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Office of Strategic Environmental Management

Environmental Innovation Portfolio

Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

Promoting Environmental Sustainability

Communities are increasingly interested in reducing the environmental footprint of economic activities and are looking to public agencies to encourage sustainable behaviors. Agencies are implementing sustainability initiatives internally and are encouraging other organizations and companies to adopt similar practices. Innovative sustainability practices are targeting buildings and property development, purchasing and production processes, products, and waste generation to cost-effectively lower the material requirements, energy needs, and environmental risk of economic activity.

photo of a buildingGreen Building

Green building practices are reducing environmental impacts by influencing design, construction,and deconstruction choices. Innovative practices are promoting a variety of sustainable building techniques, such as use of green building materials, energy and water-efficient design, and demolition material reuse and recycling. Other innovative practices are taking a broader perspective by facilitating sustainable design at the neighborhood or community level. Innovative green building practices are: 1) disseminating information on green building techniques; 2) developing tools to facilitate green design choices; and 3) leveraging government's ability to lead by example through its building and construction choices. Agency managers can use these techniques to address specific waste, energy, or water challenges, and to complement broader efforts to encourage environmentally sustainable behaviors.

Building Deconstruction and Reuse—Florida
Coordinates the designation of valuable materials from building disassembly for reuse in a community organization building expansion, reducing landfilling and saving resources. (http://www.deconstructioninstitute.com exit EPA)
Green Communities Program—U.S. EPA Region 3
Extends access to tools, technical assistance, and training to integrate environmental goals with economic and social goals applicable to urban, suburban, and rural communities. (http://www.epa.gov/greenkit/)
Assistance to Federal Agencies on Greening Federal Buildings—U.S. EPA
EPA has supported development of a database on model green construction specifications for federal agencies to consider as they seek to integrate green products into building projects. (http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/greenbuilding/)
LEED and Energy STAR for buildings—U.S. EPA
Promotes the use of green building techniques at brownfield properties in conjunction with assessment and cleanup through pilot projects and resources. (http://www.epa.gov/swerosps/bf/html-doc/greenbld.htm)

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Green Purchasing

Government agencies are stimulating demand and developing markets for environmentally preferable production products and services using their purchasing power. Public agencies are: 1) changing their own procurement practices; 2) organizing purchasing alliances to further leverage buying power; and 3) increasing access to information regarding environmental attributes of products and services. Agency managers can use innovative practices to increase the availability of environmentally preferable products and to encourage other organizations to purchase them.

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing—Washington
Uses procurement guidelines that integrate environmental impacts and life cycle assessment to stimulate demand for green goods and services. (http://www.kingcounty.gov/operations/procurement/Services/Environmental_Purchasing.aspx exit EPA)
Green Power Purchasing—U.S. EPA
Establishes a green energy purchasing cooperative and recognizes green energy buyer leaders to promote renewable energy generation and reduce the cost differential of green energy. (http://www.epa.gov/greenpower/buygreenpower/guide.htm)
Federal Electronics Challenge—U.S. EPA
Aimed at encouraging federal agencies to consider environmental factors in the purchase, use and disposal of electronic assets. (http://www.epa.gov/epr/)
Green Online Ordering System—U.S. EPA
EPA has implemented a green online ordering system for office supplies which increases efficiency and cost-effectiveness of agency purchasing and encourages use of environmentally preferable products. (http://www.epa.gov/epp/)
Schools Buy Clean—U.S. EPA
Tests and evaluates school products for indoor air quality impacts and provides incentives to purchase environmentally preferable products. (http://www.epa.gov/oppt/library/pubs/archive/buy_clean/)

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photo of open portfolioGreen Process and Product Design

Environmental agencies can influence business process and product design decisions that improve environmental outcomes. Innovative practices frequently: 1) target specific product constituents, such as toxic chemicals, for pollution prevention, waste minimization, and resource conservation; 2) partner directly with companies or industry associations, particularly in the product design and development phase, offering design advice and incentives to adopt green processes and products; 3) support research into environmentally preferable substances and processes; and 4) provide technical assistance and basic tools to small businesses. Agency managers can use innovative practices to help businesses understand the full (and often hidden) costs of process and product design choices.

