A significant portion of the environmental impacts made by any operation are related to the products and materials they purchase. In fact, for most manufactured products, source materials represent the largest investment in energy and greenhouse gas emissions of the production process1 (including materials, manufacture, and transport). Sustainable acquisition is one way an organization, especially a large one, can take big steps to reduce its environmental impacts.
Sandia is aware of the impacts products have on the environment and also of our opportunity, as a volume purchaser, to reduce those impacts. Using guidance provided by the Department of Energy and other federal entities, Sandia works to include these considerations in the sourcing of a wide variety of products and materials. Although a universal approach for identifying the most environmentally preferable products continues to evolve, Sandia Pollution Prevention, in collaboration with other internal organizations, evaluates products and materials, and uses contractual agreements to obtain better products.
Using recycled content in products designated by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines is one way to help cut down less forest, use less fossil fuel, and move toward a market that encourages recycling instead of a “throw-away” society. Sandia requires recycled content products in office supply, custodial, construction, automotive, and several other contracts.
Biobased products can reduce fossil fuel consumption and also have the potential to benefit U.S. producers, local job markets, and the American economy as a whole. For many applications, products conventionally produced from petroleum derived compounds, can be formulated using vegetable or seed oils. Any non-food product made from renewable plant, animal, or marine material is classified as "biobased" according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA has created a program to assist federal buyers with locating these products called BioPreferred. Biobased products usage is growing at Sandia, particularly in the areas of Fleet Services and Facilities Maintenance.
As with Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) for computing equipment, several respected multi-attribute “green labels” can be used to identify products with a lower environmental burden. It remains difficult to separate the meaningful cross-industry green labels from labels falsely claiming environmental superiority. Although, more established names are beginning to consolidate, such as TerraChoice with Underwriters Laboratory, indicating a clearer future for scientifically vetted, sustainable choices. Green label leaders like TerraChoice’s EcoLogo and Green Seal are also offered preference in Sandia procurement.
1 Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, September, 2011