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Why Develop a Green Purchasing Plan?

By Jeffery C. Camplin February 2009 - Material Handling

The process of properly managing hazardous materials and waste starts with the purchasing process. Environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP), often referred to as green purchasing, involves the intentional selection and acquisition of products and services that minimize environmental harm over their life cycle, including manufacturing, transportation, use, and recycling or disposal.

Green purchasing also refers to the practice of preventing waste and pollution by considering environmental impact, along with price, performance, and other traditional selection factors, when making purchasing decisions.

Managers should become familiar with the benefits of an EPP program and look to highlight their department’s role in reducing the amount of waste coming into and leaving their facilities as part of their organizations’ sustainability goals.

Chemical products pose a particular challenge because they present a variety of environmental and safety risks that can be difficult to evaluate. Product ingredients are not always disclosed, and their risks can be confusing or unknown to managers who lack a background in chemistry. Even known risks sometimes can be difficult to assess.

Managers probably are most familiar with green cleaning products. Other green chemicals to consider include paints, fuels, lubricants, pesticides, and landscaping products.

Even if a chemical substitution is not viable for a hazardous chemical, managers can reduce packaging requirements by buying chemicals in concentration or buying products that use recycled material in their packaging.

Managers should check to see whether the organization already has a list of approved or rejected chemicals. If so, no further research is necessary.

Managers also need to check labels on all chemicals their departments use and store to determine if they conform with upper management’s commitment to sustainability. If no label with environmental information is available, they can review the chemical’s material safety data sheet to look for indications of low hazard levels. Otherwise, they will have to research for a best available chemical, based upon hazard, cost, and effectiveness.


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