Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP)

Federal, state and local governments spend billions annually on goods and services. Many governments incorporate procurement of recycled products into their general operations. However, many may lack a more comprehensive program that not only encourages recycled content, but also minimizes toxics used and conserves energy, water or other materials. Environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP) is the procurement of products or services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose.

An EPP program product will have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Contain recycled content
  • Minimize waste
  • Are energy efficient and/or have renewable energy systems
  • Contain lower toxicity content

Businesses and non-profit organizations are also able to make a difference through pursuing an EPP program. EPP can save money, improve a company's ability to meet existing environmental goals and improve worker safety and health at the same time. Furthermore, it can reduce liabilities and health and disposal costs.

U.S. EPA EPP Guidance Principles

By using the five guidance principles below, agencies and companies can begin the process of identifying and purchasing environmentally preferable products and services.

  1. Environment + Price + Performance = Environmentally Preferable Purchasing: Environmental considerations should become part of normal purchasing practice, consistent with such traditional factors as product safety, price, performance and availability.

  2. Pollution Prevention: Consideration of environmental preferability should begin early in the acquisition process and be rooted in the ethic of pollution prevention, which strives to eliminate or reduce, up-front, potential risks to human health and the environment.

  3. Life Cycle Perspective/Multiple Attributes: A product or service's environmental preferability is a function of multiple attributes from a life cycle perspective.

  4. Comparison of Environmental Impacts: Determining environmental preferability might involve comparing environmental impacts. In comparing environmental impacts, federal agencies should consider the reversibility and geographic scale of the environmental impacts, the degree of difference among competing products or services and the overriding importance of protecting human health.

  5. Environmental Performance Information: Comprehensive, accurate and meaningful information about the environmental performance of products or services is necessary in order to determine environmental preferability.

Federal and National EPP Programs

Other Related Projects and Programs, Including State and Local Government Programs

EPP Tools and Resources

U.S. EPA Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Tools (excellent purchasing and training tools for EPP)

State of Minnesota Cooperative Purchasing Venture (program that enables participants to purchase goods and services under contract terms established by the state of Minnesota)

County Green Purchasing Toolkit (an interactive resource for green purchasing strategies, assessment tools, model materials and county success stories)

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