N.C. Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing

What is Environmentally Preferable Procurement?

Environmentally preferable procurement (EPP) involves purchasing products or 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.

Attributes can include a long list of factors that evaluate the purchaser's need, the cost and functionality of the product, and its environmental effect. Attributes to consider are:

  • Recycled content
  • Durability
  • Maintenance
  • Recyclability
  • Disposal
  • Energy efficiency
  • Water efficiency
  • Raw materials acquisition
  • Production
  • Manufacturing
  • Packaging
  • Distribution and transportation methods
  • Operation


EPP is often used to refer to a variety of sustainability issues, including environmentally preferable procurement, purchasing, products, practices and programs. It can also be referred to as green purchasing, which the federal government defines as the acquisition of recycled content products, environmentally preferable products and services, bio-based products, energy and water efficient products, alternate fuel vehicles, and products using renewable energy.  Much of this terminology is interchangeable, but the intent remains unchanged. EPP, or green purchasing, is an effort to be more environmentally sustainable, to improve the health of people and the environment by being more conscious of purchasing decisions and business practices.

EPP is important for many compelling reasons. Our impact on the environment and public health is becoming more and more apparent. Daily operations draw from natural resources, and we have operated a long time without realizing the actual effects it has on our world. From the extraction of raw materials and the manufacture of products, to their use and disposal, products that we use everyday can be harmful. By using EPP, we look to reduce those impacts, some of which can be severe. Purchasing recycled content products reduces the need to extract raw materials, such as oil and trees, and saves energy and water usage. Purchasing less toxic products minimizes the hazardous impacts of manufacturing and disposal of those products, and improves the safety of product users and building occupants. Energy efficient products reduce energy consumption, which saves money and lowers emissions. These decisions have local effects, from the health of the environment to the health of recycling programs. But they also help to improve the world environment for decades to come.

North Carolina is only beginning to green its purchases and practices, by following leaders in the federal government, learning from the EPA's Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines and Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program.  North Carolina is also following the lead of other states, including Massachusetts and California, who are setting examples in EPP. North Carolina also looks to local government programs, such as Virginia's King County, and efforts many universities are making here in North Carolina and across the country.  North Carolina is looking to provide assistance to its internal agencies, as well as to local governments interested in greening their programs.

Now that you know more about green purchasing, please browse this Web site for more specific information on where to shop for these products, best management practices and case studies in environmentally preferable practices, and other resources related to EPP.  For definitions of other commonly used words in the sustainability community, check out the glossary. Please contact Rachel Eckert at (919) 715-6505 for more information, for assistance in your efforts, or to share your green purchasing efforts.  If you are looking for information in other areas pertaining to pollution prevention, visit the N.C. Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance Web site.

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