The European Union Commission states that “Green public procurement means that public purchasers take account of environmental factors when buying products, services or works”. The concept is also called Green Buying of environmentally sustainable or friendly (green) products and services.  Sometimes these products and services can have higher upfront costs but generally are more cost-effective over the long term, accounting for energy savings.  Such practices have the additional value of often reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions since most environmentally sustainable products do use less fossil fuels and emit lower levels of GHGs or are even carbon free.  The movement toward green procurement grew out of Agenda 21, the comprehensive blueprint of action adopted by the UN at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June1992.

Implementing a Green Public Procurement (GPP) policy can be as simple as buying recycled paper and more efficient light bulbs, recycling waste  or reducing water usage and thus saving on waste and water service charges.  It can also get much more complicated when addressing purchases of transportation, energy and buildings.

Public agencies are often one of the largest purchasers of goods and services and so they often drive the market for the kinds of products and services private businesses are willing and able to supply.  In Europe, public authorities spend some 16% of the European Union’s gross domestic product.  By using their purchasing power to opt for goods and services that also respect the environment,  they can make an important contribution towards sustainable development.

An important side-effect is the development of a supply chain for environmentally sustainable products and services that can then cost-effectively feed private purchases.  If the government demands an efficient product, someone will develop it and then look for sales of the same product in the private market.

Identifying what is and what is not an environmentally friendly or sustainable product or service is not always easy as there is a lot of misleading labeling in the market place  (Note: see entry on “Green Washing” in the “iePEDIA”section of irish environment).  A concerted and wide-spread green public procurement operation also can serve as leverage for suppliers to adopt a reasonable and transparent certification process to insure the products and services are truly environmentally sustainable, or face a government-imposed standard.

Some further ideas to explore on Green Public Procurement:

Assume the role of purchasing agent for your school, local government  or regional authority, and devise a plan for going green in your procurement practices.

Pick a product and assess how that product could be more sustainable, and then determine how you can convince the manufacturer to make that product in a more sustainable way.

Pick a service and assess how that service could be more sustainable, and then determine how you can convince the provider to offer that service in a more sustainable way.


EU Green Public Procurement  at

For a study of EU GPP implementation in several countries see:

UN on Agenda 21 and Sustainable Development  at

US EPA “Green Procurement” at

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One comment so far, add your own below

  • 28 Jun 2012 at 4:39 pm Sunil

    Here are a few ways to be green and save money. Cleaning supplies are a great place to start, most of the cootnevinnal cleaning products have harmuful chemicals that do damage to humans and the envirnonment. Use baking soda, vinegar and liquid soap. I mix a few squirts of liquid soap about 1 cup vinegar and water in an old spray bottle and that is my general cleaner. I use another bottle for just vinegar which is my disinfectant, that is sprayed on and left to air dry, in places like the shower. I use baking soda as an mild abrasive, it’s great on soap scum and other stuck on things. You can make a paste with water and baking soda paint it on the inside of the oven let is set for a few hours and wipe it off. You can buy vinegar by the gallon for less than $2, and baking soda in a 5# bag for a few dollars. Shop at farmers markets, shop late in the day and ask for discounts, or their seconds, apples and other fruit that may have a few marks are often sold for less, at the end of the day the farmer would rather sell things for cheap then take them home. Reduce the amount of meat you use, learn to make soups that need just a few ounces for a full pot, freeze leftovers in reusable containers.Buy less, buy what you need and avoid disposable items. Buy recycled or biodegradable when you can. If you buy reusable grocery bags most stores will give you 5 cents back each time you use them, so if you shop at least twice a week you will make your money back in 2 months, then you will be making money. Conserve energy. many things use energy when you aren’t using them. I plug my tv, vcr, stereo and game system into a power strip with a switch, then flip the switch when I’m not using them, no more stand by energy. Chargers are another thing that often uses energy when not in use, that includes Ipod docking stations, they use as much energy to play music as when nothing is on it.

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