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Environmentally Preferable Purchasing

Purchasing environmentally preferable products can be a cost-effective method for reducing an agency's impact on the environment. It promotes:

  • Conserving energy and water
  • Reducing the generation of hazardous waste
  • Using nonhazardous, recovered and biobased materials
  • Recognizing life-cycle cost savings.

What is the benefit of buying environmentally preferable products?

  • Buying recycled products limits pollution by encouraging manufacturing processes that limit resource use and energy waste.
  • Buying recycled products keeps material out of our landfills. Diverting material from landfills extends the amount of time a landfill can collect waste.
  • Buying products with recycled content ensures that materials collected via recycling programs will be used in new products and bolsters the market for recovered materials. Increasing demand for recycled products encourages more manufacturers to participate in this process as well. 
  • Green products are often competitively priced and perform as well or better than conventional products, and in many cases can be  purchased at a discount.
  • For example, producing recycled paper requires approximately 40 percent less energy than making paper from virgin material.1

What are recycled goods and products?

  • Recycled goods and products meet the necessary performance standards and contain recycled content in place of a raw material. 
  • Recycled content can be either post- or pre-consumer. Post-consumer means the material has been used by the consumer and was collected for reprocessing. Pre-consumer refers to material that was removed from the waste stream during manufacturing.

What is a climate positive product?

  • A climate positive product has a negative carbon footprint, meaning the product or company removes more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits during production.

Resources for environmentally preferable purchasing

  • To make navigating ecolabels easier, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a list to help purchasers efficiently and effectively identify environmentally sustainable products and services. Examples include Safer Choice, ENERGY STAR and Water Sense.
  • EPA's Sustainable Materials Management Comprehensive Procurement Guideline Program promotes the use of materials recovered from solid waste. The list of 61 products includes accompanying recommendations for recovered content, both post-consumer material content and/or total recovered material content.
  • EPA created the Recycled Content (ReCon) Tool to help companies and individuals estimate life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions and energy impacts from purchasing and/or manufacturing materials with varying degrees of post-consumer recycled content. 

Interested in doing more?

  • Create a green team within your organization. A green team helps develop and run your agency's green programs.
  • Implement an Environmental Management System (EMS) within your agency to evaluate how your agency interacts with the environment and implement actions that reduce the agency's impact.
  • Join the Virginia Environmental Excellence Program (VEEP) as a Sustainability Partner or an EMS Track member to reveive recognition for your efforts. VEEP also provides resources and assistance for the development of an EMS. Contact us with questions at VEEP@DEQ.Virginia.gov.

Information on the befits of recycled goods is provided per §2.2-4323.B of the Code of Virginia.

1 https://archive.epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/smm/wastewise/web/html/factoid.html

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000


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