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NASA's Environmental Approach to Copiers

At a Glance

Environmental Attributes:
- Copy machines that are capable of using recycled paper and are Energy Star compliant

Contract Language:
No Contract language is currently available online.

Key players:

Environmental Information Source:
Executive Order (EO) 12873*
Potential vendors

As a result of the new agencywide copy machine contract, NASA will save an estimated $4.5 million over the life of the contract.

Contact information is listed at the end of the case study.

*EO 13101 (PDF) (11 pp, 97KB, About PDF) replaced EO 12873 (PDF) (8 pp, 35KB, About PDF)

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has approximately 2,000 copy machines throughout its 14 centers located across the country. Thanks to the agency's innovative leasing practices, these machines are equipped with environmental features and actually save NASA money. NASA's "cost per copy" contract, which means the agency leases copy services rather than machines, allowed the inclusion of several environmental features important to NASA, including recycled paper and energy efficiency.

The Process

Prior to 1995, NASA had numerous copy machine contracts. In early 1995, the agency's copy managers and printing officers began to explore the idea of awarding one contract for all of NASA. NASA headquarters approved their idea right away because it coincided with headquarters' efforts to implement similar contracts for other agencywide needs, such as the purchase of fax machines. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center was appointed to lead the project.

The Goddard project team charged with developing the Request for Proposals (RFP) envisioned a contract that offered NASA cost-effective and high-quality service, but that also was flexible enough to meet the unique needs of each of the agency's centers. To ensure that each center was happy with the final result, copy managers and printing officers from throughout the agency were involved in the decision-making process. Throughout the process, several meetings and teleconferences were held to allow for the exchange of ideas and consideration of each center's concerns.

In addition to ensuring satisfaction of the customers within the agency, the project team also was interested in receiving input from copy machine vendors. To do this, staff held two presolicitation conferences, the first of which was held after the draft RFP was written. Because the RFP contained a combination of features not commonly seen in a copy machine contract, such as "cost per copy" and onsite maintenance service, NASA was curious about how potential vendors would respond. Overall, vendors responded well to the RFP, and the presolicitation conferences helped to assure NASA that it was on the right track.

Environmental Attributes

As part of the new contract, NASA wished to lease copy machine services that complied with all applicable federal environmental mandates. The final RFP, therefore, included a requirement that the machines must be able to use recycled paper that met the requirements of Executive Order (EO) 12873, and the use of recycled paper must have no bearing on the machine's performance. EO 12873, in place at the time NASA awarded the copy machine contract but since replaced by EO 13101, required all federal agencies to use copy paper with a minimum of 20 percent postconsumer recycled content. NASA provided vendors a copy of EO 12873 along with the RFP. EO 13101 requires 30 percent postconsumer recycled content and NASA has ensured the use of compliant paper in all machines. NASA also wanted the new copy machines to meet the energy-efficiency recommendations of EPA's Energy Star program. When staff learned from the vendors that attended the presolicitation conference that their copy machines are automatically built to be compliant with Energy Star, however, NASA decided it was not necessary to include such a requirement in the RFP. As a final environmental feature, the toner cartridges, toner, and drums used in the copy machines are considered by NASA to be non-toxic. In addition, the vendor provides pre-paid mailing labels to NASA to use to return toner cartridges for recycling.

Additional RFP Features

In addition to the environmental attributes described above, the final RFP included the following features:

These features gave NASA a contract that met the diverse needs of each of its centers but also was economical for the agency as a whole.

Selection Process

NASA considered several factors when awarding the contract, including cost, past performance, and product quality. Compliance with the environmental requirements of the RFP also was a major concern. Vendors were required to submit three references, and NASA staff questioned the references about the performance of the copy machines when recycled paper was used. In addition, when staff received a proposal that did not address the RFP's environmental requirements, staff followed up with the vendor directly to obtain the missing information.

After careful consideration, NASA awarded the agencywide copy machine contract in August 1996. To allow time for each center's existing contract to expire, the vendor installed new copy machines throughout the agency over the course of a 15-month phase-in period. NASA officials report they are very satisfied with the new contract, and they have not experienced any problems.

Lessons Learned

Due to the large size of the contract and its "cost per copy" feature, NASA estimates it will save approximately $4.5 million during the 5-year span of the contract when compared to the previous scenario of multiple contracts at each center. NASA attributes its success to the inclusive nature of the process. By obtaining the buy-in of senior management, copy managers, and printing officers from throughout the agency, NASA ensured their concerns were met and that each center received the individualized copy machine service it needed. In addition, involving potential vendors in the initial discussions saved NASA time and resulted in an efficient process.

For more information on NASA's copy machine contract, please contact Theresa Wirth at 301 286-4422.

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