Depletion of non-renewable resources and the cumulative effects of water and air pollution continue to threaten the planets ability to sustain future generations.
Environmentally Preferable Purchasing
The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around, said Senator Gaylord Nelson. The economy has yet to acknowledge this dictum, still relying heavily on the transformation of raw materials into marketable products and continuing to take a toll on an already heavily taxed environment. Depletion of non-renewable resources and the cumulative effects of water and air pollution continue to threaten the planets ability to sustain future generations. These negative effects can be significantly reduced by increasing the durability of goods, designing them for disassembly and reuse of materials, eliminating toxics, increasing the use of renewable materials and energy, and sourcing materials locally. Efforts in this direction are beginning to be made in many areas. It is important to encourage them by exerting market pull and systematically buying those products which are environmentally preferable, perform as well or better than the traditional product, and are cost competitive
Developing an effective program for incorporating environmentally preferable products into a large procurement system is not easy. One fundamental problem is determining among the myriad products and their manufacturers claims which products are indeed environmentally preferable. For some products this is relatively simple. Water-based degreasers are clearly more environmentally friendly than those using VOC-laden solvents. For other products, in-depth technical knowledge, not usually available to procurement staff, is needed to make accurate judgments. In yet other cases, it is difficult to assess the overall environmental preferability, given conflicting environmental considerations. Is it better to wash the dishes by hand or turn on the electric dishwasher? The dishwasher wins IF it is water and energy efficient, is run only when fully loaded and the dishes are not pre-rinsed. But these types of analyses are often quite complicated and difficult to assess with any degree of accuracy. The ultimate answer lies in industry moving to manufacturing products without toxics, complete closed loop recycling, and use of rigorous, scientific, third party verified life cycle analysis to assess the impacts of all embodied energy and resource requirements for the production, use, distribution, and disposal of the product.
While industry must take final responsibility for the change to environmentally responsible goods, the market can exert a significant pull. Buyers can support responsible manufacturers by switching to environmentally preferable products
as they become available. With the fourth largest state procurement budget, Pennsylvania is poised to use these specifications to identify major environmental improvements, incorporating them into statewide procurement contracts and ultimately force manufacturers to move toward more sustainable products.
third party certified, green
maintenance products stored in
a janitorial closet
Another important aspect of a successful green purchasing program is agency accessibility to environmentally preferable procurement contracts
. The Department of General Services
, which contracts for goods and services on behalf of Commonwealth agencies, continues to increase access to environmentally preferable products. Nineteen contracts covering everything from environmentally preferable office supplies, non-toxic Green Seal . certified janitorial and custodial cleaning materials
, paints with no volatile organic compounds, IT and dietary supplies are now readily available. This past year commonwealth agencies used these green contracts to purchase nearly $19 million in environmentally preferable products.
Some of these contracts include:
- The development of a biodiesel heating fuels contract for Ft. Indiantown Gap which has broken ground for a more comprehensive transportation and heating fuels contract utilizing fuels derived in part from the by-products of soybeans. Currently written for a 5 percent blend of biodiesel with 95 percent heating oil, subsequent contracts will establish up to 20 percent blends of biodiesel for both transportation and heating, statewide. Production of soy-based biodiesel would help retain a portion of the $30 billion annually that the Commonwealth currently exports out of the state for fuel.
- Department of General Service is currently reviewing the National Sanitation Foundations Sustainable Carpet Standard for inclusion in a Commonwealth wide sustainable carpet contract. This is the first attempt by the Commonwealth to incorporate a standard which uses life cycle analysis to grade the attainment levels of sustainable products into a procurement contract, and when successful should establish Pennsylvania as a leader in environmentally preferable purchasing.
- An agency contract for the procurement of paper towels has been modified to use only unbleached, brown paper in production. The bleaching process in the making of paper accounts for large-scale emissions of environmentally degradating organochlorines and dioxins, organic compounds that contribute to cancers and serious damage to the immune and developmental systems in humans. Commonwealth purchase of unbleached paper towels should remove over 8.25 tons of these organochlorines from the environment while saving over 758,500 gallons of water per year.
- Strategic sourcing is a statewide initiative to reduce costs for goods and services that has achieved more than $180 million in annual savings by leveraging the commonwealths immense buying power. The strategically sourced office supply contract provides agencies with the option of purchasing some products containing recycled materials. Tracking of the last quarter of the past fiscal year indicates that state agencies have spent over $1,248,900 on green purchases. As use of this contract increases these numbers are expected to grow considerably.
- Some other examples of agency green purchasing include:
- Cheyney University has developed a micro quantity control program in the ordering of their laboratory chemicals which helps keep hazardous chemical storage to a minimum and promotes product rotation. And the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs uses a pharmacy concept for disbursement of supplies at their Aviation Support Facility, which assures that only needed product is dispensed in small quantities. Both of these initiatives eliminate excessive waste and the need for large-scale storage and disposal of hazardous material.
