Sustainable Acquisition


Acute Toxicity - Capable of producing illness from a single dose or minimal exposure.

Alternative Fuels/Vehicles - An item designated by the U.S. Department of Energy, for which DOE sets the purchasing requirements and which federal agencies, their contractors, and subcontractors must give preference to when purchasing.

Bioaccumulate - Ability of some substances to collect in plant and animal tissue. These substances increase in concentration as they pass through the food chain when the plants and animals are consumed by larger animals (such as humans).

Biobased Product - Any product made substantially from plant or animal matter instead of synthetically produced chemicals or petroleum-based products. Biobased products can be significantly more biodegradable when compared to their petroleum- or synthetics-based counterparts. For the purpose of Federal agencies complying with the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act Section 9002, a biobased product is a product "determined by the Secretary [of the U.S. Department of Agriculture] to be a commercial or industrial product (other than food or feed) that is composed, in whole or in significant part, of biological products or renewable domestic agricultural materials (including plant, animal, and marine materials) or forestry materials."

Biodegradable - The ability of a substance to decompose in the natural environment into harmless raw materials. To be truly biodegradable, a substance or material should break down into carbon dioxide (a nutrient for plants), water, and naturally occurring minerals that also do not cause harm to the ecosystem. In terms of environmental benefits, a product should take months or years, and not centuries, to biodegrade. Per the Federal Trade Commission, biodegradable means an "entire product or package will completely break down and return to nature, i.e., decompose into elements found in nature within a reasonably short period of time after customary disposal" (FTC 1998).

Buyer - Anyone authorized to purchase on behalf of the organization or its subdivisions.

CAP - Cost, availability, and performance--the traditional attributes used to evaluate a product

Carcinogen - A substance known to cause cancer in humans.

Chlorine Free - Manufactured without chlorine or chlorine derivatives.

Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) - Any of a group of compounds that contain carbon, chlorine, fluorine, and sometimes hydrogen and have been used as refrigerants, cleaning solvents, aerosol propellants and in the manufacture of plastic foams. The use of CFCs are being phased out because they destroy the planet's stratospheric ozone protection layer.

Chronic Health Risk - Detrimental, long term health effects from repeated exposure to a product.

Chronic Toxicity - Capable of producing illness from repeated exposure.

Compostable - A product that can be placed into a composition of decaying biodegradable materials and eventually turn into a nutrient-rich material. It is synonymous with "biodegradable," except it is limited to solid materials. (Liquid products are not considered compostable.) Per the Federal Trade Commission, compostable means "all the materials in the product or package will break down into, or otherwise become part of, usable compost (e.g., soil-conditioning material, mulch) in a safe and timely manner in an appropriate composting program or facility, or in a home compost pile or device" (FTC 1998).

Cooperative Purchasing - System for allowing organizations to combine their purchasing power in order to negotiate better prices and reduce the purchasing costs of a formal bid process.

Designated Items - Products or materials with specific attributes the U.S. Congress has said federal agencies shall give preference to when purchasing.

Durable - A product that remains useful and usable for a long time without noticeable deterioration in performance.

Energy Efficient Product - A product that is labeled "ENERGY STAR qualified" or "FEMP designated." ENERGY STAR qualified and FEMP designated products are typically among the highest 25 percent of equivalent products for energy efficiency.

ENERGY STAR/FEMP - An item designated by either the U.S. Department or Energy or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for which the agencies set minimum energy standards for products to qualify and which federal agencies, their contractors, and subcontractors must give preference to when purchasing.

Environmental Management System - A set of processes and practices that enable an organization to increase its operating efficiency, continually improve overall environmental performance and better manage and reduce its environmental impact, including those environmental aspects related to energy, procurement, and transportation functions. EMS implementation reflects accepted quality management principles based on the "Plan, Do, Check, Act," model found in the ISO 14001:2004(E) International Standard and using a standard process to identify and prioritize current activities, establish goals, implement plans to meet the goals, evaluate progress, and make improvements to ensure continual improvement.

Environmentally Preferable Products and Services - Products and services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products and services that serve the same purpose. This comparison may consider raw materials acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance and/or disposal of the product or service.

EPA Designated Product - A product designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency according to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act in a Comprehensive Procurement Guideline (CPG) and for which EPA recommended procurement practices, including recovered materials content levels, in a Recovered Materials Advisory Notice (RMAN).

