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Waste Prevention

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing


Environmental Preferable Purchasing (EPP) is a waste prevention strategy that harnesses purchasing power. The purchase of more environmentally sustasinable products not only decreases the environmental footprint of the product, but it also increases the demand for more environmentally sustainable products.  As demand continues to increase, the collective result is a wide scale shift towards environmentally sustainable products and production practices.

While anyone can use EPP as a waste prevention strategy, more and more business and institutions are enacting EPP policies to demonstrate their commitment to environmental conservation.


Waste Prevention Resources

Find many helpful resources on this page, such as the BPI catalog of certified compostable products.

Find more topics on the Waste Prevention main page.


Environmental Preferable Purchasing (EPP) is selecting “products and services that have a 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 material acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, re-use, operation, maintenance, or disposal of the product or service” (Presidential Executive Order 13101; US EPA; generally accepted by industry).

EPP Factors

EPP generally considers the following factors:

  • embodied and end-use energy
  • toxicity of production process, use, and disposal
  • air quality impacts from production, transport, and use
  • consumption and pollution of water
  • end-of-life management, how successfully the product can be reused, remanufactured, refurbished, recycled, or composted 
  • content and quality of product materials, including recycled content
  • social responsibility including labor rights, human rights, and community involvement



Vermont and EPP

Vermont has been a national leader in the development of EPP, and has specific goals and objectives aimed at:

  • providing sound environmental stewardship
  • protection of human health
  • reducing state operating expenses associated with the use and control of regulated hazardous materials, and
  • reduction of potential liability attributable to environmental impact.

Learn more about Vermont's Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program.

EPP Procurement tips for companies

Along with an EPP policy or program, businesses may:

Review existing contracts for opportunities to amend them, or make revisions upon renewal to require vendors to adhere to the company policy. This might include:

  • requiring vendors to collect and recycle products/packaging delivered to the company
  • requiring that only recyclable packaging is used
  • requirements to provide quarterly or annual reporting from the vendor on how they are assisting the company to achieve its goals
  • buy products made y manufacturers that offer collection and recycling systems for their products

Evaluate materials purchased. Identify materials that are:

  • essential to company operations,
  • needed and may have an acceptable environmental substitute
  • are nonessential and can be phased out of use

A company can also utilize these waste prevention strategies:

reuse packaging and materials as much as possible before they reach the end of their useful life

promote their efforts in highly visible locations to inform and educate employees, and customers

make materials available for sale that are at the end of their useful for the company but retain value


10 Steps to Starting a Sustainable Purchasing Program

These steps are taken from the Responsible Purchasing Network and are also available as a PDF.

1. Assemble a Sustainable Purchasing Team

  • Identify key players and other resources
  • Assign responsibilities
  • Get input early from end-users and other stakeholders
  • Get support from the top

2. Establish a process for working together

  • Create goals, a timeline and a meeting schedule

3. Define the scope of the sustainable procurement initiative(s)

  • Target environmental problems to solve under the program
  • Review existing policy drivers and practices
  • Adopt or revise your Sustainable Procurement Policy, if needed

4. Prioritize contracts to change

  • Look for products with greatest impact
  • Identify low-hanging fruit (including products for which there are existing specifications, certifications or cooperative purchasing opportunities)
  • Determine contract re-bid schedule

5. Research environmentally preferable alternatives

  • Evaluate availability, price, environmental attributes and performance of potential substitutes
  • Conduct pilot tests with end-users, if desirable or necessary
  • Develop a strategy for incorporating environmental considerations into your bid solicitation process

6. Revise bid specifications

  • Identify potential vendors of products that meet your specifications and solicit their feedback
  • Develop bid specifications, bid forms, and bid evaluation criteria
  • Develop contract language for information disclosure, product take-back, packaging requirements, etc.

7. Evaluate bids

  • Assess both mandatory requirements and desirable attributes
  • Issue new contracts

8. Advertise the availability of sustainable products on new contracts

  • Educate using web sites, “list serves”, purchasing bulletins, EPP guides
  • Publicize through Cooperative Purchasing Programs
  • Inform end-users about existing environmental policies and goals
  • Encourage vendors to educate and market environmental goods and services

9. Get feedback from end-users

  • Address problems as soon as they arise

10. Track and publicize successes

  • Quantify economic and environmental benefits
  • Celebrate and reward participants!
  • Identify obstacles and additional work to be done



Please note the new contact information:

New phone numbers: click here

For more information, contact:

Department of Environmental Conservation
Waste Management & Prevention Division, Solid Waste Program
1 National Life Drive - Davis 1, Montpelier, VT  05620-3704

(802) 828-1138


Last updated:
VT DEC Waste Management & Prevention Division 1 National Life Drive - Davis 1  Montpelier, VT  05620-3704  Tele: 802-828-1138  Fax: 802-828-1011

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