Government Agencies Required To Go 95% Green On All Purchases

Last week, the Federal Acquisition Regulations Council released an interim rule on green procurement, requiring that the head of each agency ensure that 95 % of new contract actions are for products and services that are energy efficient, water efficient, bio-based, environmentally preferable or non-ozone depleting, adhering to criteria set out by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Agriculture Department. The agencies also must aim to procure items that contain recycled content and are nontoxic.

Spearheaded by the Defense Department, NASA and the General Services Administration, this new policy, is part of the Obama administration's campaign to lead by example in sustainable purchasing. The policy also requires all federal contractors to support the government's goals in environmental management, and includes new requirements for electronic or other paper-saving methods for submitting documents required by contracts.

The interim rule on green procurement it is a follow-up to President Obama's 2009 executive order on green management that sets sustainability goals for Federal agencies and focuses on making improvements in their environmental, energy and economic performance.

The Executive Order requires agencies to meet a number of energy, water, and waste reduction targets, including:

  • 30% reduction in vehicle fleet petroleum use by 2020;
  • 26% improvement in water efficiency by 2020;
  • 50% recycling and waste diversion by 2015;
  • 95% of all applicable contracts will meet sustainability requirements;
  • Implementation of the 2030 net-zero-energy building requirement;
  • Implementation of the stormwater provisions of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, section 438; and
  • Development of guidance for sustainable Federal building locations in alignment with the Livability Principles put forward by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Support sustainable communities
  • Leverage Federal purchasing power to promote environmentally-responsible products and technologies to foster markets in these sectors.

The effects of President Obama's Executive Order have been rippling through the federal government purchasing community for a while. [See 15 Green Supply Chain Studies You Should Know About]

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, commonly known as the Green Guides, to help marketers avoid making environmental claims that are unfair or deceptive under Section 5 of the FTC Act. The Green Guides outline general principles that apply to all environmental marketing claims and then provide guidance on specific green claims, such as biodegradable, compostable, recyclable, recycled content, and ozone safe. The FTC is currently reviewing its Green Guides to ensure that they are appropriately responsive to changes in the marketplace and in consumer perception of environmental claims.

EPA has been soliciting opinions about the role EPA should play in the development, manufacture, designation and use of green and sustainable products. Last fall, the agency EPA held a "listening session"on the EPA's role in:

  • Assembling environmental information and databases
  • Setting product sustainability priorities
  • Evaluating products across their entire lifecycle
  • Defining criteria for more sustainable products
  • Generating eco-labels and standards
  • Verifying products meet green standards
  • Measuring results

U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is also focusing on improvements to its process for identifying greener products and services. It is currently reviewing, for example, how to identify legitimate environmental standards and labels that can help federal purchasers meet the Executive Order requirements. The updated GSA approach will determine what type of environmental information is most accessible to federal government purchasers using the GSA schedules. The GSA is developing and evaluating green technologies and practices in the following areas:

  • Electronics Stewardship
  • Innovative Building Technologies
  • Greening the Supply Chain
  • Electric Vehicle Pilot Program
  • Investing in Clean Energy Economy
  • GSA's Green Purchasing Plan

The Department of Defense has numerous green intitiatives in place:

  • The DoD formed a partnership with the Energy department last year to conserve energy. The alliance is designed to focus[the Energy Department's unique knowledge on meeting defense requirements by taking technologies from labs to the battlefield. They seek to use the collaboration to improve the operational effectiveness of the armed forces and serve as an early customer for innovative energy technologies to jump-start their broader commercial adoption. [See Sustainability is a Key Driver of Innovation]
  • As much as 50% of all current Air Force construction project incorporate the use of green-roof technologies. The most common technologies used by the Air Force are cool roofs, vegetative roofs and renewable-energy generation.
  • A 1-megawatt solar array is being built at Fort Hunter Liggett, CA and is set to become operational later this year. It will provide one-third of the power for the nation's largest Army Reserve training post, and ultimately it will save $1 million in energy costs annually.
  • The Army is moving forward with its Pilot Army Net Zero Installation initiative, which is part of a program to conserve energy, water and waste worldwide. A Net Zero installation is one that produces as much as it uses over the course of a year. A Net Zero Water Installation begins with conservation and continues with repurposing, such as creating grey water generated from showers and laundries for on-site use, including irrigation. A Net Zero Waste Installation is one that reduces, reuses, and recovers waste streams, converting them to usable resources, thereby reducing or eliminating the need for landfills. It begins with conservation and continues with repurposing, such as creating grey water generated from showers and laundries for on-site use, including irrigation. The Army announced which posts have been selected to participate back in April.
  • A Net Zero Waste Installation is one that reduces, reuses, and recovers waste streams, converting them to usable resources, thereby reducing or eliminating the need for landfills
  • An amendment to a major military spending bill before the House would rescind a 2007 federal law barring the Defense Department from using alternative fuels, like synthetic oil made from coal, that produce more climate-altering pollution than conventional fuels.A bill containing the amendment cleared the House Armed Services Committee in April.

NASA has a Greenspace Initiative, which aligns NASA's research and development programs with green activities by providing strategy, integration, and implementation support for a diverse portfolio of alternative energy and environmental projects in four focus areas:

  • Green Aviation
  • Global Prediction, Monitoring, & Response
  • Clean Energy
  • Sustainable Systems

NASA is also striving to reduce its carbon footprint, encourage sustainable institutional practices, and motivate employees to choose environmentally-responsible work and lifestyle habits through its Green NASA Ames projects:

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