The Maturing of Green Purchasing
Washington state's comprehensive efforts show the impact that environmentally friendly procurement can have.
The green-purchasing movement in government is now in a mature stage, and at the state level procurement officials are finding new ways to make their states' operations more environmentally friendly and also influencing the ways that individual departments can become both more sustainable and more fiscally successful.
The Green Purchasing Committee of the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) recently conducted a survey of the central procurement offices in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Of the responding states, 55 percent had a formal environmentally preferable purchasing program, 88 percent included green requirements on certain solicitations, 83 percent required green specifications for certain commodities and/or services, and 47 percent allowed a price premium or gave preference for green products or services.
One of the states setting the pace on green procurement is Washington, whose proactive program is leading state agencies to become greener practically by default.
The state has passed laws to increase the procurement of recycled products by local, state and education agencies and requiring state agencies to purchase products that do not contain toxic subtances such as PCBs when alternatives are available. The state also has ordered agencies to incorporate green building practices, manage vehicle fleets for fuel efficiency, reduce office-paper use while purchasing more recycled paper, and cut energy consumption. Washington provides a 10 percent price preference for green products or services. And as of 2013, updated state procurement law allows criteria such as human health and environmental impacts to be considered when determining the lowest responsive and responsible bidders for state contracts.
These policies have resulted in numerous changes in the ways state agencies manage their day-to-day operations. The state's Department of Enterprise Services, for example, now monitors changes in the markets for vehicle fuels to provide competitively priced biodiesel products, and a multi-year contract assures that alternative-fuel and other fuel-efficient vehicles are available to government fleets. A contract managed by the state for the collection and recycling of scrap metal resulting from the maintenance of state property diverts metal from landfills. Eighty percent of the highway paint the state now purchases contains low levels of the volatile organic compounds that are considered pollutants. And the purchase of remanufactured laser-printer toner cartridges saves taxpayers money.
Washington's efforts to go green, says NASPO President Deb Damore, "provide excellent examples of procurement best practices." And the impact goes beyond government, state officials say, reducing expenses related to climate change for residents and businesses, cutting health-care costs, creating jobs and preserving natural resources -- powerful arguments indeed for an environmentally friendly approach to leveraging government's buying power.