Environmental Preferable Purchasing

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) refers to the procurement of goods and services that have a reduced effect on human health and the environment as compared to competing goods and services serving the same purpose. Identifying an environmentally preferable product requires a broad review of impacts that occur during the lifecycle of a product, from its production, use, to its reuse, recycling, and to its disposal. EPP is also referred to as Environmental Purchasing, Affirmative Procurement, Green Procurement, and Green Purchasing. EPP may consider some or all of the following product characteristics, including energy efficiency, the pollution generated by making the product, waste disposal, recycled content resource use, transportation, and durability.

Hotel operations require lots of purchases of a variety of products. An EPP program at a hotel makes lots of sense from an environmental and cost-effective standpoint. Here are some facts about hotel waste provided by the California Green Lodging Program.

  • Average-sized hotels purchase more products in one week than 100 families do in a year. A good EPP Program would require at least 50 percent of those purchases to be environmentally preferable products.
  • Waste generation can be as high as 30 pounds per room per day; as much as 80 percent of these materials can be recycled.
  • Hospitality industry spends $4 billion a year on energy. Electricity use accounts for 60-70 percent of the utility costs of a typical hotel. A good EPP Program would introduce you to energy-efficient products and practices that will reduce energy consumption, therefore lowering your energy costs.
  • Typical hotels use 218 gallons of water per day per occupied room. Water-efficient fixtures can reduce water and sewer bills by 25-30 percent and sometimes reduce energy as well.

Benefits of Environmental Purchasing
Evaluating products on a case-by-case basis will help you assess the environmental impact of your purchases. Environmental benefits include, but are not limited to:

  • Reducing materials consumption
  • Providing a useful outlet for recycled material
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • Conserving energy
  • Conserving water
  • Increasing the use of renewable products
  • Reducing the presence of toxic materials in the environment

Such benefits in turn:

  • Improve public and occupational health and safety
  • Improve wildlife habitats
  • Decrease air, water, and soil contamination
  • Improve compliance with environmental regulations
  • Decrease costs associated with waste management, disposal, and cleanup
  • Promote a sustainable economy
  • Develop markets for environmentally preferable goods and services

So there is no doubt that by implementing a good EPP program, hotels can do much more to reduce their waste generation and increase savings. A first step in the right direction includes the following steps (developed by the City of San Francisco) to create an effective EPP program:

  1. Assemble a green team
  2. Establish a process of working together
  3. Define the scope of the EPP initiative
  4. Prioritize contracts to change
  5. Research environmentally preferable alternatives
  6. Revise bid specifications
  7. Evaluate bids
  8. Advertise the EP products to staff and conduct training
  9. Solicit feedback from staff members about product effectiveness
  10. Track and publicize success

Typically, the areas that a good hotel EPP program should prioritize are:

  • Building renovation and new construction (LEED certified or LEED conforming)
  • Cleaning products and services (biodegradable, less hazardous)
  • Computers and other electronic equipment
  • Furniture (refurbished)
  • Hybrid electric or alternative fuel vehicles for facility maintenance
  • Landscaping products and services (less hazardous)
  • Office products (recycled content, less hazardous)
  • Paint (less hazardous)
  • Paper (recycled content, process chlorine free)
  • Pest management products and services (less hazardous)
  • Products that do not contain persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic compounds
  • Products that do not contain wood from endangered forests
  • Renewable electricity
  • Vehicle maintenance products and services (less hazardous)
  • Organic, locally grown food and beverage products
  • Energy efficient appliances that are certified by Energy Star
  • Energy efficient lighting fixtures
  • Water-conserving fixtures


Additional Resources:
Responsible Purchasing Network
The Responsible Purchasing Network (RPN) is an international network of buyers dedicated to socially responsible and environmentally sustainable purchasing. Their membership program and consulting services provide institutional purchasers with cutting edge procurement tools and resources designed to save money, conserve resources, reduce waste, and improve efficiency.
P2 Resources Information Center – Green Procurement
This resource links you to P2Ric, a P2Rx center that serves the pollution programs in EPA Region 7. It contains information such as background of overview of EPP, a definition of what purchasing implies, why an EPP program should be developed and implemented, where to go for help if you need assistance with developing and implementing an EPP program, and a list of links and resources that can assist you in your EPP efforts.
GreenerChoices: Eco-labels Center
This resource informs you of what the labels on your favorite products really mean. As the popularity of green product claims continues to grow, it’s important to know which claims can be trusted and which ones cannot be trusted. This resource contains search tools to get expert evaluation of labels on food, wood, and cleaners. The database is searchable by product, category, or certifier.
San Francisco Green Purchasing Program
In 2005, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to enact a law that requires city purchasers to consider public health and environmental stewardship when purchasing products. SF Approved Green Products meet standards that are often stricter than EnergyStar, Green Seal or Ecologo. To view SF’s Purchasing Program, its focus areas, and criteria used to define what a “green product” is, please visit its website.
California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) – Environmental Preferable Purchasing (EPP)
In California, the Department of General Services, Procurement Division, serves as the lead agency for EPP by and for state government. As noted above, State Agencies should check DGS’s Buying Green Guide. Beyond this, much purchasing in California occurs outside of state government that directly impacts overall state waste generation and market development. Thus this site also explores the array of innovative programs and resources found elsewhere as well.
Green Seal
Green Seal bases its work on thorough, state-of-the-art scientific evaluations using internationally accepted methodologies. Product evaluations are conducted using a life-cycle approach to ensure that all significant environmental impacts of a product are considered, from raw materials extraction through manufacturing to use and disposal. Wherever possible, Green Seal standards cite international test methods for evaluating product performance or environmental attributes such as toxicity, and its procedures conform to international standards for eco-labeling. Below are some Green Seal-certified links to services and products that may have an interest for hotel administrators:

Energy Star
ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. Results are already adding up. Americans, with the help of ENERGY STAR, saved enough energy in 2007 alone to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 27 million cars — all while saving $16 billion on their utility bills. This website is helpful to any hotel wanting to develop and implement an EPP program, which includes the purchasing of green appliances.
Guide to the Business Case & Benefits of Sustainability Purchasing [PDF – Source: Sustainability Purchasing Network]  This Guide was produced to help organizations understand the triple bottom line benefits (financial, social and environmental) and costs of sustainability purchasing. As with any new business decision, cost-benefit information can help support decision-making at the board, executive, departmental and end-user levels. This Guide outlines the business case benefits and costs for sustainability purchasing and identifies important process considerations that impact the business case, such as the cost of designing and managing a sustainability purchasing program and the benefits of using “total cost of ownership” or life cycle assessment processes in purchasing.
Switching to Green: A Renewable Energy Guide for Office and Retail Companies [PDF – Source:World Resources Institute] This guide is a practical resource for companies that want to “greenify” their energy supply, but don’t know how.
WasteWise Update: Environmentally Prefereable Purchasing [PDF – Source: United States Environmental Protection AgencyThis resource contains sixteen pages that identify the benefits of EPP, describes how to establish and maintain an EPP program, and provides EPP examples.