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San Francisco’s Database of Preferred Green Products Works Anywhere

The SF List of over 1,000 required or suggested products is intended primarily to assist city staff, but it’s also a helpful tool for anyone seeking unbiased information about green products.

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Suppliers already have to answer to the sustainability demands of companies like Walmart and Kaiser Permanente. Now they also have to pay attention to what entire cities want–at least in San Francisco, where the local government has launched a database of products that meet the city’s preferred purchasing standards.

The SF Approved List of over 1,000 required or suggested products is the result of a 2005 ordinance that instructs city staff to steer clear of environmentally harmful products, according to Greenbiz. But while the newly-completed database is intended primarily to assist city staff, it’s also a helpful tool for anyone seeking unbiased information about green products. Because as the database website explains, the list “maintains independence from commercial influence. We have a mandate (through the Precautionary Principle),
to adopt the most protective standards for our purchases. Finally, we
have a network of dedicated City staff who are always out there testing
new products, feeding their results into the List, and keeping it real.”

In addition to the network of city staff that work at “keeping it real,” the city also relies on chemical hazard data from GoodGuide in making its decisions. So what kind of products make it onto the list?

The gargantuan database covers everything from caulks to personal care items. Among the approved items: Eiko LED lights, ES Greenplus Hydraulic Fluid, Sustainable Earth Washroom Cleaner, and Auspen Refillable Whiteboard Markers. And then, of course, there are the banned products, which include bottled water and Styrofoam containers.

It’s hard to say if we’ll see similar initiatives in other major cities–San Francisco’s sustainability-focused culture is unique, and not every municipality will dedicate the time and resources to such a major undertaking. But now that San Francisco has released its database to the public, there’s no reason why other towns and cities can’t adopt it for themselves. 

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.

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