EPA guidelines seek green standards on procurement

The Environmental Protection Agency issued draft guidelines Wednesday in support of the federal government’s effort to go green with its purchasing policies.

The initiative, dating back to 2011, is meant to guide buying decisions at federal agencies, which must ensure that 95 percent of acquisitions are deemed environmentally sustainable.

“As the largest purchaser in the world, the U.S. government is working to reduce its environmental footprint,” said Jim Jones, assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. 

Developed with the General Services Administration (GSA), and other federal agencies, the guidelines propose a process for developing new purchasing standards that would clear up confusion about which products are sustainable and which ones aren’t.

“They are intended to help federal purchasers identify and buy environmentally preferable products,” the EPA said in a memo accompanying the guidelines.  “The challenge for federal buyers is sorting through these hundreds of other products with non-governmental standards and ecolabels that claim to be safer or environmentally friendly.”

The agencies propose enlisting help from outside experts in applying the federal guidelines to environmental standards and ecolabels used in the private sector.

Ultimately, the effort would yield a list of product standards and ecolabels that pass federal muster.

The guidelines will be subject to a 90-day public comment period once they are published in the Federal Register.