Industrial Ecology—New Jersey and New York
Uses an industrial ecology framework (examining uses and flows of materials and energy in products) to recommend pollution prevention strategies for five toxic chemicals contaminating New York/New Jersey Harbor. (http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncer_abstracts/index.cfm/fuseaction/display.abstractDetail/abstract/7534/report/F exit EPA)
Sustainable Futures Initiative—U.S. EPA
Applies a structured pollution prevention framework during product development to reduce risk and costs of future processes and products. (http://www.epa.gov/oppt/sf/)
Industrial Design—U.S. EPA
Partners EPA with industrial designers to help them factor the environment into their work. Industrial designers specify materials assembly methods, and factor in ergonomics. The program educates industrial designers about material choices, recognizes environmental excellence in design, and works to develop tools that will help designers incorporate environmental considerations into their work. (http://www.epa.gov/dfe/)
Green Chemistry—U.S. EPA
Promotes the design, development, and implementation of innovative products and processes through the use of green chemistry practices in voluntary partnership settings. (http://www.epa.gov/greenchemistry/index.html)
Green Engineering—U.S. EPA
Provides a framework for evaluating and improving the environmental performance of chemical processes and products by integrating consideration of health and environmental risk and pollution prevention into traditional engineering design techniques. (http://www.epa.gov/oppt/greenengineering/)
Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge—U.S. EPA
Promotes pollution prevention through an EPA Design for the Environment partnership with the chemistry community through high level recognition and support. (http://www.epa.gov/greenchemistry/pubs/pgcc/presgcc.html)
E-Commerce Design Challenge—U.S. EPA
Challenged companies to reevaluate existing electronic product and system designs, and research alternatives for recovering and recycling materials at the end of product use. (http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/rcc/national/ecycling.htm)

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Product Collections, Take-Backs, and Recycling

Agencies are employing innovative practices to keep toxic substances, and products containing them, from being landfilled or improperly discarded. Innovative practices, such as collection events and take back systems, are being used to address the logistical challenge of collecting dispersed, used products and wastes. For example, many jurisdictions have programs to collect scrap tires, used motor oil, and other automotive product waste. Efforts are growing to expand collection of used consumer electronic goods. Agencies are supplementing targeted waste collection activities with efforts to repair, demanufacture, and/or recycle the products, often teaming with private sector partners. Agency managers can use product collection efforts to mitigate the environmental and human health impacts of specific products or product constituents until more environmentally preferable designs emerge.

Waste Tires to Heating Fuel—Missouri
Turns scrap tires into tire-derived fuel that, combined with coal, provides fuel for the University of Missouri at a fuel cost savings of $100,000 per year and with reduced stack emissions. (http://www.dnr.mo.gov/magazine/1999-spring.pdf exit EPA)
Consumer Electronics Recycling—Massachusetts
Promotes consumer electronics reuse and recycling using a four-pronged plan including market development, collection infrastructure, statewide recycling contracts, and regulatory reform to take cathode ray tubes off the hazardous waste list.(http://www.mass.gov/dep/recycle/reduce/crtqanda.htm exit EPA)
Recycled Products Purchasing Co-op—California
Leverages group purchasing power through more than 200 cooperative members to reduce the cost of recycled content office paper and other recycled material products. (http://www.ciwmb.ca.gov/BuyRecycled exit EPA)
Pay-As-You-Throw—U.S. EPA
Residents are charged for the collection of municipal solid waste based on the amount they throw away. This program creates a direct economic incentive to recycle and reuse more, and to generate less waste. (http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/tools/payt)
Lead-Acid Batteries Deposit System—U.S. EPA
To avoid including lead-acid batteries included in municipal landfills, and to recover and reuse material, lead-acid batteries are subject to mandatory deposit systems in several states and to voluntary deposit systems in most other areas. (http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/partnerships/stewardship/products/batteries.htm)

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Climate Change

Public agencies are taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while improving energy efficiency and economic performance. Public agencies are increasingly realizing that many GHG reduction efforts have additional benefits, such as reducing criteria pollutant emissions associated with energy use and combustion activities. Although addressing climate change issues can involve multi-national cooperation, efforts on a smaller scale can add up to big results. Public agencies are pursuing innovative practices that include: 1) developing GHG emission inventories; 2) establishing and committing to GHG reduction goals and targets; and 3) developing action plans to achieve these goals. Agencies are also implementing specific GHG reduction projects with or without a link to broader planning. Agency managers can use innovative practices to assess the profile of GHG emissions in their jurisdiction and to collaboratively plan an appropriate response strategy.

Greenhouse Gas Action Plan—New Jersey
Commits to reduce GHG emissions to 3.5 percent below 1990 levels (20 million tons), targeting five areas to reach the goal: energy conservation; pollution prevention; technology improvements; recycling and waste management; and resource protection. (http://www.state.nj.us/globalwarming/initiatives/ exit EPA)
Carbon Sequestration—Mississippi and Tennessee
Sequesters carbon in enhanced landscapes through public-private partnerships for ecosystem restoration and reforestation in the lower Mississippi Valley. (http://www.secarbon.org exit EPA)
Climate Leaders—U.S. EPA
Climate Leaders is a voluntary industry-government partnership that encourages companies to develop long-term comprehensive climate change strategies and set greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. (http://www.epa.gov/climateleaders/)

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