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Last Updated: 2014-04-11

This webpage serves as a resource for the city of Richmond's Purchasing Policy No. 51: Sustainable and Green Procurement.

The purpose of the Sustainable and Green Procurement Policy is to encourage the purchase and use of goods and services that best align with the city's fiscal, environmental, social equity, economic growth, and community enhancement goals. The policy stems from the provisions of the Mayor's Order #2011-4: For the Establishment of a Green Government.

This policy encourages the purchase of environmentally preferable products that reduce the overall negative impact on the environment. To this end, the policy promotes the purchasing of recycled materials and other environmentally preferable goods and services that protect human and natural resources, prevent pollution, reduce waste, conserve resources, and support environmental sustainability.


"Biobased Product" means a commercial or industrial product (other than food or feed) that utilizes biological products or renewable domestic agricultural (plant, animal, and marine) or forestry materials.

"Biodegradable" means the ability of a substance to decompose in the natural environment into harmless raw materials.

"Carbon Offset" means a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or greenhouses gases made in order to compensate for or to offset an emission made elsewhere.

"Energy Efficient Product" means a product that is in the upper 25 percent of energy efficiency for all similar products, or that is at least 10 percent more efficient than the minimum level meeting U.S. Federal Government standards.

"Environmentally Friendly" means having minimal impact on the natural environment. Also, using as well as maintaining natural materials.

"Environmentally Preferable Purchasing or Green Procurement" means the purchase or procurement of products or services that have lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose. This comparison may consider raw materials acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance, or disposal of the product or service.

"Greenhouse Gas" means a gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. The primary greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.

"LEED" means Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is an internationally recognized green building certification system. LEED was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. LEED promotes sustainable building and development practices through a suite of rating systems.

"Life Cycle Assessment" means the comprehensive examination of a product’s environmental and economic aspects and potential impacts throughout its lifetime.

"Life Cycle Cost" means the amortized annual cost of a product, including capital costs, installation costs, operating costs, maintenance costs, and disposal cost discounted over the lifetime of the product.

"Low-VOCs (volatile organic compounds)" means products with a low-VOC content meant for indoor use have been positively correlated with better indoor air quality. Using products with low VOCs is especially important for chemically sensitive individuals.

"Performance" means the efficacy of a product, material, or service to accomplish its intended task or job.

"Pollution Prevention" means “source reduction”.

"Practicable" means sufficient in performance and available at a reasonable cost.

"Recyclable Product" means a product or package made from a material for which curbside or drop-off collection systems are in place for a majority of City residents or businesses, to divert from City Solid waste for use as a raw material in the manufacture of another product or the reuse of the same product.

"Recycled Material" means any material that would otherwise be a useless, unwanted or discarded material except for the fact that the material still has useful physical or chemical properties after serving a specific purpose and can, therefore be reused or recycled.

"Reusable Product" means a product that can be used several times for an intended end use before being discarded, such as a washable food or beverage container or a refillable ballpoint pen.

"Sustainable Product" means a product that achieves performance objectives while respecting the City’s values and balancing; environmental stewardship, social equity, fiscal responsibility and community enhancement.

What are the benefits of buying environmentally preferable products (EPPs)?

As local government employees, we are faced everyday with the reality that many of the products we buy can cause damage to the environment and/or public health. By purchasing EPPs we look to reduce those impacts, some of which can be severe.

By purchasing EPPs that are:

  • Made with a percentage of post-consumer recycled content instead of pure virgin products, we reduce the need to extract raw materials, such as petroleum, trees or metals and, in general, use less energy and water.
  • Manufactured using fewer toxic ingredients, we minimize the hazardous impacts of those products during the manufacturing process (e.g. water / air pollution) as well as reduce the damage caused through accidental spills and improper disposal. We also reduce the risk to workers handling the products and the risks posed to building occupants when the product is in use.
  • Energy efficient, we help to limit energy consumption, which in turn lowers our emissions of carbon dioxide (a primary greenhouse gas) and other pollutants such as sulfur dioxide (which causes acid rain).

The purchasing decisions we make affect our local environment and the health of our employees and residents as well as the global community. Local governments are part of the largest procurement group in the nation together with federal and state governments (representing over 20 percent of the gross national product [GNP]. ) They can use the clout of their buying practices to direct industry manufacturers toward making more responsible products that are reasonably priced and do less harm to the environment and the public health.

Can purchasing EPPs actually save money?


A number of EPPs available in the market today are less expensive than their conventional counterparts that serve the same purpose (e.g. remanufactured toner cartridges and office panels, retread tires, and energy efficient equipment / appliances).

A wide range of other EPPs are equal or comparable in cost (e.g. carpet, cleaning products, janitorial paper products, remanufactured antifreeze and traffic cones).

A third segment of EPPs may cost more at the time of purchase, but often have a short "payback period" after which time they represent a significant ongoing cost savings in the maintenance, operation and/or disposal of the product. (e.g. compact fluorescent light bulbs, plastic lumber, integrated pest management).

What factors should be considered when determining a sustainable and green procurement contract and writing specification or scope of services?

Several environmental, social equity, and economic factors should be considered when determining a sustainable and green procurement contract and writing specification or scope of services.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • Environmental factors:
    • Pollutant releases
    • Toxicity, especially the use of persistent and toxic chemicals
    • Waste generation
    • Greenhouse gas emissions
    • Energy consumption
    • Depletion of natural resources
  • Social equity factors:
    • Human health impacts
    • Human rights impacts
    • Utilize local businesses
    • Utilize Minority Business Enterprise and Emerging Small Business (MBE/ESB)
  • Economic factors:
    • Use reduction
    • Product performance and quality
    • Life-cycle cost assessment
    • lowest total cost
    • Leveraging buying powers
    • Impact on administrative cost and time
    • Long-term effect on financial/market changes

What are some examples of sustainable and green procurement practices?

These following examples should be considered when determining a sustainable and green procurement contract and writing specification or scope of services. These examples include but are not limited to:

  • Products:
    • Biobased or biodegradable products
    • Recycled or reusable materials or products
    • Energy-efficient products and Energy Star rated appliances
    • Water Sense rated appliances
    • Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs)
    • Low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) paints and sealers
  • Practices:
    • Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emission Reduction (purchase and use of carbon offsets)
    • Alternative forms of transportation (cycling or mass transportation) or fuel efficient vehicles
    • Cogeneration or Combined Heat and Power (CHP)
    • Weatherization measures for existing construction
    • Collecting and reusing or recycling waste materials as a result of daily operations
    • Solar power
    • Life cycle cost analysis of fuel
    • Sustainable water use practices (for example, pervious pavement or rain gardens for stormwater management; reuse rainwater landscaping)


Contact Information:

Sustainable & Green Procurement
City of Richmond
900 E. Broad St., Room 1104
Richmond, VA
23219 USA
Map It
Phone: (804)646-5716
Fax: (804)646-5989
Download your copy of the RVAgreen: Sustainable and Green Procurement Pamphlet.

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