- Slippery Rock Universitys Macoskey Center and Edinboro University use only 100 percent post consumer recycle content office paper for all printing applications. For every ton of this paper used approximately 24 trees are saved, 7,000 gallons of water are conserved, 4100 kWh of electricity and 60 pounds of air pollutants are avoided.
- Edinboro Universitys McKeever Center purchased replacement bunk beds that have head and footboards made from 100 percent recycled plastic.
- Cheyney University purchases low VOC content paints and environmentally preferable dilution control cleaning supplies as does most of the other State System Universities,
- The Independent Regulatory Review Agency and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency purchase from the recycle catalog whenever practical.
- Approximately 99 percent of the State Employees Retirement System monitors were upgraded to flat panel LCD monitors. LCD monitors use approximately 30 to 50 percent less energy than conventional CRT monitors and generate much less heat, thereby reducing the cooling load.
- Energy Star rated equipment is purchased through existing Department of General Service Contracts by many agencies including the Public School Employees Retirement System, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the Department of Transportation.
- The Department of Labor and Industrys Hiram Andrews Center replaced their 20-year-old dishwasher with an Energy Star efficient model that uses less water. The garbage disposal that required a steady flow of water for about 4 hours a day was also replaced with a more water efficient model, now using only one fifth the water.
- As part of the Strategic Sourcing Initiative, a newly created COSTARS program allows municipal government, school districts and other nonprofit organizations that enroll, access to state contracts, thereby increasing the spread of green products throughout the public sector. This last quarter these costars eligible organizations purchased $75,828 of environmentally preferable products.
Refillable spray bottles reduce
product packaging through bulk
purchasing of environmentally
preferable cleaning products
- Paramount to the environmentally preferable purchasing program is the beneficial impacts to human health. With indoor air pollution ranking among the nations top 5 environmental risks and the correlation of increased asthma and breathing problems tied to homes and office buildings routinely containing up to 15 times the number of volatile organic compounds, its no wonder that emphasis is on getting rid of the nasty chemicals associated with industrial strength maintenance and office products. The reward is not just the mitigation to human health but also as an economic stimulus as poor indoor air quality has resulted in as much as 130 percent increase in total worker sick leave with nationwide productivity losses escalating to as much as $50 billion annually. Toxic air emissions have been significantly reduced through the strategically sourced janitorial dilution control cleaning product contract. Now into its second year, the contract has replaced toxic dilution control cleaning products with less hazardous and less volatile substitutes.
In other areas of toxic air emission reductions:
- Departments of General Services and Military and Veterans Affairs have substituted water based vehicle maintenance degreasing products for the more volatile petroleum based cleaning products.
- Pennsylvanias green electricity purchase , which accounts for 20% of the entire Commonwealth government load coming from renewable sources has helped to reduce harmful emissions of nitrogen and sulfur by 219.95 and 785.25 tons respectively. It has also cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 101,150 tons annually.
In most industry today, disposal avoidance costs represent a significant savings to the shareholder. Likewise in state government, disposal avoidance costs represent significant savings to the taxpayer.
These avoidance costs can be realized by the purchase of products which have extended natural life, reduced hazardous and toxic components and whose major components are easy to recycle. In areas of IT, Commonwealth agencies have reduced their disposal costs by purchasing computers, monitors peripherals, copiers and printers from manufacturers who guarantee environmentally friendly and affordable recycling options at the end of the products useful life. Even better, agencies like the Department of Transportation are taking advantage of the Commonwealths computer leasing program which guarantees that the manufacturer will take back and either reuse or appropriately recycle the antiquated components.
Environmentally preferable purchasing can also increase the effectiveness of recycling programs by opening markets for recycled products. By purchasing green the Commonwealth can help increase the value of recycled materials by opening markets, lowering the cost of products manufactured with recycled content materials and stimulating research and development of manufacturing technologies for recycled content products. In an effort to achieve these goals the Commonwealth, through the Department of Environmental Resources
and in conjunction with the Pennsylvania State University
, developed the Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center
. The center's mission is to expand and develop more secure and robust markets for recovered materials by helping to overcome market barriers and inefficiencies. Comprised of a 14 member Board of Directors and a staff of five, the Center has already generated over 80 active projects garnering 71 clients from 48 different types of businesses in 33 counties. To date, 17 completed projects have generated economic benefits in excess of $443,781 with an annual total forecasted to reach $1,820,000. Noteworthy in terms of project success was the use of glass cullet as a filtration media in the construction of on-lot sewage disposal systems. In one instance 257 tons of recycled glass cullet was purchased, replacing quarried sand w
ith a calculated savings of $1,042.00. This project alone used the equivalent tonnage of waste glass recycled in Schuylkill County
for 7 months. While waste glass culet has been used in the past to stabilize construction foundations and as hardstand for road projects, this is the first time that it has been used as a sand replacement for the filtration of waste effluent.