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Environmentally Preferred Purchasing

Who Certifies Green Products and Services?

Standards and certification programs are useful when you are purchasing environmentally preferable products (EPP) and writing specifications for bid documents. Standards establish human health, environmental and social criteria by which products and services can be evaluated and certified.

Standards organizations typically develop certification programs (also known as eco-labels) that identify products and services that have met the standards. This can make preparing bid documents far easier since the requirements of the standard can be incorporated in the document in just a few sentences.

To learn more about how standards and certifications apply to specific product categories, see the Products webpage.

How Can I Use Standards and Certifications?

You can use standards and certifications to:

  • Identify manufacturers and service providers that are proven environmental leaders.
  • Incorporate environmental criteria into bid documents by reference to an existing standard (check procurement guidelines.)

What are the Characteristics of a Reliable Standards and Certifications Program?
Reliable standards and certification programs are designed to:

  • Incorporate product life cycle stages from raw materials to end-of-life.
  • Require on-site testing and verification by an independent laboratory or certifying group.
  • Often incorporate performance and safety standards that the product must meet or exceed.

Reliable standards and certification organizations:

  • Are independent of ties to product manufacturers.
  • Use a broad-based stakeholder consensus process (typically involving manufacturers, users, government, non governmental organizations, and academia) or other rigorous process to develop standards.
  • Provide information on their organizational structure, funding and standards development process.
  • Periodically review and update standards to stay current with new technology and emerging information about human health, environmental, and social impacts of products.
  • Encourage the design of products and services with positive environmental and human health attributes.

Note: Be aware that some manufacturers, service providers, and trade associations create “green” labels for their product or service lines that do not meet these tests of independence and credibility. Check with neutral and reliable resources to determine if a certification system is credible.

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Standards and Certification Organizations

U.S. & Canada

Learn about standards and certification programs frequently referenced in bid documents in North America.

  1. Safer Choice
    Multiple Products

    Safer Choice is an EPA program that forms voluntary partnerships with selected industry sectors to:

    • Evaluate the human health and environmental impacts of an industry's manufacturing processes and products.
    • Conduct assessments of safer alternatives.
    • Reduce the use and release of toxic chemicals through innovation of cleaner technologies that use safer chemicals.
    • Implement pollution prevention, energy efficiency, and other resource conservation measures.
    • Design products that can be reused, refurbished, remanufactured, or recycled.

    Through this process, the Safer Choice program creates a model for industry to follow. Safer Choice generally works through industry leaders, and trade and technical associations, plus often involves public interest groups, universities, research institutions, and other government agencies at the federal, state, and local level.

  2. Cradle to Cradle
    Multiple Products

    Cradle to Cradle is a beneficial design approach to product certification. It integrates multiple attributes, including safe materials, continuous reclamation and re-use of materials, clean water, renewable energy and social fairness.

  3. Energy Star
    Energy Efficient Products

    Energy Star is a voluntary labeling program designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products. The program is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. Energy Star certifies products in over 50 categories, including commercial appliances, food service equipment, heating and cooling systems, electronics, office equipment, and lighting. These products deliver the same or better performance as comparable models while using less energy and saving money.

    Through its partnerships with more than 9,000 private and public sector organizations, Energy Star provides technical information and tools that agencies can use to choose energy-efficient equipment. Energy Star is also used by EPA for an energy performance rating system for top-performing buildings.

  4. Ecologo Program
    Multiple Products

    The Environmental Choice Program (ECP) has developed 150 environmental standards in a wide range of product categories and awards the EcoLogo certification.

  5. Environmentally Preferable Electronics Assessment Tool

    The Environmentally Preferable Electronics Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is a rating system to help purchasers in the public and private sectors evaluate, compare, and select desktop computers, notebook computers, and monitors based on their environmental attributes. EPEAT provides a set of voluntary environmental performance criteria, which are specified in an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) standard for environmental assessment of computer products.

    Computer products receive Bronze, Silver or Gold EPEAT rating depending on how many of the 23 required criteria and 28 optional criteria are met. EPEAT is operated by the Green Electronics Council, an independent non-profit organization.

  6. Forest Stewardship Council
    Forestry and Paper Products

    The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a global standard-setting organization focused on forest management. FSC has developed ten principles and 57 criteria that address legal issues, indigenous rights, labor rights, and environmental impacts surrounding forest management. FSC accredits independent third-party certifiers to assess forest operations worldwide against the standards. Certifiers also evaluate operations that use or sell FSC certified materials. FSC has three product labels:

    • "FSC pure label": 100 percent FSC certified content
    • "FSC mixed label": at least 10 percent FSC certified and 60 percent post-consumer content
    • "FSC recycled label": 100 percent post-consumer content.

  7. Green-e
    Renewable Energy

    Green-e is an independent certification and verification program for renewable energy and for companies that use renewable energy. Companies selling renewable energy can receive Green-e certification by meeting the standards and undergoing periodic reviews to ensure compliance. Businesses using certified renewable energy to manufacture their products can be identified by the Green-e logo. Green-e is currently developing the first national standard for the expanding carbon offset industry.

