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1997 EPP Symposium Notes - Opening Plenary

Wednesday, July 16, 1997



After introductory remarks by John Stanberry, Mr. William Brown welcomed attendees to Baltimore. As the person responsible for purchasing for the City of Baltimore, he was particularly glad to that a conference on environmentally preferable products was being held in his city.

Speaker 1: Fran McPoland, Federal Environmental Executive

Good Afternoon, I'm so happy to welcome you to our first symposium "Partnership for the 21st Century: Greening Federal Procurement"; which is co-sponsored by my office and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This is a very exciting time for all of us.

President Clinton signed Executive Order 12873 in October 1993, which created my position and expanded the concept of federal waste prevention in the Federal government. It also reiterates the implementation of recycling programs, and the federal procurement policies mandated by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Under RCRA, the Federal government is required to procure and use specific products containing recycled content. However it is important to note that E.O. 12873 goes beyond "buying recycled". In Section 503 of this E.O., the Federal government's purchasing power is further harnessed. The realm of purchasing is expanded from products containing recovered material, to products that are environmentally preferable. Environmentally Preferable Products may take into account numerous factors; examples include: less water and energy usage, less toxicity, and less use of other resources during the manufacturing stage.

In this context, the term "environmentally preferable" is defined as:

"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."

In particular, Section 503 requires the Environmental Protection Agency to issue guidance that recommends principles that Executive agencies should use to identify and purchase environmentally preferable products, which brings us here today.

This symposium is one of a series of pilot efforts that the US EPA is sponsoring to educate both the Federal and private sectors as to the issues of environmentally preferable products and the Federal government's procurement and use of these products.

Our objective for the next day and a half is to help establish and maintain a growing market within the Federal government for commercial products that push the benchmark of environmental preferability as called for in the Executive Order.

It is of critical importance to this administration that the Federal government set the example and pursue the means to procure and use "greener" products at every possible level. I believe that this symposium will allow for the dialogue between all of the essential players, Federal Acquisition and Environmental Executives Federal personnel responsible for the actual requisition of products, and Environmental entrepreneurs and perhaps, alleviate some perceived barriers in doing business with the Federal government. It will also serve as an important first step in promoting the necessary partnership among the key players that I previously mentioned, in order to achieve the President's environmental goals.

I therefore, strongly urge you to enter this symposium with an open mind and think creatively as to how you can best further the "greening" of your agency's procurement.

Speaker 2: Steve Schooner, Executive Office of the President, Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Office of Management & Budget

Steve Schooner discussed recent federal acquisition policies and practices that the federal government has been changing incrementally over the past several years. For example, several years ago, compact florescent lights were installed in the halls of the Senate and Energy Star computers are being used by a growing number of agencies. He said that change is not easy, it can't happen overnight, and it requires everyone's help. The federal government is the single largest consumer in the national economy, buying over $200 billion worth of goods and services a year.

The federal procurement system is being "reinvented." The federal government is trying to act more like a commercial consumer. Barriers to entry into the federal marketplace are being eased. Federal agencies are beginning to consider past performance as a criterion in awarding contracts, rather than just low price. The National Performance Review (NPR) is making government more efficient and less wasteful.

As part of these changes, the government is increasingly using electronic commerce to save paper and the costs associated with paperwork. Reducing waste is consistent with EPP. The primary source for information on federal procurement is on the World Wide Web at http://www.arnet.gov/ Exit Disclaimer. The government is in a unique position as a buyer to further social policy goals. Past examples include efforts such as the Drug Free Workplace and Buy American. There is resistance to using federal purchasing power to further social goals because this often raises prices and imposes new barriers to entry into the federal market. Mr. Schooner challenged the group to help prove that EPP is not more expensive. He also mentioned the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) which requires agencies to develop a strategy and to evaluate their success in measuring performance. Price, timeliness, quality, and low administrative processing burden have been the traditional measures; adding EPP will require creativity. He also indicated that final changes to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) will soon formalize EPP language.

Examples of EPP practices include the electronic publication of the Commerce Business Daily, which is now available free on the World Wide Web. Another example is the new "impact card," a government credit card that can be used for small purchases (up to $2,500) by authorized federal employees. The government is moving to an electronic payment system that saves transaction costs and paper.

Mr. Schooner concluded by reminding the audience that cultural change takes time and that it's not easy.

Speaker 3: Jim Aidala, Office of Pollution Prevention, Pesticides & Toxic   Substances,U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Mr. Aidala is currently the Associate Administrator of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances (OPPT) at EPA. OPPTS has responsibility for implementing the nation's pesticide, toxic substances, and pollution prevention laws. Previously, he was a professional staff member of the U.S. House of Representatives Government Operations Committee, Subcommittee on Environment, Energy and Natural Resources.

Jim Aidala focused his remarks on how to include environmental performance in purchasing decisions. The government buys a broad range of products, from cleaners to Martian Rovers. As the largest consumer in the nation, however, the government has a responsibility to use its buying power to protect the environment. There is a long history of legislative and executive order mandates to harness government purchasing power, but putting policy into practice is not easy.

Mr. Aidala reviewed the EPP guidance and emphasized the importance of considering multiple attributes and life cycle evaluations. He cited the difficulties in communicating to procurement officials about life cycle considerations. EPA's guidance is intentionally flexible in order to cover the very broad range of products that the government procures (from soaps to satellites). That's why EPA emphasizes the importance of conducting pilotprojects.

Questions & Answers:

Q: Should the private sector pay for the government to develop standards? Should federal agencies test certain products for a fee?
Q: (McPoland) It depends. In order to convince buyers to make a change, we need to go further. Yet, the federal government is reducing the amount of money spent on this kind of research.

Q: I am trying to get a product line on the GSA list (of cleaning products) but there is no consideration for my products' attributes
on the GSA matrix. How can I remedy this situation and get the matrix changed?(Employee from Equinox)
Q: (McPoland) She emphasized that the GSA cleaning products project was a pilot and that new questions are now being asked. In other words, it was a first step in learning how to make the choices, not the last word.

Q: When a federal agency participates in programs like Energy Star, can they retain the money they've saved? Can they internalize the savings? (Nancy VandenBerg)
Q: (McPoland) She acknowledged that this has been a long-term problem. She said that now recycling revenues are being returned (when there are revenues) but that this issuecontinues to be debated.

Q: A product manufacturer expressed concern about the lack of enforcement of the Executive Order?
Q: (McPoland) She emphasized that she is responsible for enforcement and that agencies must report to her.

Plenary 2: Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Applied - Success Stories

Thursday, July 17, 1997
9:00-10:30 a.m.



The second plenary session featured three speakers presenting the local, federal, and international perspective on how to make environmentally preferable purchasing work in practice.

Mr. Stanberry introduced Brian Johnson, the Environmental Programs Coordinator for the City of Santa Monica. Mr. Johnson has worked locally on underground storage tanks, community right-to-know, and hazardous materials emergency response. Mr. Johnson is a certified hazardous materials manager, and holds a Bachelors degree in Geography and a Masters degree in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Speaker 1: Brian Johnson, City of Santa Monica, CA

Brian Johnson opened his speech by saying "we may be small, but we are uppity." Mr. Johnson said he would focus his remarks on the city's efforts to identify and replace custodial maintenance products. He would give an overview of how they institutionalized environmentally preferable purchasing into procurement He also planned to critique the replicability of Santa
Monica's efforts. Mr. Johnson noted that, in order for a program to be successful, it must work well in practice and there must be environmentally preferable products that perform as well as the products they replace.

Santa Monica has 90,000 inhabitants and is located on the southern Pacific coast. The community has a strong commitment to environmental conservation. It relies on a healthy environment, in part because the city's tourism industry brings in approximately $1.5 million per day. Santa Monica has a Sustainable City program that provides the conceptual framework for evaluation of the short and long term environmental impacts on the city. It is committed to practical day-to-day solutions and results.

There were three key elements to their program's success:

  1. A set of EPP standards that were either pass/fail criteria or goal oriented.
  2. Evaluation of products that resulted in a list instructing people on what to buy and why. (He noted that without such a list, EPP efforts have a diminished practical value.)
  3. Training--both for purchasers and end-users.

Attributes evaluated on a pass/fail basis for cleaning products included presence of carcinogens, reproductive toxins, and ozone-depleting chemicals. Other human health and environmental attributes evaluated included the following:

Santa Monica requested data on all of the ingredients in the products. If data for a particular category was not submitted, products received a poor score in that category. The city also evaluated corporate environmental responsiveness and examined such issues as whether the packaging is made with recyclable materials and if it came in concentrated form. Santa Monica was warned that their criteria were too bold and too onerous and that no vendors would submit bids. The city did, however, receive 17 submittal covering 200 products. Evaluating these bids turned out to be very complex. For the next bid process, the city will use a more streamlined version of their criteria.

Cleaning products were performance tested by trained custodians. Custodial staff were brought in early in the process so Santa Monica could tap into their expertise. Santa Monica made sure cleaning products tested by custodial staff were all environmentally responsible so that they would be comparing apples to apples.

Santa Monica's program is successful and flourishing. The city received a letter from a business district group praising the custodial care of their area. Custodians and products are working well together. In Santa Monica, most of the custodial staff is of a low socio-economic status and are minorities. Sometimes this can cause bias. Santa Monica, however, recognized that their custodial staff are a stable, professional group who care about their health and their jobs. Custodial staff were given approval and veto power in the selection of which products to use.

Santa Monica has established a formal and legally defensible EPP program. In addition to cleaning products, the city purchases re-refined motor oil, environmentally preferable engine coolant and street resurfacing, and energy efficient equipment. The city has also switched from regular spraying of indoor pesticides to integrated pest management.

One of the city's goals was to craft an initiative that others could use. Unfortunately, they have discovered that institutional replicability of their program is very limited. This is because we are not providing the necessary tools. We need to facilitate and establish a turn key program. One question is who would play the leadership role in this program. Whoever does needs to provide criteria, lists of products, and training. Candidates for this leadership role include government, third-party nonprofits, and universities. EPA and GSA have made valiant efforts. These efforts were criticized and compromised by traditional chemical manufacturers. Many have questioned whether it is EPA's role to intervene. We have seen a key example of how EPA's intervention can work. The Energy Star program is a very successful initiative encouraging the purchase of energy-efficient equipment. Precise pass/fail systems were established and a certification program exists. The effort is focused, in this case on power consumption. Energy Star did not get caught up in a lot of political issues. The program is voluntary. Energy Star certified equipment is now a common bid specification in  industry and government. This program shows there can be a role in environmentally preferable procurement for the federal government.

Third party nonprofits can also have a role. ASTM and the Underwriters Laboratory put out commonly accepted standards. Green Seal has had limited success with product manufacturers; they are not as widely recognized.

Universities have not been particularly active in environmental purchasing. Some academics are uncomfortable with the idea of doing industrial process research. Universities could play a role by doing some of the primary product research, but the money for this type of research is not there. EPA should fund primary research through nonprofits and   universities. They should make hard decisions and set national standards for products theway they did with the Energy Star program.

Mr. Johnson stressed that training is an integral part of EPP programs. It is important to train users in how to use alternative products. Manufacturers should provide this training. Santa Monica has had success working at the municipal level. It has replaced all custodial maintenance products with EPP products. Integrated pest management works better than traditional pest control methods. Mr. Johnson ended his presentation by stressing that, in order for others to have similar success, we need to develop the necessary tools.

John Stanberry introduced Joe Carra, the Deputy Office Director of OPPT. Before Mr. Carra was at OPPT, he was the director of permits for state programs at Office of Solid Waste. He also worked for the U.S. Department of Labor in their occupational health division. He has published numerous articles. He holds a Bachelor's degree from the Stevens Institute of Technology, a Masters degree from New York City University and has done considerable doctoral work at the University of Pittsburgh.

Speaker 2: Joe Carra, Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, EPA

Mr. Carra is the Deputy Office Director of the Pollution Prevention and Toxics for the EPA. He has held several positions at the EPA including Director of Permits & State Programs Division and Director of the Waste Management Division in the Office of Solid Waste. He is also the author of many published articles on environmental issues. 

Joe Carra opened his presentation by quoting that well-known and oft-quoted philosopher, Kermit the Frog, who said "It's not easy being green." It is, however, worthwhile. And it easier to be green now than before the President challenged the government to do things differently. Mr. Carra noted that we [in the federal government] are challenging ourselves, and learning, like Kermit, how to be green and be successful.

Mr. Carra noted many examples of green purchasing at work in both the public and private sectors. Is it easy? No. Are there problems and obstacles? Yes. But there are creative solutions and we are learning. The federal government applies green purchasing to its systems.

He said he would not repeat the definition of EPP products since it had been mentioned several times before. EPP can also involve asking the right questions at the right time. Making sure appropriate language is in the contract.

The federal government has outlined principles it thinks are important for

  1. Considering the environment early in the process. This creates a dynamic that allows for pollution prevention and source reduction at the design stage and all the way through the process. For example, the Navy's new attack submarine included the environment in purchasing decisions right at the start and at every stage of the process.
  2. Considering multiple attributes such as toxics and use of natural resources.
  3. Taking a life cycle view of the product that includes maintenance impacts, disposal problems. This principle is difficult to implement as all the tools are not there yet to do life cycle analyses. Many people are working on these tools. There has been a lot of interest in how to use and improve life cycle tools.
  4. Considering the extent and permanence of possible impacts.
  5. Including local conditions as a factor. For example, in areas where water is scarce, there are different purchasing considerations.
  6. Encouraging competition among vendors. This competition is necessary in order to encourage suppliers to do the necessary research and development.
  7. Recognizing the need to examine product claims. The FTC has put out guidelines for environmental marketing.

Mr. Carra remarked that we are seeing people in the government take the challenge to buy green. We've all heard of the yellow submarine. Now we have the green submarine. It is possible. We are learning by doing. We can learn to do this so that there is no significant burden on purchasing officials. We can find ways to increase the comfort level of systems in transition.

Mr. Carra then mentioned EPA's pilot programs on environmental purchasing including the Cleaning Products Pilot Project, and a project on latex paints in conjunction with GSA, as well as two construction pilots on parking lots and interior work in conjunction with DOD. He noted that other pilots projects were in the discussion stage with other federal agencies and EPA was interested in doing still more.

Mr. Carra discussed lessons learned in the pilots. Some of the lessons learned about acquisition methods and actions have helped develop tools that will be applicable for similar product categories and acquisition methods. Lessons learned include the following:  

  1. It is complex determining what is environmentally preferable. The guidance was written to be deliberately vague because of this complexity. There is no magic bullet. There is a diversity of views.
  2. Start small. Starting with a product or category that is narrow and well defined is helpful, as Brian Johnson noted when he spoke about the Energy Star program. We are changing systems and the way people think. We need to take it slow.
  3. EPA and federal offices have formed solid teams. Partnerships have worked. This may seem trivial, but it is often hard to get agencies to work together. Sometimes, fighting between agencies can be like thermonuclear events. In this case, we have established good, constructive relationships with people. It has been wonderful.
  4. Be patient. Change like this comes slowly. Manufacturers often don't have information on hand so you can evaluate their products. They need to know we mean business. Manufacturers do come up with data when they know we mean business.

