Have you ever tried to buy something at the grocery or hardware store only to become confused by the various eco-labels you encounter? If so, you’re not alone. Right now, there are 444 eco-labels being tracked in the market so it’s essentially impossible to recognize, much less be familiar with, all of them. This proliferation of eco-labels has made it tough for purchasers to easily find, evaluate and buy green products. Federal buyers are no exception. In fact, the challenge is arguably even greater for the federal community because, unlike individual consumers, federal buyers are required by FAR Part 23 to buy environmentally preferable products.
GSA and EPA co-led an interagency working group over the past couple of years to address this challenge. After considering lots of really good ideas from federal buyers, industry representatives and outside experts, the working group developed draft Guidelines that can be used to determine if private sector standards and ecolabels are appropriate for use in federal procurement. The draft Guidelines are designed to determine if private sector standards and eco-labels are environmentally effective while considering how they were developed and managed. EPA has just released the draft Guidelines for public comment and is currently seeking comment about how standards and ecolabels should be assessed and what role private entities, working with the government and other stakeholders, might have in that process.
The Guidelines will be enormously helpful to GSA as it seeks to lower the government’s environmental footprint by selling more green products. Currently, GSA can only identify products that conform to environmental standards and ecolabels specifically required in FAR Part 23, such as EPA’s ENERGY STAR, DOE’s FEMP, USDA’s BioPreferred and the Green Electronic Council’s EPEAT (GSA also allows vendors to identify some agency-specific programs and certain environmental attributes, such as mercury and chromium-free products). Once implemented, the Guidelines will allow GSA to expand to environmental standards and ecolabels in additional product categories. This will help the government use its tax dollars to purchase greener, more efficient products. Hopefully, the Guidelines will also stimulate the overall market demand for greener products and services.
EPA is seeking comment from the public about how standards and ecolabels should be assessed and what role private entities, working with the government and other stakeholders, might have in that process. Now’s the time to let them know what you think.
For more information on the draft guidelines visit: http://www.epa.gov/epp/draftGuidelines