Greening the Federal Purchasing Machine – Leading By Example

By Jim Jones

Did you know that the Federal government is the single largest consumer in the world, spending close to $500 billion each year on a wide variety of products and services?

And did you know that in March the President issued an Executive Order directing federal agencies to meet a goal of buying 100% environmentally preferable products and services? This can make a big difference in reducing our environmental footprint. It can also spur consumers and the private sector to use and demand safer and greener products.

Of course the big challenge for federal agencies is how to sort through the hundreds of products with private labels that claim to be safe or environmentally friendly.

Now it just got easier for federal agencies.

First, the Executive Order directs feds to buy products identified by EPA’s Safer Choice, EnergyStar, WaterSense, SNAP, and SmartWay programs, USDA’s BioPreferred, and DOE’s FEMP programs to meet their needs.

Second, we are evaluating current private eco-labels to help federal buyers sort through which ones are the most credible and environmentally-preferable. We are using our draft Guidelines for Environmental Performance to do this pilot. We’re focusing on standards and ecolabels for 1) furniture; 2) flooring; and 3) paints and coatings. The results will help us with evaluations of other product categories in the future. For more information on our pilot, see

And third, in the meantime, we’ve released interim recommendations of standards and ecolabels to help federal buyers green their purchases. These include standards and ecolabels for construction, adhesives, flooring, insulation, paint, wood, custodial products, electronics, grounds/landscaping materials, office supplies, operations, fleets, shipping and a whole host of other products and services. These sustainability standards and eco-labels have been researched and verified by GSA and DOE, and feds can use them to ensure their purchases perform well and are readily available in the market. So if you need paper towels, there are recycled content requirements, as well as a recommended private label for paper products. We plan to regularly update these recommendations as we implement our Guidelines for non-governmental ecolabels and standards.

All of these efforts will help reduce our environmental footprint, support manufacturers that produce environmentally preferable products, and stimulate supply of greener products and services across the globe. By purchasing environmentally preferable products and services, federal agencies are leading by example, and protecting our health and the environment — for generations to come.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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From Teen Driver to Green Driver

By Wendy Dew

Everyone is talking about how best to educate students about the environment. It seems to me one of the best ways is to let students take what they have learned and pass it on. Only teens can grasp the best way to reach out to each other and one amazing teenager did it through video!

Katherine Schultz, a newly-licensed seventeen year old driver, saw an opportunity to help a new generation of drivers become more environmentally responsible drivers. She created a video with the help of family and friends entitled “From Teen Driver to Green Driver.” She also stars in the video! The four minute video provides important tips for drivers to lower their fuel consumption and emissions. The video was done with the support and guidance of the State of Connecticut’s Department of Motor Vehicles. She has reached out to driver education schools in Connecticut and offered them a free DVD of the video if they commit to using it with their students. Katherine has even been getting involved with promoting the green driver message in Connecticut state politics with her State Representative. Go Katherine!

Here at EPA, we’re not teen drivers anymore, but we have some green tips for all drivers.

Tips for Driving the Smartway®:

  • Buy smart

Use our Green Vehicle Guide as a resource in selecting your next vehicle.

  • Drive smart
  1. Be aware of your speed – obeying highway speed limits can save fuel, as well as prevent pollution.
  2. Avoid rapid accelerations and braking, which burns more fuel.
  3. Use cruise control and overdrive gears.
  4. When you aren’t in traffic, turn off the engine rather than idle for more than 30 seconds.
  5. Remove excess weight from your trunk, and if you have a removable roof rack and aren’t using it, take it off.
  • Take care of your vehicle
  1. Your vehicle is designed to perform best when maintained according to the instructions found in the owner’s manual. A poorly maintained vehicle can be more polluting and less fuel efficient than one that’s well-maintained. If the “Service Engine Soon” light comes on, you may have an emissions problem, so have your vehicle checked by a mechanic as soon as possible.
  2. Keep your tires properly inflated. Low tire pressure means lower fuel economy.
  3. Replace your air filter regularly. A clogged air filter can reduce fuel economy significantly.
  • Use your vehicle less
  1. Whenever possible, combine activities and errands into one trip.
  2. Take advantage of public transportation and carpooling.
  3. Bicycling or even walking can be suitable (and healthy) transportation alternatives.
  • Take care when filling up

Gas fumes are harmful to you and the environment. Topping off your tank beyond the automatic shutoff point will cause fuel spills as well as emit more toxic fumes into the air. In very hot weather, try to refuel early in the morning or late in the evening when less fumes evaporate. And if you live in an area that has Ozone Action Days, try to avoid filling up on those days.

  • Use Alternative Fuels

If you own a Flex Fuel Vehicle (FFV), you can fill your tank up with a fuel blend containing 85% ethanol or with traditional gasoline. Ethanol is produced from renewable crops such as corn, and has lower greenhouse gas emissions. To find out if you own a FFV, go to the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center. Their Alternative Fueling Station Locator will help you locate alternative fuel stations in your area.

About the author: Wendy Dew has been with EPA for 13 years and is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.