EPA database helps agencies buy green

The Environmental Protection Agency has upgraded its online database to help agencies buy environmentally-friendly products and services. The improved database is a clearinghouse for information on how to buy environmentally-friendly products. It also includes standards and guidelines for 'green' products as well as contracts that agencies have used in making 'green' purchases. Under a 1998 executive order, agencies are required to use environmentally-friendly goods, defined as products that have a less of an adverse effect on human health and the environment than competing products. "It's a one-stop shop for all existing information on what people have been doing to buy greener products," said Holly Elwood of EPA's Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program. "Being able to access all standards and guidelines in one location will significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to research the attributes of a green purchase." The database is organized into 10 separate 'stores' that contain environmental information on major federal procurement items, including computers, furniture and appliances, and industrial equipment. In the computer store, for example, a surfer can view the language and attributes of contracts that have been used to buy environmentally friendly scanners and printers. The database also contains environmental standards and guidelines of foreign countries that users can draw on as they craft contracts. Using the database, the Department of Interior discovered that the European Union has a standard for environmentally-friendly textiles that it incorporated into a $45 million uniform contract, according to Elwood. "A lot of people don't have time to do the surfing to find information from these other countries and organizations. The database allows them to go directly to the information," Elwood said. Elwood cautioned that the database is intended to help agencies incorporate environmental standards into large contracts, not smaller purchases. "A person who wants to buy copy paper for a division of his staff would be better suited to use GSA Advantage!." EPA developed the database through a series of user input meetings that identified what information would be most helpful to agencies in their compliance with the executive order. EPA will add additional contracts and guidelines to the database as they are crafted.
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