Healthy Schools: Environmentally Preferable Purchasing

Environmentally preferable goods and services are those that have less impact on human health and the environment. Some questions to ask before making a purchase include:

  • Is the product less toxic?
  • Is it reusable or more durable?
  • Is it made from recycled materials?
  • What happens to the product at the end of its life? Can it be recycled? Will the manufacturer take the product back? Will it need special disposal?
  • Does it conserve energy or water?
  • Is it made from renewable plant-based raw materials?
  • Is it from a local source?

    Environmentally preferable products can have a huge impact – and not just on the environment. From protecting children’s health and worker safety to budget savings, wise purchasing has many tangible benefits.


Buy Clean – Helping Schools Create a Better Indoor Environment for Learning US EPA – This site is designed for those who buy or use products in schools, but has lots of information on other school and non-school related environmental issues. It provides information on the Buy Clean program as well as links to other related programs, web sites and tools that can be used creating a healthy indoor environment for children in schools. For example, if you are a chemistry or science teacher, check out the many web sites on green chemistry under “Related Programs” – Green Chemistry and “EPP Resources” – Chemistry. These sites can help you design experiments that are educational as well as having lower environmental impact. For procurement folks there are many sources of how others have developed procurement language for green products, look under EPP for many general and specific examples. The US EPA also has an “Environmental Preferable Purchasing Tool Suite” which includes databases, case studies and on-line tutorials. There is also the general EPP Home.

Green SealGreen Seal is an independent, non-profit organization that strives to achieve a healthier and cleaner environment by identifying and promoting products and services that cause less toxic pollution and waste, conserve resources and habitats, and minimize global warming and ozone depletion. Use their site to find certified electric chillers, cleaners, fleet vehicles, maintenance products, floor care products, paints, papers, windows and doors.

Institutional Purchasing Program – Center for a New American Dream

I Buy DifferentWorld Wildlife Fund and Center for New American Dream youth website to educate teens about how their purchasing impacts the environment. They have developed a variety of tools and materials to help teens learn about the connections and take actions that make a difference. Along with all the other information on the Web site, you’ll find a Community Action Guide with 30 activity ideas and some step-by-step advice on organizing projects to make a difference in your community. The Buy Different Action Center provides you with an opportunity to register and find out exactly how many resources you save when you take four simple actions. You can also create a team to see your total impact, or find out the global impact for everyone registering their actions.

Good Stuff: A Behind the Scenes Look at the Things We Buy – Created by the Worldwatch Institute, this guide explores categories like appliances, cars, fast food, meat, soap and more. You can print the entire guide or simple fact sheets about the products you’re interested in.

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