Questions and Answers...

Recent Federal Green Procurement Mandates

Executive Order 13101 --Green the Government Through Waste Prevention, Recycling, and Federal Acquisition
This Order requires federal agencies to consider environmental criteria in their purchasing decisions, states a preference for procuring "environmentally preferable" products and services, and directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop guidance for environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP).

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Federal Acquisition Regulations
These are the rules governing how federal agencies buy goods and services. These regulations specifically require federal agencies to "implement cost-effective contracting preference programs favoring the acquisition of environmentally preferable and energy-efficient products and services" (FAR 23.704a).

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In our national capital area, Washington, DC, Maryland, and some counties in Virginia are already implementing the EPP program. (Resource: Information About State and Local Governments are implementing Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Practices. November, 2000)


Green terminology can be confusing. Through the words are sometimes used interchangeably, each has a specific meaning:

  • Green: Today's buzzword for "environmentally preferable." For purchasing and specification, The U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) requires green products to meet a specific set of requirements; for example, they must contain no cancer-causing agents or ozone-depleting compounds. There are a number of other criteria outlined by the DOI.
  • Environmentally preferable: Products or services that have less effect on human health and the environment compared with competing products or services used for the same purpose. These products may have recycled content, minimize waste, conserve energy or water, or be less toxic. Using these products is one aspect of maintaining a building that is environmentally sustainable.
  • Environmentally sustainable: Meeting today's needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirneeds. Sustainability integrates "green," of environmentally preferable, practices and products.

Many Misconceptions

Even with increasing environmental awareness, many distributors balk at considering green products because they think they cost more. Many believe greening a facility will always result in a higher cost to the customer. While that may have been common in the past - even five years ago - it's no longer the case, industry experts say.

Green cleaning products tend to be high-quality products, Ashkin said.

Stephen Ashkin, President of Ashkin Group in Bloomington, Ind., who has helped develop many current cleaning standards. "It's not just a trend, it's an investment in the future." "When clients ask me if it's going to cost more, I answer by saying that if you're currently buying goods, quality products, then green cleaning won't cost you anymore. If they're buying cheap products, then green might cost them more. Sometimes it costs more; sometimes I've been able to save people money."

"A Product is not green unless it is as effective or more effective than traditional products," he says, adding that the products his organization endorses must meet extensive performance criteria.

What's Next?

Potential for success with green products is evident, but for distributors to remain on top of the trend, there needs to be a time commitment made for education.

"Manufacturers have caught up, the purchasers have caught up, and the distributors simply need to know that green products are affordable, available and effective. If [distributors] are stocking green products, they'll increase their profits and perhaps their market share," says Case.

"Our customers don't just want to buy a green glass cleaner; they want to buy a green program."

Success with green janitorial who provides green products requires upper management's commitment to invest in the time and education for the staff. In many cases, our Project Manager and Supervisors on-site are already well-versed in these products... because we are using them everyday. we work with our customers to ensure that the building they are in is one of the most effective use of environmental friendly and the most efficient spent on energy saving.

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