  8. GREENGUARD Environmental Institute
    Low Emissions Products

    The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) establishes low emissions standards for products such as building materials, interior furnishings, furniture, cleaning and maintenance products, electronic equipment, and personal care products. GREENGUARD certifies products that have been tested by an approved testing lab to ensure that their chemical and particle emissions meet acceptable indoor air quality guidelines and standards. Since children are more vulnerable to environmental toxins than adults, GEI also provides a certification program for low emitting interior building materials, furnishings, and finishes used in daycare and K-12 environments. The organization was acquired by UL Environment in 2011.

  9. Green Seal
    Multiple Products

    Green Seal establishes standards for both institutional and household products in over 30 product categories. Green Seal certifies products ranging from alternative fuel vehicles to recycled content latex paint. Green Seal regularly publishes its Choose Green Reports, which evaluate the environmental impacts of products and recommend products that meet its standards.

  10. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG)
    Recycled Content Products

    Federal agencies, state agencies, and political subdivisions of a state using appropriated federal funds for procurement are required to purchase recycled content products. EPA ‘s Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines recommend recycled content levels for a wide variety of products and practices for buying these products. EPA publishes recycled content level recommendations for construction, landscaping, office supplies, paper, transportation, automotive, and miscellaneous products.

  11. US Green Building Council
    Green Building Products

    The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) operates the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. LEED is a voluntary, consensus-based national rating system for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. Building performance in five categories - sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality - is evaluated before awarding LEED credits. Building projects receive Silver, Gold, or Platinum certification based on the number of credits earned.

    The LEED system addresses all building types including new construction, major remodels, commercial interiors, homes, neighborhoods, and specific applications such as retail, campuses, schools, healthcare facilities, laboratories and lodging.

  12. USDA Organic Standards Certification
    Food Products

    As of October 2002, all agricultural products labeled "organic" must be in compliance with the National Organic Standards, which:

    • Prohibit the use of irradiation, sewage sludge, or genetically modified organisms in organic production.
    • Reflect National Organic Standards Board recommendations concerning allowed synthetic and prohibited natural substances.
    • Prohibit antibiotics in organic meat and poultry.
    • Require 100% organic feed for organic livestock.

    The word "organic" on U. S. products means that the ingredients and production methods have been verified by an accredited certification agency as meeting or exceeding USDA standards for organic production.

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The following standards and certifications are in use outside of the U.S. and Canada.
  1. Blue Angel

    The Blue Angel is the first and oldest eco-label in the world. Blue Angel certifies products in 80 categories against its environmental standards, with about 40 additional standards under development.

  2. Eco-Mark

    Eco-Mark is Japan's leading standards and certifications organization.

  3. European Union Eco-Label

    The European Union (EU) established the European Eco-label in 1992 for the member states of the European Union, plus Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. The European Eco-label awards its label in 28 product groups. The environmental criteria are defined to allow up to 30 percent of the products on the market to meet the standard.

  4. Global Ecolabelling Network

    The Global Ecolabeling Network (GEN) is a non-profit association of third-party, environmental performance labeling organizations. GEN was founded in 1994 to improve, promote, and develop the eco-labeling of products and services. GEN facilitates communication and harmonization among the world's eco-labeling programs.

  5. Nordic Swan

    Nordic Swan develops environmental standards endorsed by Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland. The five countries work together through the Nordic Ecolabelling Board. The Swan eco-label is awarded to a wide range of products and is widely accepted in Europe.

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Performance Standards

Make sure that an environmentally preferable product or service performs to industry standards.

The following organizations develop technical and performance standards that can be used to verify that an environmentally preferable product or service performs at accepted levels.

  1. American National Standards Institute

    The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) coordinates the development and use of voluntary consensus standards in the United States and represents U.S. stakeholders in standardization forums around the globe. ANSI also accredits programs that assess conformance to standards, including the ISO 9000 quality management systems and ISO 14000 environmental management systems.

  2. ASTM International

    ASTM International develops standards for the performance of materials, products, systems, and services. ASTM standards can be used to verify that environmentally preferable products meet technical and performance standards.

  3. International Organization for Standardization

    The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a network of national standards institutes in 157 countries, develops technical standards for use across the entire manufacturing cycle. ISO stakeholders develop consensus on specifications and criteria in classification of materials, manufacture and supply of products, testing and analysis, terminology, and provision of services. Over 3,000 technical groups participate in developing and updating ISO standards.

    To promote compatibility among global eco-labeling systems, ISO established an environmental labeling subcommittee within the ISO/TC 207 technical committee. International Standard 14020 establishes guiding principles for the development and use of environmental labels to be accurate, verifiable, and transparent.

  4. Master Painters Institute

    The Master Painters Institute establishes quality standards and quality assurance in the architectural painting and coating application industries.

  5. Scientific Certification Systems

    Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) provides independent verification of auditing and testing services, as well as of environmental claims.

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The Competitive Advantage: EcoPurchasing, Sandra Cannon, Battelle Press, 2006.

Federal Trade Commission, Environmental Marketing.

Global Ecolabelling Network, "What is Ecolabelling"

For Buy Green technical assistance, contact:

Tina Simcich
Email: tina.simcich@ecy.wa.gov
(360) 407-7517

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