Making Federal Government Purchasing Greener

greenproductsWith the holiday season around the corner, your family may seem like the biggest purchaser of goods and services— but holiday season aside, the government is the largest single purchaser of goods and services, in the world. In fact, the federal government purchases more than $500 billion per year in goods and services.

Although our shopping list may contain similar items as yours – cleaning products, light bulbs, electronics, and paper for your printer- the federal government buys millions of these items. And there are a number of requirements that we have to meet before we can buy, including a mandate to meet a 95% goal for sustainable purchasing.

So how does the federal government identify and buy greener, more sustainable products? You may be familiar with some of EPA’s ecolabels such as Energy Star, WaterSense, and Design for the Environment – labels that identify products meeting strict federal standards for energy, water and safer chemicals. And there’s USDA’s BioPreferred label for bio-based products.

One of the challenges for federal buyers has been sorting through the hundreds of other products with non-governmental or private labels that claim to be safe or environmentally friendly. Over the last few years, EPA and other federal agencies got together to figure out how best to meet this challenge.

After considering some really good ideas and consulting outside experts, EPA just released draft Guidelines for public comment. The guidelines are a set of criteria for assessing private sector standards and ecolabels, considering factors such as how standards are developed and managed, as well as their environmental effectiveness.

Read about the work EPA researchers are doing to develop these guidelines.

We are seeking comment from the public about how standards and ecolabels should be assessed and what role private entities, working with the government and other stakeholders, might have in that process. We look forward to hearing from you on the guidelines and how best to “green” federal government purchasing.

The guidelines will help ensure that taxpayer dollars are being put to good, greener and more efficient use. We hope the government’s buying power will stimulate market demand for greener products and services.

By using ecolabels and standards, we can protect the planet and save money across the public sector, private sector, and in our homes.  By sourcing products that are safer and green now, we can protect and better serve future generations – so in many ways, greener goods and services are gifts that keep on giving.

For more information on the draft Guidelines, please visit: