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Green Procurement - Pollution Prevention Regional Information Center Topic Hub

This topic hub addresses information about the selection by an organization of products and services that reduce environmental impacts and provides a glimpse of the enormous impact purchasing decisions can have on the environment.

Background and Overview

The United States consumes approximately 25% of the world's resources, but has 5% of the world's population!

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 1999 Statistical Abstract of the United States, personal consumption expenditures reached $5,493,700,000,000 in 1997. That's well over 5 trillion dollars in purchases for personal consumption alone. 

  1. The U.S. Census Bureau 1997 Economic Census: Retail Trade lists retail sales for 1,118,447 establishments with a payroll in 1997 as $2,460,886,012,000. The retail trade is ~9% of the gross U.S. domestic product.
  2. The U.S. Census Bureau 1997 Economic Census: Wholesale Trade lists sales for 453,470 establishments with a payroll in 1997 as $4,059,657,778,000. The wholesale trade is ~8% of the gross U.S. domestic product.
  3. U.S. Census Bureau 1997 Annual Capital Expenditures Report reports that capital equipment expenditures for all businesses and companies was $597,550,000,000.

These numbers become even weightier when you consider the fact that every individual purchase we make impacts the environment, either by our consumption of raw materials or discard of waste or both. From buying groceries to buying homes, each purchasing decision is an environmental decision. 

The U.S. economy is driven by commerce.

The bedrock of commerce is the transaction. A transaction signifies an agreement between two parties to exchange one thing for another. Each and every transaction represents an explicit agreement to accept a product and service offered to meet a specific need. Green purchasing expands the transaction discussion beyond product or service function to the implicit agreement to accept the impact of the product or service on the environment. 

Purchasing Decisions = Economic Decisions + Environmental Decisions

So what is green purchasing?

It's a way of adding environmental considerations to the price and performance criteria businesses use to make purchasing (transaction) decisions. Green purchasing is a consideration of supply chain management and is also known as environmentally preferred purchasing (EPP), green procurement, affirmative procurement, eco-procurement, and environmentally responsible purchasing. Green purchasing attempts to identify and reduce environmental impact and to maximize resource efficiency. 

Green purchasing has not been universally defined.

This creates one obstacle to implementation, but many businesses have moved forward in demonstrating their commitment and ability to make purchases that reduce their impact on the environment. 

The following principles are common to all of these green purchasing efforts:

Pollution Prevention

  1. Avoiding the creation of wastes from the start of a process.
  2. Reducing or eliminating toxicity, air and water emissions.
  3. Preventing transfer of pollution from one environmental medium (air, water, or land) to another.
  4. Includes "source reduction," and "waste reduction," which prevent the creation of wastes rather than manage them after they are created.

Life-Cycle Perspective

  1. Looking at costs beyond the purchase price.
  2. Considering costs and environmental impacts over the lifetime of a product or service (raw material extraction, manufacturing, packaging, transport, energy consumption, maintenance, disposal).

Resource Efficiency

  1. Giving preference to reusable content, and recycled materials over virgin materials, as well as to conserving water and energy.

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Glossary

Environmentally Preferable

—Products or services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services. Items considered in this comparison may include raw materials acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance, or disposal. 

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP)—

Also referred to as Environmental Purchasing, Affirmative Procurement, Green Procurement, and Green Purchasing. This process deals with buying products or services that will reduce impact on human health and the environment. EPP may consider some or all of the following product characteristics, including energy efficiency, the pollution generated by making the product, waste disposal, recycled content resource use, transportation, and durability. 

Green Purchasing—

(see Environmentally Preferable Purchasing) 

Life-Cycle Perspective—

Looking beyond initial purchase price when making purchasing decisions. Considering costs and environmental impacts over the lifetime of a product or service. 

Natural Resource Protection—

Natural resources include air, water, minerals, fossil fuels, and the plants and animals. They consist of both renewable and non-renewable resources. Protection implies sustainability, equitable access, and conservation. 

Pollution Prevention—

A strategy of avoiding the creation of wastes from the start of a process. Focused on reducing or eliminating toxicity, air and water emissions. Preventing transfer of pollution from one environmental medium (air, water, or land) to another. Includes "source reduction," and "waste reduction," which deal with preventing creation of wastes rather than managing them after they are created. 

Supply Chain Management—

The oversight of materials, information, and finances as they move in a process from supplier to manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer to consumer. Supply chain management involves coordinating and integrating these flows both within and among organizations. It is concerned with planning, implementing and controlling the flows of raw materials, in-process inventory and finished goods from the point of origin to the point of consumption, and the corresponding information flows. It covers purchasing, the manufacturing process and customer delivery. 

Product Stewardship—

An approach to environmental protection in which manufacturers, retailers, and consumers are encouraged or required to assume responsibility for reducing a product's impact on the environment. An example of this approach is a requirement that a manufacturer take back its product when it reaches the end of its useful life. It includes all of the following terms, which represent various approaches to product stewardship: product responsibility, shared product responsibility, producer responsibility, manufacturer responsibility, extended product responsibility, extended producer responsibility, etc.

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