EPA is taking comments until April 25, 2014, on its new  Draft Guidelines for Product Environmental Performance Standards and Ecolabels for Voluntary Use in Federal Procurement  The guidelines are intended for use by federal purchasers as they strive to meet Obama's Executive Order to make 95% of their purchases sustainable.  Rather than setting new federal ecolabel standards for the bazillion products the federal government buys, they offer "a set of criteria that could help identify which private sector standards and ecolabels federal purchasers should consider when buying greener products."  So kind of a quality check on private ecolabels.  A list of acceptable standards will be developed by agencies and stakeholders at some point in the future.  As described on EPA's environmentally preferable purchasing website, the guidelines cover:

  • Process for Developing the Standard — Are the procedures to develop, maintain, and update an environmental standard transparent? Do they allow for a balance of different stakeholder interests? Is there an appeals process for disputes?
  • Environmental Effectiveness of the Standard — Are the criteria in the standard/ecolabel that support environmental preferability measurable? Do they differentiate among products? Does the standard address key stages in the product lifecycle that may pose risks?
  • Conformity Assessment — Are the procedures and practices by which products are assessed transparent? Are there provisions for independent verification that products meet the standard, if necessary?
  • Management of Ecolabeling Programs — Do the organizational and management practices provide for dispute resolution? Are the practices and fees transparent?

There are more than 450 ecolabels in the world according to the Ecolabel Index - no way can anyone keep up with them all.  It'll be interesting to see how the process shakes out and who will be declared a "government approved."

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