Sustainable Marketplace: Greener Products and Services

EPA's Recommendations of Specifications, Standards and Ecolabels

Executive Order (EO) 13693, "Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade," promotes sustainable acquisition and procurement of products and services by federal agencies. Federal procurement actions must include specific environmental performance and sustainability factors to the maximum extent practicable for:

  • Meeting statutory mandates requiring purchase preference for recycled content, energy and water efficiency and biopreferred/biobased products;
  • Purchasing sustainable products/services identified by EPA programs including Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP), WaterSense, Safer Choice and SmartWay; and
  • Purchasing environmentally preferable products/services that meet or exceed EPA recommendations or meet environmental performance criteria in voluntary consensus standards.

The EO directs EPA to provide federal purchasers with recommendations of specifications, standards and ecolabels to use in identifying and procuring environmentally preferable products and services.

Read the Federal Register Notice describing EPA’s approach for providing interim recommendations on environmentally preferable purchasing to federal agencies.

Below are EPA's interim recommendations for the following purchasing categories. The full list of interim recommendations is also available as a PDF (last updated June 2016)

EPA's interim recommendations do not cover all product and service categories with federal environmentally sustainable procurement requirements stated in Section 3(i) (i) and 3(i) (ii) of EO13693. To see the full list of products and services with other federal environmentally sustainable procurement requirements, please go to General Services Administration's Green Procurement Compilation.

  • What is EPA doing to develop recommendations?

    EPA has issued Draft Guidelines for Environmental Performance Standards and Ecolabels for Voluntary Use in Federal Procurement, which will inform EPA recommendations per EO 13693 Section 3 (i) (iii). On March 19th, 2015, EPA issued a Federal Register Notice announcing the launch of a pilot to assess standards and ecolabels against these Draft Guidelines in three product categories: furniture; flooring; and paints, coatings and paint removers. The pilot results will inform future refinement and finalization of the Draft Guidelines, as well as a process by which these Guidelines can be used to assess standards and ecolabels for federal procurement in a wide array of product and service categories. The Implementing Instructions of EO 13693 direct EPA to prioritize application of the finalized Guidelines to product and service categories which "represent the largest share of procurement spending across Agencies and potential environmental impact."

    The Implementing Instructions of EO 13693 (PDF) (77 pp, 1.54 M, About PDF) direct EPA to provide recommendations within 90 days of the issuance of the Instructions. To respond to this direction and to help federal purchasers under EO 13693, EPA has developed interim recommendations. Until the Guidelines are finalized and applied to standards and ecolabels in key product and service categories, federal purchasers should utilize EPA's interim recommendations to select environmentally preferable products and services.

  • How did EPA develop the interim recommendations?

    EPA's interim recommendations are based on specifications, environmental performance standards and ecolabels selected and utilized by federal agencies to assist in their procurement of environmentally preferable products and services. For further information see the Federal Register Notice on EPA's interim recommendations. Currently, EPA's interim recommendations include: specifications, standards and ecolabels on the Department of Energy's (DOE's) FY16 Priority Products List and the General Services Administration's (GSA's) Key Sustainable Products. DOE and GSA Public Buildings Service have identified specifications, standards and ecolabels for products that meet federal statutory requirements, have verified sustainability attributes, are readily available in the market, and meet cost and performance needs.

    DOE’s FY15 Priority Products List and GSA’s Key Sustainability Products can be viewed on GSA’s Green Procurement Compilation. Further information about the evaluation processes used by these Agencies to select these specifications, standards and ecolabels is available in the DOE's background and evaluation process document and the GSA Public Buildings Service's background and evaluation process document.

    Read GSA's background and evaluation process document (PDF) (18pp, 1 M).

    Read DOE's background document.

    In some cases DOE and GSA Public Buildings Service have identified different specifications, standards and ecolabels for a specific product category. After consultation with GSA Public Buildings Service and DOE, EPA chose to utilize the specifications, standards and ecolabels identified by GSA in those instances because they are required for GSA Public Buildings Service procurement while DOE's Priority Products List is used on a voluntary basis for DOE procurement. The relevant statutory sustainable procurement requirements and federal ecolabels that apply to each product and service category are included in the chart next to the EPA interim recommendations in order to clarify Executive Order direction for federal purchasers. EPA has also revised some recommendations to address government-wide considerations. For most product categories, EPA's interim recommendations do not include specifications. In instances where there was known potential for limited product availability that could result from removing specifications, specifications were included.

    EPA's interim recommendations do not include a comprehensive list of all product and service categories with federal statutory sustainable procurement requirements or relevant federal ecolabels. To see the full list of all product and service categories and their associated federal green purchasing requirements, please go to GSA’s Green Procurement Compilation.

  • What if EPA has no recommendations for a product or service category?

    The Executive Order Implementing Instructions state that "where there is no specification, standard, or label recommended by EPA, an Agency may elect to use other open and voluntary consensus standards in a procurement." In such cases federal agencies must conduct an assessment to ensure that the specification, standard or label meets the requirements stipulated in the National Technology Transfer Advancement Act (NTTAA), OMB Circular A-119, and Section II of the EPA Draft Guidelines regarding "environmental effectiveness" (or subsequent updates).

