amounts of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which contribute to air pollution and smog. The adhesives used to install carpet can contribute to indoor air pollution. Used carpet also represents a sizeable share of items discarded in municipal solid waste with almost 3 million tons of carpet discarded each year. This volume could be significantly decreased if carpets are recycled instead of discarded at the end of their functional life.
In August 2002, Massachusetts awarded a state contract for carpet and flooring products that required minimum recycled-content standards and directed all suppliers to recycle–not dispose of–used carpet except in cases where such recycling may not be feasible (e.g. asbestos contamination). Before drafting the contract specifications, the purchasing team invited industry manufacturers and local suppliers to discuss what recycled content products were actually available and what environmental initiatives would be feasible without increasing costs. The purpose of the dialog was to push the market toward greater environmental stewardship without diminishing the bidder pool.
Despite the pre-bid conference effort, Massachusetts found that not all manufacturers and installers could provide the recycling services they promised, at least at a comparable cost to disposal. Rather than invoke penalties for non-compliance, the purchasing team took it upon themselves to negotiate pricing with three different carpet recyclers and two reuse facilities in the area. They then required the contract vendors to sign-on with one or more of these companies to recycle used carpet. Certifications and quarterly reports are required to demonstrate compliance with the recycling provisions. While the reports for FY2005 are still being submitted, it is clear that a greater rate of carpet recycling is already underway. In addition, the contract spurred a local manufacturer to develop a new product that incorporates a significant percentage of used carpet materials.
More information on the Massachusetts carpet and floor covering contract is available from OSD at: www.govinfo.bz/5957-247.
Massachusetts’ 2002 cleaning product purchase helped transform the entire institutional cleaning industry. Working with a group of other cleaning product purchasers representing about $15 million in annual purchases and facilitated by the Center for a New American Dream, Massachusetts became the first state to include an extensive list of human health and environmental criteria based on the Green Seal GS-37 standard in its cleaning products contract.
As a result of the successful use of the Green Seal standard in its contract, other purchasers soon followed Massachusetts’ lead. Their efforts created enough market interest in safer cleaning products that more than 250 products from more than 80 manufactures are now certified as meeting the Green Seal standard. This makes it significantly easier for purchasers across the country to identify safer, high quality, effective, and affordable cleaning products.
Other Recent Procurements
Massachusetts is always trying new strategies to identify high quality, affordable products with additional human health and environmental benefits. Some of the more recent and creative procurements include the following:
- Pool Ionization Systems – The state’s 2004 RFR for water treatment chemicals encouraged bidders to propose alternative water treatment strategies. Two vendors proposed and were awarded contracts based on an ionization technology that reduces chlorine use in swimming pools by 70 percent. The systems are approved for use by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The ionization technology is reducing health issues and helping pool operators reduce chemical expenses.
- Printing Services – All vendors providing printing services to Massachusetts agencies are assigned an “environmental stewardship score” based on their responses to a series of questions contained within the 2003 RFR. The EPP Program and others encourage agencies to award their print business to those printers with the highest scores. As printers implement additional human health and environmental initiatives, they are able to increase their scores.
- Diesel Retrofits – To make it easier for equipment operators in Massachusetts to reduce emissions and improve air quality, the Massachusetts EPP Program created a 2005 contract for innovative emission control equipment. The contract makes it easier and more affordable to retrofit existing vehicles and improve environmental performance.
Quantifying Environmental Benefits– Award Winning Innovation
It is not just the growing variety of green contracts that makes the Massachusetts EPP program a leader in the green purchasing movement. It is also the program’s willingness to tackle the tough issues.
Traditionally, one of the biggest challenges for many environmental purchasing programs is quantifying the environmental benefits resulting from improved purchasing decisions. Purchasers inherently know that buying a recycled-content or energy-efficient product is good for the environment, but it can be difficult to measure the benefits.
