To Buy Green is to Know Green

You have probably heard the terms “buy green” or “green purchasing,” but what do they really mean? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines green purchasing as the purchase of products or services that have a reduced effect on the environment and human health when compared with competing products or services.

Green purchasing, more properly referred to as environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP), isn’t always easy That is why the Postal Service™ has developed specific guidance on what products are considered environmentally preferable:

n Products made of recycled materials from post-consumer sources.

n Products made of renewable bio-based materials (i.e., USDA BioBased or BioPreferred products).

n Products that are energy efficient (i.e., Energy Star, UL Energy Efficient, NEMA Premium Efficient qualified products).

n Products that are water efficient (i.e., EPA WaterSense certified).

n Products that are ecolabel certified by a reputable third-party organization (i.e., GreenSeal or EcoLogo).

Examples include retread tires, recycled antifreeze, re–refined oil, recycled content paper, non-hazardous aqueous parts cleaning solutions, and bio-based adhesives. USPS® has had a long-term policy in place (since 1995) to avoid purchasing products that contain the USPS 13 targeted chemicals, EPA priority chemicals, and ozone depleting substances (Class I and II).

Details for this can be found in the following publications:

n MMO-013-19, Pollution Prevention and Waste Minimization at

n MMO-112-18, USPS Targeted Chemicals List at

To learn more about what certifications, ecolabels, and EPP criteria apply to green products, refer to the USPS Green Purchasing Guide at

To “buy green,” consider these six factors:

n Recycled content. Products that contain high levels of post-consumer content recycled materials have less of an impact on the environment. Post-consumer recycled materials are obtained from discarded consumer products. For example, if you buy copy paper, choose a minimum of 30 percent post-consumer recycled content paper.

n Bio-based materials. Natural bio-based materials, such as vegetable-based hydraulic oils or soy-based adhesives are known as “USDA BioPreferred.” These products use renewable resources and contribute to the reduction of adverse effects on the environment and human health.

n Energy efficiency. Purchase energy-efficient equipment and appliances whenever possible. Look for the ENERGY STAR logo when buying appliances, lighting, and new equipment.

n Water efficiency. When replacing old faucets and toilets, look for products bearing the EPA WaterSense label. These products are certified to perform as well or better than their less efficient counterparts and are 20 percent more water efficient than average products in that category. This means measurable water savings.

n Ecolabel certified. Consider choosing products that have been independently certified by a reputable third-party organization. As part of the USPS Green Purchasing Program, there are over 28 reputable Ecolabels in this category that apply to the products commonly purchased by the Postal Service.

n Non-toxic materials. You should avoid buying products containing toxic or hazardous materials. If the product you’re considering contains one or more of the Postal Service’s 13 chemicals targeted for elimination or EPA’s 31 priority chemicals, don’t buy it. Increase your knowledge of the chemicals in the products you buy by reviewing Safety Data Sheets (SDSs). If the product you want contains a targeted chemical, look for an alternative product.

If you are using eBuy+ to buy products, the first five EPP categories listed here are included as part of the product profile — suppliers have checked off each category that applies. This can help you make informed choices. Visit the supplier’s website to review the SDSs to determine how well the product meets EPP criteria before you submit your order.

Also, look for items that are reusable or refillable, and do not use an excessive amount of packaging. Whenever you buy a product or service, remember that less is more. Less product, less waste, less toxicity, fewer raw materials, and reduced energy and water use is always preferred.