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Sustainable Marketplace: Greener Products and Services

Frequent Questions about Sustainable Marketplace and Green Products

What are greener products and services?

Generally, a product may be considered "greener" if it poses less harm to human health or the environment compared to other products that serve the same purpose. Find out more information on a greener product or service. This term is often used synonymously as "environmentally preferable" or "environmentally sustainable."

Why buy greener products and services?

Products can have a wide variety of human health and environmental impacts including: exposures to toxic and hazardous chemicals, air pollution, water pollution, climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, and waste disposal.

It is important to consider human health and environmental impacts over a product's entire life cycle, through:

  • Sourcing of raw materials
  • Manufacturing
  • Packaging
  • Transportation
  • Distribution
  • Retailing
  • Use of the product
  • Management of the product when it is no longer needed – through reuse, repair, or safe recycling and/or disposal

By looking for greener products when you shop and using products in ways that respect the environment, you will be joining millions of Americans in helping protect your family’s health and the environment. Using products in ways that respect the environment includes conserving energy, water and materials as well as disposing the products responsibly through recycling and reuse.

For more information on the benefits of buying greener products and services.

What are the most important things I should know about finding and purchasing greener products and services?

Despite a manufacturer's or vendor's best intentions, not all claims that a product is greener are meaningful or accurate. What makes a product greener is complex. As a start, look for products and services verified as meeting standards or ecolabels that:

For more information on private sector standards and ecolabels.

For claims not verified by a third party certifier and/or label, make sure they meet the Federal Trade Commission's Guides to the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (Green Guides).  The Green Guides are intended to reduce consumer confusion and prevent false or misleading use of environmental terms in product advertising and labeling. The Green Guides indicate how the Federal Trade Commission will apply Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices in environmental marketing claims. The Green Guides apply to all forms of product and service marketing to the public, including advertisements, labels, package inserts, promotional materials and electronic media.  If you see a claim that does not meet the FTC Green Guides, let the FTC know.

What are the most important things I should know about marketing and selling greener products and services?

The Natural Marketing Institute 2014 consumer research study found that over half of the US population will choose environmentally preferable products when given the choice to buy or use a product or service and that 49% of the general US population indicate that they would buy more environmentally preferable products and services if there were more selection available where they shop. Read more about the consumer researchExit

Make sure that your claims about the environmental aspects of your products meet the FTC Green Guides requirements. The Federal Trade Commission's Guides to the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (Green Guides) are intended to reduce consumer confusion and prevent false or misleading use of environmental terms in product advertising and labeling. The Green Guides indicate how the Federal Trade Commission will apply Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices, in environmental marketing claims. The Green Guides apply to all forms of product and service marketing to the public, including advertisements, labels, package inserts, promotional materials and electronic media. Read more about the Green Guides.

Do greener products and services cost more?

Some greener products and services are less expensive than conventional options. And some greener products, like energy and water-efficient products, can save you money in the long run. It is important to consider durability, safety, efficiency — all characteristics with both cost AND environmental implications for the consumer over the life of a product. That said, some greener products do have higher upfront costs. As demand for products with reduced environmental and human health impacts grows, prices of greener products will decrease.

Does the federal government buy greener products and services?

Yes! The Federal government is the single largest consumer in the world, spending close to $500 billion each year on a wide variety of products and services. The government's purchase and use of products and services leave a large environmental footprint. Through its purchasing decisions, the Federal government can minimize human health and environmental impacts while supporting manufacturers that produce environmentally preferable products and services and stimulating supply of greener products and services across the globe.

Federal government purchasers are required to buy greener products and services outlined in Executive Order 13693 and the Federal Acquisition Regulations subpart 23.  To see these requirements by each product and service category, click here.

Federal agencies are also required to develop annual Strategic Sustainability Procurement Plans, in which they lay out their annual green purchasing goals. Annual results of each Agency's efforts to procure greener products and services are published in the Office of Management and Budget Energy and Sustainability Scorecards.  While work remains, the Scorecard results demonstrate the success the federal community is achieving in being good stewards of the environment and using our pocketbooks to green the global marketplace.

How can I sell my product or service to the federal government?

A good resource to start with is Selling Environmental Products to the Federal Government.

Additionally, we encourage you to do what you do best: market your product! For government purchasers, vendors are a key source of information on products and services. You can encourage government agencies to buy environmentally preferable products by:

Will the EPA recognize my product as environmentally preferable?

As a federal governmental agency, neither EPA nor its programs can endorse products or services.

While the EPA does not keep a comprehensive list of greener products, there are programs at EPA that do have lists of product brands that meet their requirements for specific products and services.

Other federal agencies also have programs that list product brands that meet their requirements for products.

In addition, EPA has developed recommendations of non-federal specifications, standards, and ecolabels to help federal purchasers identify and procure greener products. Demonstrating conformance to or getting your product certified to one of these standards or ecolabels can also help you sell to the Federal government.

What is a product life-cycle assessment, and how can it be used to improve products?

Life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a "cradle-to-grave" approach for assessing the environmental impacts of the life of a product. "Cradle-to-grave" begins with the gathering of raw materials from the earth to create the product and ends at the point when all materials are returned to the earth. LCA evaluates all stages of a product's life from the perspective that they are interdependent, meaning that one operation leads to the next. LCA enables the estimation of the cumulative environmental impacts resulting from all stages in the product life cycle, often including impacts not considered in more traditional analyses (e.g., raw material extraction, material transportation, ultimate product disposal, etc.). By including the impacts throughout the product life cycle, LCA provides a comprehensive view of the environmental aspects of the product or process and a more accurate picture of the true environmental trade-offs in product and process selection. For more information, go to EPA's LCA 101 report, Life-cycle assessment: Principles And Practice.