When faced with the need to demonstrate the environmental advantages of its efforts, the Massachusetts EPP Program developed an easy-to-use calculator to quantify the benefits. EnviroCalc is a spreadsheet-based tool for estimating the environmental benefits of buying recycled-content and energy efficient products. It also calculates annual cost savings from energy-efficient product purchases.
The National Association of State Purchasing Officials recognized the value of EnviroCalc to the responsible purchasing movement when it awarded Massachusetts the prestigious 2005 Gold Cronin Innovation Award for developing the tool.
Copies of the EnviroCalc tool along with the accompanying users guide are available at: www.govinfo.bz/5957-248.
Lessons Learned and Recommendations for Other Entities
During the past 11 years, EPP officials in Massachusetts have tried a variety of strategies for improving the human health and environmental benefits of its purchasing decisions. The following recommendations document some of the lessons they have learned.
Do Not Reinvent the Wheel
Given the growing interest in green purchasing, there are lots of readily available purchasing specifications. Rather than starting from scratch, begin by reviewing the existing specifications to determine what works well and what remains to be improved. Many times specifiers will be able to adopt or adapt specifications developed by others. Posting a question to the EPPNet listserv www.govinfo.bz/5957-249 is a good place to begin a search for relevant specifications.
Think Beyond Price
Whether a bid evaluation is based entirely on cost or includes other criteria, there are many ways of including human health and environmental concerns without compromising the low-cost priority.
- View the value of the product or service broadly and make the specifications reflect the broader perspective. Include such elements as product take-back services, closed-loop recycling systems, and other value-added services into the list of required or desired elements.
- In multi-year procurements, do not limit the contract to the product or service range available at the time the contract is signed. Reserve the right to add new products or services throughout the contract term. This makes it possible to add products with superior environmental performance as they become available or more affordable.
- Think about the contractor’s own operation as a component of the overall product or service value. Ensure that the bidders comply with applicable environmental regulations, but give preference to those making an extra effort to improve their environmental performance. In addition, require bidders to demonstrate efforts to improve environmental performance after contract award.
Leverage Your Purchasing Power
Do not underestimate an organization’s power as a buyer to compel contractors to meet additional human health and environmental requirements.
- Buyers obviously have the most power before a contract is signed. Consider pushing the bidders beyond their original proposal as part of the “best-and-final offer” or negotiation –and not just on price. Ask them to offer additional value-added services or even to match the environmental commitments of their competitors.
- Build measurable performance criteria and goals into the contract (e.g., percentage of products containing recycled content, energy efficiency performance metrics) and clearly define incentives for meeting them.
- Do not think improvements are impossible after a contract is signed. If a contract has renewal options, make the renewal conditional on improved environmental performance, price reductions, or other criteria.
Make Full Use of Vendor Resources
Vendors frequently have access to information that can make the purchasing department’s job much easier. Massachusetts has had success requiring and using vendor information in the following ways:
- Vendors can be a wonderful source of information about the human health and environmental benefits associated with some products and services. Be sure to solicit their input throughout the specification development process.
- Require the vendors to provide any necessary training in the proper use of environmentally preferable products. Many users, for example, might not know how to use the duplex settings on a copier or printer or might be using a green cleaner inappropriately. The vendors can be required to provide the necessary training to maximize savings and environmental benefits.
- Vendors can also be required to provide periodic reports tracking the environmental benefits associated with using their products. Such reports should include sales volumes, total costs, and environmental benefits.
Green Tea Party
Way back in 1773, the original participants of the Boston Tea Party began organizing around a simple belief. They believed individual citizens have a right to determine their own destiny. Their belief led to the creation of an entirely new form of government.
The purchasing community is organizing around a similar simple belief. They believe they have a right to high quality, affordable goods and services that provide additional human health and environmental benefits. Once again, an innovative movement is being led by a hearty Boston-based group.
