U.S. Communities aims to help agencies go green
Type “green purchasing” into Google (or any other search engine, for that matter), and you’re confronted with a seemingly infinite selection of Web sites and resources on the topic. With so much being written about the subject in recent years, the prospect of finding the right information to help launch a green purchasing program can seem overwhelming.
That’s the motivation behind U.S. Communities’ Going Green program.
U.S. Communities, a nationwide purchasing cooperative for local and state agencies, K-12 school districts, higher education and nonprofits, unveiled the Going Green program in 2006 to provide a one-stop source for public entities to purchase a range of environmentally friendly products and services. Through the program’s Web site (which was revamped this past fall), Going Green also aims to be a clearinghouse of information for agencies seeking to create a green purchasing program or to tweak their existing program.
“The objective is to help our participating agencies or any public agencies be able to implement their green programs easier, faster and cheaper,” Connie Kuranko, U.S. Communities program manager, told GovPro.com.
The Web site lists thousands of green products from U.S. Communities contracts and organizes them into categories such as school supplies, office supplies, electrical and data communications, education furniture, janitorial supplies, park and playground, and auto parts and accessories. Product suppliers include Virco (school furniture), Graybar (electrical and data communications), Zep (janitorial supplies) and AutoZone (auto parts and accessories).
“For any one of the categories, we have cutting-edge green products,” Kuranko said.
Included on the site is a search tool that indexes green products from U.S. Communities contracts. Type in “copy paper,” for example, and dozens of choices for environmentally preferable paper appear.
For visitors seeking to do more than just purchase green products and services, buttons on the left side of the page offer a number of resources:
- The “Upcoming Events” button highlights green trade shows, conferences and workshops taking place throughout the country.
“About Our Suppliers” highlights the green certifications, awards and initiatives of U.S. Communities suppliers such as H.D. Supply, Ricoh and Landscape Structures.
- “Resources” offers downloadable documents designed to offer assistance in implementing a green purchasing program. The page includes examples of agencies’ green purchasing policies, a green glossary and green calculators.
- “Trainings and Seminars” provides an archive of educational events and presentations related to environmentally friendly purchasing.
- “Best Practices” offers a forum for purchasing professionals and other stakeholders to share green purchasing success stories and strategies.
- “Certifications and Standards” provides an overview of green standards such as EcoLogo, Green Seal, Energy Star and EPEAT.
The “U.S. Communities Solutions” button toward the bottom of the page offers several downloadable documents with information on energy management as well as the U.S. Communities LEED and STARS matrices. It also offers a step-by-step guide for creating a green purchasing program. The inspiration for the guide came from feedback received at U.S. Communities workshops on green purchasing.
“When we do these workshops, a lot of people ask, ‘Do you have instructions? How do I get started? What products should I start with?’” Most of us who were doing these workshops were getting bombarded with requests for information,” Kuranko said. “So U.S. Communities decided to put this step-by-step guide together. We’re always happy to answer more detailed questions, but at least it’s a place to start.”
Going Green has been so popular with U.S. agencies that U.S. Communities’ sister organization to the north, Canadian Communities, is working on a green program of its own. According to Scott Wilson, program manager for Canadian Communities, the first step in getting the program off the ground will be conducting workshops to show agencies how to access green products and to provide some help with building a green purchasing program.
“We’ve found that Canadian agencies are very interested in green purchasing, and it’s a very large concern for them,” Wilson told GovPro.com. “It’s something that they’re constantly looking at.”