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ORF Home > Environmental Protection > Green Purchasing > Green Purchasing Frequently Asked Questions

Green Purchasing Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a question about green procurement, refer it to the NIH Division of Environmental Protection (DEP). We will post frequently asked questions and answers here.

On this page you'll find questions on:
Costs and sources of recycled materials
Training on environmentally preferable purchasing
Evaluating marketing claims
Ozone-depleting substances
Toxic chemicals

Costs and Sources of Recycled Materials.

Where can I find vendors of products made from recycled materials?
The EPA maintains a searchable database of suppliers at this website: 

Several states such as California maintain similar databases.

Are there any mandatory sources for NIH procurement of recycled content materials?

Yes. The National Industries for the Blind, NISH, and Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR) offer recycled content, biobased, and environmentally preferable products or services. For more information, go to  and

Many small businesses also sell green products. More than 2,000 small businesses offering EPA-designated recycled content products can be found in the Small Business Source System (SBSS) database on the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) website The SBSS is an internal database of firms certified by the Small Business Administration under the 8(a) Business Development and HUBZone programs, and as Small Disadvantage Businesses. The SBSS will populate those fields in CCR.

If a recycled paper product costs more than a comparable virgin content product, how can I objectively look at the product's cost and benefits over its life cycle and determine what is the "best value" ?

The Paper Calculator"® is a web-based tool to calculate the U.S. average energy and wood consumption and environmental releases across the full "life cycle" of each of five major grades of paper and paperboard. It compares production of virgin paper/paperboard in each grade, and its subsequent disposal in landfills and incinerators, to production of recycled paper/paperboard in the same grade and its subsequent recovery for recycling.

Where can I find information on purchasing products safe for use around asthma patients?

Many products used every day by government agencies, schools, health care facilities, and other public institutions contain or release chemicals that can cause occupational asthma or trigger asthma attacks. INFORM maintains a listing of alternatives for many of these products on their website: 

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Training on Environmentally Preferable Purchasing

I am a Procurement Official. Where can I get more training on environmentally preferable purchasing?
Green purchasing training is now available from many public and private sector sources. The Office of the Federal Environmental Executive website offers training to agency contracting, environmental, and facilities staff and maintains a list of training resources on its website 

The Buy Recycled Training Institute established by the U. S. Conference of Mayors and the Municipal Waste Management Association offers a variety of courses and training materials. 

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Evaluating Marketing Claims

How can I evaluate green labeling and marketing claims?

Refer to the Environmental Labeling Primer on the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive’s website: 

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Ozone-Depleting Substances

Where can I find a listing of ozone-depleting substances and listings of acceptable and unacceptable substitutes for use in specific applications?
The information is available from the EPA on their Significant New Alternative Program (SNAP) website. 

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Toxic Chemicals

What toxic chemicals have the highest priority for reductions in procurement and use?
EPA recommends that Federal agencies begin their EPP efforts by focusing on cadmium, lead, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, and naphthalene.

Are there alternative products that do not contain these chemicals?
There are known alternatives to the five EPA priority chemicals or products containing them. For example, solders containing copper or silver can substitute for solder containing lead. Digital units can be used to replace mercury sphygmomanometers and thermometers. Information on alternatives to mercury-bearing products is available on the NIH Mercury Elimination Campaign Website

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This page was last updated on Dec 19, 2012