About the Authors
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 responsible companies. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Dmitriy Nikolayev is the Procurement Manager for Facility and Environmental Services at the Operational Services Division, Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cleaning Products Update
The Center for a New American Dream, working with the Healthy Schools Campaign and the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, is launching a contest in mid-February to encourage schools across the country to switch to green cleaning products. Schools using Green Seal certified cleaning products are eligible to win one of three $5,000 prizes. Contest details are available at: www.govinfo.bz/5957-246.
For an archive of articles on sustainable purchasing practices, as well as information on environmentally preferable products and suppliers, visit: www.govpro.com and click on the Earth-Friendly Solutions Zone. Also find GPRO’s Green Purchaser series written by Scot Case.
For Additional Information
To learn more about the Massachusetts Environmental Preferable Purchasing Program, visit the program Web site at, www.govinfo.bz/5957-250 or contact Marcia Deegler, the Program Manager, at email@example.com
The ENERGY STAR Challenge: Build a Better World 10% at a Time
The following states and state-based organizations have joined with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to improve the energy efficiency of their own facilities and also encourage businesses and institutions within their jurisdictions to capture energy waste by reducing their building energy use by 10 percent or more.
California State Teachers’ Retire-ment System (CalSTRS) is calling on all of its real estate investment managers to improve the energy efficiency of their properties and to use EPA’s energy performance rating system to demonstrate that improvement.
In addition, CalSTRS is requiring property managers to contact tenants, building security staffs, and janitorial service providers to emphasize the importance of energy management and curtailing after-hours energy use.
The State of Delaware is committed to improving the energy efficiency of state facilities and K-12 school districts and encouraging commercial building owners to adopt smart energy practices.
Efficiency Vermont is Vermont’s statewide energy efficiency utility–the first of its kind in the United States. Efficiency Vermont helps all Vermonters reduce energy costs by making their homes and businesses energy-efficient. The agency provides technical assistance and financial incentives to help Vermonters identify and pay for cost-effective approaches to energy-efficient building design, construction, renovation, equipment, lighting, and appliances.
Institute for Sustainable Energy, Eastern Connecticut State University (ISE) will be instrumental in bringing the ENERGY STAR Challenge to public organizations and businesses in the State of Connecticut and across New England states.
ISE is a Connecticut-wide institution whose mission is to identify, develop, and become an objective energy and educational resource for achieving a sustainable energy future. In 2004, ISE was awarded an ENERGY STAR Award for Excellence in Energy Efficiency and Environmental Education.
The State of Maine is building on exisiting efforts and committing to promote the goals of the ENERGY STAR challenge. Maine is designing all new state buildings and publicly-funded schools to be as energy efficient as possible.
The State of New Hampshire is committing to a 10 percent improvement in energy efficiency across the over 1200 buildings it occupies. As the largest energy user in New Hampshire, with heating, cooling, and electricity costs greater than $18 million, New Hampshire demonstrated their commitment to energy efficiency when the Governor signed an Executive in October 2004 aimed at improving the energy efficiency of state buildings and operations.
The State of New York has made improving energy efficiency a priority. The State’s energy policy for its own facilities is clear in the Governor’s Executive Order No. 111, “Green Buildings and State Vehicles.” The order states, among other requirements, that state agencies and other affected entities shall strive to meet the ENERGY STAR building criteria for energy performance.
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is the agency that helps to carry out this executive order and brings the environmental and financial benefits of energy efficiency to New York’s school districts, universities, healthcare organizations, and companies.
The Ohio Department of Develop-ment Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) is encouraging schools districts and consumers to reduce energy use. The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) will be instrumental in bringing the ENERGY STAR Challenge to school districts. Some of OEE and OSFC’s activities include funding $25 million annually for energy efficiency investments in schools through the OSFC managed Energy Conservation.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) is committed to bringing the benefits of energy efficiency to its colleges, universities, K-12 schools, local governments, state agencies, and more.
Editor’s Note: For details on state and agency initiatives, as well as contact information, visit: www.govinfo.bz/5957-251.