Mr. Carra noted that we are learning day by day. He is optimistic about the future of environmentally preferable purchasing. He knows the private sector is ready and able to respond to this challenge. We in the environmental field have seen the private sector respond. There was resistance to change, protests, and frustration from industry. Industry, however, did come through. There was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Business Achieves Greatest Efficiencies While at Its Greenest" [from The Front Lines by Thomas Petzinger Jr., Wall Street Journal, July 11, 1997] You would not have seen an article like that a few years ago.

In the last 5 to 10 years, EPA has initiated a number of voluntary programs that have demonstrated that industry can make changes. They will resist in the beginning. They need to understand what this is really all about. We  need to articulate it to them. In a way nothing has changed, but everything has changed.

Government still wants to make the best purchase for the least amount of money. Government realizes and its policies now reflect that best includes what is best for the environment. Costs can go well beyond the purchase price where pollution is concerned. There are many day to day complexities. We need to keep in mind simple models to keep ourselves on course. If we do that, we will learn, feds and suppliers, what Kermit the Frog has learned: we should be green; we have to be green.

Speaker 3: John Lark, Department of Fisheries & Oceans, Canada

John Stanberry introduced John Lark from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in Canada. He emphasized Mr. Lark's work on obtaining waste heat from power plants, on reducing the impact of oil extraction in the arctic, and on protecting fish habitats. He noted that Mr. Lark holds a Bachelors and Masters degrees from the University of Toronto.

John Lark started his presentation by asking the audience to stand up and stretch their arms up as far as they could. He then remarked that this exercise illustrated that, in order for green procurement to work, we will all have to reach higher than ever before.

Mr. Lark spoke about "Greening Procurement in the Canadian Federal Government," with a focus on the experience of the DFO. He noted that, in Canada, green procurement is one part of a national, integrated greening program.

Mr. Lark gave an overview of DFO, which has a $525 million budget and 10,000 employees. DFO is in charge of high seas aircraft, surveillance, search and rescue, ice breaking, and navigation as well as fisheries interests. Its facilities include 210 offices, 31 search and rescue operations, 13 spill response stations, 194 unmanned light station, and 4 helicopter hangars. It also has the largest civilian fleet in the world.

Mr. Lark then reviewed DFO's procurement practices. 45 percent of staff have credit cards and procurement authority of up to $5,000 per transaction. This authority is moving up to $25,000 per transaction, and for some areas will move to $100,000 per transaction. Switching to using credit cards decreased the cost per transaction from $60 to $2. DFO receives one bill per month and pays it immediately, so there are no interest payments. Primary areas of purchasing include the following: 

Mr. Lark then presented the findings of a survey on green purchasing in Canada. This survey was divided into the different regions of Canada such as the Pacific and Central/Arctic regions. The majority of purchasers surveyed in all of the different regions said they always consider the environment when making purchasing decisions. Purchasers were also asked about other key factors in their decision to buy a product. Significantly more purchasers always consider quality, value for dollar, reputation of the company than those who always consider the environment. Mr. Lark said the Department would like to see the environment be as important to decision making as quality issues (97 percent of respondents said they always consider quality).

The survey also revealed that the majority of purchasers across Canada consider themselves environmentally responsible and are willing to spend extra time and money to buy green. The majority of purchasers also agreed that if green procurement is a priority, there should be a green procurement policy established. The results of the survey emphasized the need for management support of green procurement.

The survey results illustrated an essential values shift toward environmental purchasing that has been happening across Canada. It also underscored that, in Canada, green procurement is one part of an overall commitment to perform better on a wide range of environmental issues. In addition, procurement is a support activity. The program needs must always be met, and cost effectiveness is still essential.

DFO's green procurement strategy is targeted for the following key purchasing areas:

--Ship operations.
--Arctic experiment.

--Laboratory practices.
--Storage/handling/use/disposal issues.

