Environmentally Preferable Purchasing

Municipal environmentally preferable purchasing

Environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP) is the conscious identification and selection of goods and services that have a lesser or reduced impact on human health and the environment when compared to similar goods and services that serve the same purpose. EPP practices can be utilized when purchasing any product utilized by a municipality in various departments from landscaping and construction materials to office supplies and food services. This fact sheet provides guidance on developing and implementing an EPP program.

Benefits / Pollution Reduction

Purchasing environmentally preferable products and services improves worker’s health and safety, can reduce energy and waste disposal costs for a municipality, and keeps the environment cleaner through benefits such as lower carbon dioxide emissions, preservation of land and natural resources, and decreased waste production. EPP can protect water resources and even improve water quality in a number of ways. Traditional products such as cleaning supplies and landscaping management supplies may contain harsh chemicals and toxins that make it to our water ways through normal use and improper dumping. Nontoxic products benefit an MS4 as they do not have associated disposal costs that toxic materials have. Additionally, some commonly used appliances such as dishwashers and fixtures such as faucets are designed to use less water thereby lessening the demand on our natural water supplies and decreasing utility bills.

By purchasing environmentally preferable products that contain little to no toxic chemicals and conserve water, you will protect your local waters as well as save on water bills and material disposal costs.

Program Development & Implementation

Purchasing Criteria

Many of the products purchased by an MS4 can impact stormwater such as pesticides, herbicides and other landscape management materials, deicing agents, and other chemicals. Stormwater friendly alternatives are available and can be sought out by an MS4. Set up criteria for your MS4 that establishes how purchasing staff should select products.

The Solid Waste Management Coordinating Board (SWMCB) has established a set of seven categories to classify how a product or service is environmentally friendly. The categories are:

  • Contains less hazardous content
  • Conserves energy
  • Contains recycled content
  • Prevents waste
  • Contains low amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Conserves water
  • Incorporates end of life management

In addition, a MS4 may want to include in their purchasing criteria items that are produced, manufactured and/or sold locally and organically, items that are fair trade and items not produced using child labor in support of social and economic sustainability. For more information and guidance on setting EPP criteria, visit the MPCA’s EPP webpage: http://www.pca.state.mn.us/oea/epp/criteria.cfm.

Product Procurement

Resources are available to investigate stormwater friendly product alternatives and other items that fall under an MS4’s EPP criteria. On the SWMCB Think Recycling website, there is an EPP guide specifically for government agencies with information about commonly purchased products, green alternatives, performance ratings, costs, and links to vendors. Visit the SWMCB Think Recycling website: http://www.rethinkrecycling.com/for-government.

Establish an EPP Resolution

A resolution can outline specific reasons, goals, benchmarks, criteria and policies surrounding EPP. A resolution can act as a formal guideline for municipal officials and staff when making purchasing decisions as well as provide documentation for vendors on the guidelines they must meet in order to be considered supplier of products and services. Washington County, MN, has passed board resolutions to specifically address EPP as well as sustainable building. Recycled paint and recycled manufactured scrap shingles have been used in various asphalt applications within county operations.

Staff Training

An annual training session could be organized for staff responsible for purchasing materials and products. Training topics could include:

  • EPP best practices and new EPP initiatives state wide
  • Purchasing criteria and/or resources for preferred vendors
  • Comparisons of purchased products and their performance
  • Updates on municipal cooperative purchasing agreements
  • Coordination processes between departments to facilitate bulk purchases

Dakota County, in partnership with Dakota Valley Recycling, organizes EPP workshops once a year to work with local cities and schools to incorporate EPP practices in the workplace. The MPCA also holds regular workshops about EPP.

Awareness Campaigns

In addition to changing the purchasing practices of municipal officials and staff, awareness campaigns can be focused on the purchasing practices of local businesses, institutions, and residents within a community. Through educating purchasers on environmentally preferable purchasing criteria, conscious consumers are produced that will have a great influence on the local marketplace. By demanding environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable products, manufacturers, producers, and vendors will begin to develop and sell these sought after products resulting in a more sustainable community overall. Suggested educational methods include:

Brochures'

Develop informative brochures, and guidance for specific audiences such as residents, tourists, businesses, and institutions. Brochures can be made available at public establishments such as libraries and other municipal buildings, businesses and institutions. In addition, brochures can be distributed via door hangers, mailed within utility bills, or mass-mailed. The information on the brochure could also be made available on a municipality or community website. The brochures could include, but are not limited to, information about your MS4’s EPP initiatives, suggested EPP criteria and practices, the environmental, social and economic benefits of EPP, and resources for additional information and potential vendors. Brochures for businesses and institutions could include information about potential cooperative purchasing agreements.

EPP workshops

Similar to the workshops organized for municipal purchasing staff discussed above, workshops could be organized for community members, business owners, and purchasing staff of local institutions. The workshops could include the training elements listed above under staff training. The workshops could be turned into product fairs that allow local vendors to highlight their environmentally preferred products.

Maintenance Considerations

A staff person could be assigned to continually investigate new products available on the market, research performance reviews of existing products, and remain knowledgeable of current EPP trends and practices.

Typical Cost

An environmentally preferable purchasing program will have development and training costs associated with it. The cost of purchasing environmentally preferable products will vary. Some products are more expensive than conventional products, however suggestions to keep the cost of these products down include:

  • Entering into a cooperative purchasing agreement. The state of Minnesota has a cooperative purchasing venture (CPV) that allows certain government entities such as cities, towns and counties, to purchase goods and services through established contracts. Cities can subscribe to the CPV through the State. Alternatively, a municipality can look into forming their own cooperative purchasing agreements with environmentally preferable vendors.
  • Support and train staff to coordinate product needs between departments to facilitate purchasing items in bulk.

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