Green Purchasing

The City is committed to promoting environmental stewardship and reducing greenhouse gas emissions when buying goods, materials, services and capital improvements. The Green Purchasing Program is a cooperative effort among City departments. Staff from City departments strategize, promote and review outcomes, identifying market transformation opportunities, developing specifications and selection criteria, and educating vendors and end users. Seattle Public Utilities Waste Reduction Program provides environmental technical assistance.

The Green Purchasing Program supports several City policies and goals, and provides tools for City departments to be a model for local citizens, businesses and other governmental agencies.

Green purchasing policies and requirements

The City environmental purchasing ordinances, resolutions, orders, policies and plans are implemented in contracting guidance, solicitations, resulting contracts and other forms.

Green purchasing guidance for vendors and contractors

We use our purchasing power to "walk our talk." As a model to citizens and other government or business entities, the City often seeks products or services that are:

  • Recent introductions to the marketplace, which may need a pilot or testing period. This includes products where the efficacy or benefits may not yet be proven or widely adopted.
  • Less established in the marketplace, where consumer or other corporate demand has not been sufficiently large to drive the marketplace forward and/or make it independently sustainable.

The City's commitment to the green product line will increase the market demand sufficiently to make the product viable, for both the consumer market as well as the commercial or government market. Specific examples have included FSC-Certified lumber, energy-efficient compact-fluorescent and LED lights, low-flow WaterSense-certified showerheads, and 100%-post-consumer-waste recycled paper products.

For these purposes, City of Seattle solicitations and contracts include both "boilerplate" standard language for all vendors and language specific to a product or project. You can find boilerplate language in current contracts using our online blanket contract search tool.

Examples of boilerplate language detailing certain environmental requirements for all vendors include:

  • No idling of vehicles.
  • Use of high-recycled-content paper printed on both sides.
  • Avoiding extra covers or dividers in proposals.

Other environmental provisions are standard in particular types of contracts. For example:

  • Use of compost and soil products containing compost.
  • Recycling of numerous materials.
  • Vendor take-back of excess and/or spent products.

Besides boilerplate language, many specific criteria and requirements are incorporated into Invitations to Bid and Requests for Proposal, and resulting contracts. We give particular attention to reducing toxics, requiring waste-reduction and recycling, and choosing high-standard energy and water-conserving equipment and processes. Some prime examples include:

  • "First Choice" paint and office supplies - vendors are required to offer green products first, per criteria described in the contracts. For paint, First Choice products must meet the Master Painters Institute (MPI) Standard.
  • Green Janitorial products and services - less-toxic products especially meeting eco-certifications such as Green Seal and EPA Design-for-Environment; listed substances are prohibited. Packaging and waste-reduction in dispensing, plus vendors provide training in proper use.
  • 100% post-consumer-recycled-content white paper for both City office use and in printing/copying services.
  • EPEAT and Energy-Forward-certified computer equipment (desktops, laptops, monitors).
  • Rebuilt office furnishings such as partitions, file cabinets and others.
  • Re-refined motor oil; vegetable-based lubricants for hydraulic fluid, bar-and-chain oil, etc.; plug-in electric, hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles.

Third-Party Certification

City Departments and City Purchasing shall apply the most stringent third-party label standard available for a product or service being acquired. The City shall use independent, third-party social and/or environmental (eco) product or service label certifications when writing specifications for, or procuring materials, products or services, whenever a responsible label standard is available. Qualifying labels shall be:

  • Developed and awarded by an impartial third-party.
  • Developed in a public, transparent and broad stakeholder process.
  • Represent specific and meaningful leadership criteria for that product or service category.

In addition, whenever possible, label standards used in product or service specifications should represent standards that take into account multiple attributes and life-cycle considerations, with claims verified by an independent third party.

Green purchasing tools

Many resources for technical and purchasing staff enrich our Green Purchasing Program. The following links are resources we rely upon and you may also find useful. Environmental initiatives, public agency programs, and green certifications and standards are evolving and changing all the time, so these will get you started and you may find additional and newer information as well.

City of Seattle Fact Sheets

Find tips below for reducing toxic chemical use at the City of Seattle. These fact sheets provide relevant City vendor information, which may be out-of-date but can still provide useful examples.

Public Agency Programs, Green Certifications, Standards and Resources

U.S. EPA Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) - The EPP program helps the federal government "buy green" and stimulates market demand for green products and services, compiles standards from other jurisdiction, explains eco-labels and more.

U.S. EPA - Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines particularly for recycled content in a wide variety of types of products, guidance for federal agencies and others.

U.S. General Services Administration - GSA "Strategically Sustainable" provides substantial information for facilities, purchasing and other environmental strategies.

Office of the Federal Sustainability - Promotes sustainable environmental stewardship throughout federal government.

King County Environmental Purchasing Program - The King County EPP provides technical assistance to help county buyers identify, evaluate and purchase environmentally preferable products. Bulletins provide excellent technical information to use in writing purchasing criteria.

The Washington Department of Ecology - List of chemicals of concern for children and actions, reports, etc.

Bureau of Internal Business Services - The City of Portland has progressive purchasing initiatives, excellent case studies and other information.

SF Approved - The City of San Francisco tested products for home, business and government use. In keeping with San Francisco's commitment to the Precautionary Principle since 2005, city staff are required by an ordinance to buy San Francisco-approved green products. San Francisco Department of Environment and other city staff reviewed ingredients, recycled content, energy efficiency, product ratings and more.

Responsible Purchasing Network - A national network of procurement-related professionals dedicated to socially responsible and environmentally sustainable purchasing. The RPN provides detailed information and specification to consider when selecting green products; substantive webinars and purchasing guides; and peer networking for purchasing and environmental staff. Seattle Purchasing is an original member of RPN.

UL Environment - Offers environmental claim validations, multi-attribute product certifications, environmental product declarations, product emissions certification, product emissions testing, organizational sustainability certification and consulting.

U.S. Communities/Green - A collaborative purchasing source for member cities, counties, districts, schools and charities to find shared nationwide contracts for products and services. Seattle Purchasing is a US Communities Board Member.

Alternative Fuels & Advanced Vehicles Data Center - US Department of Energy's clearinghouse of data, tools and information related to advanced transportation technologies.

Conservatree - Nonprofit organization dedicated to developing a market for ecologically sound papers.

Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance - Establishes top energy efficiency standards for particular products. Seattle City Light is a member.

Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) - Evaluates and rates computers and displays, imaging equipment and TVs based on their environmental impact.

Energy Star - A joint program of the US EPA and the US Department of Energy that helps consumers and businesses identify energy-efficient products.

Green Seal - Nonprofit organization that uses science-based programs to empower consumers, purchasers and companies to create a more sustainable world.

EPA's Design for the Environment - Helps consumers, businesses and institutional buyers identify cleaning and other products that perform well, are cost-effective and safer for the environment.