--Paper, computers, space optimization.
--Office redesign with EPP products.

Mr. Lark noted one interesting initiative from the above list. For the purposes of Arctic research, they designed a ship that would emit no discharge of any kind into the environment. Mr. Lark stressed that they use pilot implementation for green procurement in their laboratories, ships, offices, and field bases. These pilot tests assure the attainability, safety, and reliability of alternative products. They also help convince end-users that the new products do, in fact, perform well. Once these end-users are convinced, they promote the alternative products. Their promotion of a product is more credible to other end-users than if a purchaser did the promotion.

Mr. Lark noted that the job of green procurement can change significantly with time and new technological developments. For example, DFO recently began testing for contaminants using microwave analysis. This change virtually eliminated the storage, handling, and disposal of solvents used in this function. Also, DFO recently began purchasing plastic navigational aids for some locations. Because of this change, it no longer needs to use paints, solvents, cleaners, or sandblasting. 

Mr. Lark mentioned that suppliers are also changing. Products are now being certified and profiled for their environmental performance by one or more of the following: Material Safety Data Sheets, Green Seal and Ecologo (Canadian); ISO 9000 and ISO 14000, and special environmental profile data sheets. Referring to the Wall Street Journal article "Business Achieves Greatest Efficiencies When at Its Greenest" (also mentioned by Joe Carra), Mr. Lark noted that the company profiled in this article saved $25 million since 1995. This example shows that efficiency is good for the environment. Mr. Lark's recommended that purchasers find out about their clients. They should know about their clients' current support for green procurement and what they most value as good performance. Purchasers should also check their clients' specifications for clauses that would limit green procurement. Purchasers should also find out who the relevant suppliers are, what they have, and who says their product is green. It is also important for purchasers to consider the degree to which their organization has a commitment to be environmentally friendly.

Mr. Lark encouraged suppliers to get "certified" by Ecologo (Canadian), ISO 9000, and ISO 14000. Suppliers should also ensure quality and communicate this. Recent technology can help suppliers reposition themselves through E-mail and video conferencing.

Mr. Lark suggested the following reading:

Q: Mr. Lark, is there an equivalent to the GSA in Canada?
Q: (Mr. Lark) responded that there is the Public Works and Government Services Canada. Procurement for smaller purchasers is moving to credit cards.

Q: Brian, if you've got 17 vendors who meet your stringent requirements, why are you simplifying your criteria?
Q: (Mr. Johnson) responded that they found the evaluation process to be very staff intensive also, it was difficult to make objective decisions about certain criteria.

Q: Mr. Carra, do you think contractors need to be encouraged or required to comply with environmental purchasing standards the government uses?
Q: (Mr. Carra) Mr. Carra said he thought in the future you would see more efforts in that area. He envisions this will take the form of clauses in request for proposals that add additional requirements. He also noted that, under RCRA there are currently 24 items that federal agencies have to buy with recycled content. If contractors are using more than $10,000 dollars of federal money, they also are required to buy these products with recycled content.

Q: For either Mr. Johnson or Mr. Lark. When individual buyers have increased spending power, how well can you control their purchasing. How can you ensure they are buying environmentally preferable products?
Q: (Mr. Johnson) responded that there is a trade-off between efficiency in the purchasing process and control. He acknowledged that it is difficult to ensure buyers are purchasing environmentally preferable products and they had to work on this.
Q: (Mr. Lark) He noted that it has to be a values shift. People have to want to purchase environmental products. He also remarked  that if you don't trust your staff to make the right decisions, that is a different problem.


Closing Plenary

Thursday, July 17, 1997
4:15 - 5:15 pm



Steve Lee led the audience through a series of questions to obtain their impressions of the symposium:

1. Was anyone surprised by what they heard during the symposium?

2. What aspects of the symposium worked best?

3. What didn't work as well?

4. Next steps

Closing comments by Fran McPoland:

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