    The NTTAA requires that all agencies use standards developed by voluntary consensus standards bodies instead of government-unique standards unless inconsistent with applicable law or otherwise impractical. OMB Circular A-119 provides guidance on Federal use of voluntary consensus standards and on conformity assessment. Because the NTTAA and OMB Circular A-119 do not address environmental performance, the EO Implementing Instructions point procurement officials to Section II of the EPA Draft Guidelines for Environmental Performance Standards and Ecolabels for Voluntary Use in Federal Procurement, and any subsequent revisions4. In Sections I, III, and IV, EPA’s Draft Guidelines address the standards development process, conformity assessment, and ecolabel program management, respectively, consistent with the NTTAA and OMB A-119. Agencies may utilize these guidelines to assist them in assessing standards and ecolabels per the NTTAA and OMB A-119 requirements. The EO Instructions direct Agencies to consult with and share these assessments with EPA and direct EPA to make these assessments available on its web site.

  • How should agencies procure sustainable electronics?

    Section 3 (l) (i) of the Executive Order 13693 includes requirements regarding procurement of environmentally sustainable electronic products. To meet the requirements of sections 3 (i) (iii) and 3 (l) (i) of the EO, the Implementing Instructions state that agencies must acquire products that meet or exceed the specifications, standards or labels recommended by EPA as posted on its website. As indicated in the Implementing Instructions, federal purchasers may continue to use the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) product registry or other methods to identify products that have been third-party verified as having met environmental performance criteria developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies consistent with section 12 (d) of the NTTAA and OMB Circular A-119.

    However, the Implementing Instructions note that at this time CEQ is not aware of any product registries other than EPEAT for sustainable electronic products. It is possible that in the future other options may be developed that align with EPA Guidelines and support the electronic stewardship mandates of section 3(l) of EO 13693. Any future tools will have to meet or exceed current levels of sustainable and environmental performance.

    Once the EPA Draft Guidelines for Environmental Performance Standards and Ecolabels for Voluntary Use in Federal Procurement are finalized, EPA will apply the Guidelines to product and service categories which "represent the largest share of procurement spending across agencies and potential environmental impact", per the Implementing Instructions. It is expected that electronics may be in the next group of additional product categories to which the Guidelines could be applied. When the Guidelines are applied to the electronics category, stakeholders will be asked to volunteer other specifications, standards and ecolabels to be reviewed against the Guidelines. EPA will review additional specifications, standards and ecolabels to determine if they meet or exceed the current sustainability mandate for electronics and conform to the EPA Guidelines.

  • How will EPA update these interim recommendations

    EPA will review its interim recommendations periodically and update them after considering other assessments of standards and ecolabels generated by other federal agencies if/when they become available. The interim recommendations will also be updated to integrate any EPA Recommendations developed following finalization and application of the EPA Draft Guidelines to specific product and service categories.

    Please send any suggestions on how to further improve the EPA Interim Recommendations or any other related comments to EPP@epa.gov.

Documentation of Updates to EPA’s Recommendations

August 1, 2016 updates: 

  • Updated links for training courses on the "Buying Green for Federal Purchasers" page.
  • Added contact information on how to send suggestions about the EPA Interim Recommendations. Please contact EPP@epa.gov.

June 27, 2016 update: changes were made to this webpage to add a tab titled "Accessing Standards" with detailed instructions for US federal government employees on how to access the recommended standards free of charge. 

November 10, 2015 update: changes were made to this webpage and the PDF chart to correctly indicate CPG and Biopreferred requirements in the following product categories:

  • Adhesives (removed reference to Biopreferred – no current Biopreferred requirement for this product category)
  • Carpet (added reference to Biopreferred, deleted reference to "nylon" in first column and added reference to "commercial" in fourth column)
  • Fiberboard (added reference to CPG requirements)
  • Flooring (added reference to Biopreferred requirements for non-carpet floor coverings)
  • Insulation (added reference to CPG on the webpage to align with information in the PDF chart)
  • Paint (added reference to CPG on the webpage to align with information in the PDF chart)
  • Wastebasket Liners (added reference to Biopreferred requirements)

Instructions for US Federal Government Employees on How to Access Standards

If you are a US federal government employee who would like access to one of the standards referenced in the EPP Guidelines, please follow the instructions below. The developers of these standards will make them available free of charge to federal government employees for reference and review purposes.

Access to NSF Standards:

Instructions: Please, email EPP@epa.gov from your .gov email address and we will forward your request to the standards body. Please include your full name and where you work. The standard will then be emailed to you in PDF form.

Access to UL Standards:

Instructions: If you do not already have a registered account visit UL to create one. Anyone with a .gov email address will gain access to the standard free of charge. Once the account is created follow the instructions below:

  • Click the desired standard above which will take you to the UL website.
  • Click the red "Purchase Options" button. It will take you to a new page, select "Secure PDF" with no fee, then click the red "Add to Cart" button.
  • On the next page click the red "Checkout" button.
    • If not already logged in, you will be asked for your log in information here. Log in and proceed to the next page and click the red "Checkout" button.
  • On the next page you click the red "Go to Download PDF" button and follow the directions to download. You then should have full access to that standard.