EPA Recycled Content - An item designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for which EPA specifies the percent of recycled content by volume and which any organization spending federal funds must give preference to when purchasing [adapted from "EPA designated item" on p. 36 of EO13423 definitions].

EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) - An item designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for which EPA sets the standards for electronic equipment and which federal agencies, their contractors, and subcontractors must give preference to when purchasing.

Flashpoint - The minimum temperature at which a liquid gives off a vapor in sufficient concentration to ignite.

Full-Cost Accounting - Accounting for the economic, environmental, land use, human health, social and heritage costs and benefits of a particular decision or action to ensure no costs associated with the decision or action, including externalized costs, are left unaccounted. (Compare with Lifecycle Cost and Product Lifecycle.)

Greenhouse Gases - Any of several dozen heat-trapping trace gases in the earth's atmosphere that absorb infrared radiation. The two major greenhouse gases are water vapor and carbon dioxide; lesser greenhouse gases include methane, ozone (O3), CFCs, and nitrogen oxides.

LEED Rating System - A self-assessment system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council for rating the environmental preferability of new and existing commercial, institutional, and high-rise residential buildings.

Life Cycle Cost - The amortized annual cost of a product or service, including capital costs, installation costs, operating costs, maintenance costs, and disposal costs discounted over the lifetime of the product or service. (Compare with Product Lifecycle.)

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) - Written or printed material about a product that includes information on the product's physical and chemical characteristics; physical and health hazards; exposure limits; whether the product contains carcinogenic ingredients above a certain threshold; precautions for safe handling and use; control measures; emergency and first aid procedures; the date of preparation of the MSDS or the last change to it; and the name, address, and telephone number of the manufacturer.

Mutagen - Substance that causes mutations, changes to genetic material in the body.

Ozone Depleting Substances - Any substance designated as a Class I or Class II substance by the EPA in 40 CFR Part 82.

Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxics (PBTs) - Toxic chemicals that persist in the environment and increase in concentration through food chains as larger animals consume PBT-laden smaller animals. They transfer rather easily among air, water, and land, and span boundaries of programs, geography, and generations. As a result, PBTs pose risks to human health and ecosystems. They are associated with a range of adverse human health effects, including effects on the nervous system, reproductive and developmental problems, cancer, and genetic impacts. They include heavy metals and chemicals such as mercury, dioxins, and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).

Postconsumer Recycled Content - Percentage of a product made from materials and byproducts recovered or diverted from the solid waste stream after having completed their usefulness as consumer items and used in place of raw or virgin material. Postconsumer recycled content includes materials (such as paper, bottles, and cans) collected for recycling.

Practicable - Sufficient in performance and available at a reasonable price.

Preconsumer Materials - Recovered materials that were production finished materials, products or by-products that did not reach the consumer for whose use they were intended, and have been diverted from the solid waste stream for the purposes of collection, recycling, and disposition.

Preferred Procurement - Within the U.S. Department of Energy, the purchase of products with attributes specified for purchase by the U.S. Congress.

Preferred Procurement Partnership - Informal team of staff responsible for purchasing preferred products. Within DOE, the responsibility for preferred procurement is spread among multiple offices and within those offices multiple organizations, each with the same need to promote purchase of a preferred product via strategic plans, identifying purchasers and users (green teams), technology transfer via teleconferences, outreach activities, reporting, awards, and technical support for problem solving. The offices comprising the Preferred Procurement Partnership are:

  • Office of Nuclear Safety, Quality Assurance and Environment (HS-20)

    • Environmentally Preferable and Recycled Content Purchasing Program (Office of Pollution Prevention and Resource Conservation) - Don Lentzen

  • Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)

    • Buy Bio Project (Office of the Biomass Program) - Mark Decot
    • Energy/Water Efficient Products (Office of the Federal Energy Management Program) - Joan Glickman
    • Alternative Fuels/Vehicles (Office of the FreedomCar and Vehicle Technology) - Shab Fardanesh

  • Office of Procurement and Assistance Management (ME)

    • Procurement (Office of Procurement and Assistance Management Policy) - Richard Langston

Price Preference - A percentage by which offered prices for recycled products are reduced for purposes of bid evaluation. For example, under a 10 percent price preference, if a bid of $1.00 per unit is received for an environmentally preferable product meeting specifications, the bid price will be reduced by $0.10 (10 percent) and evaluated as though it had been $0.90. If this bid results in a contact award, the price actually contracted will be the bid price of $1.00 per unit.

Product Lifecycle - The attributes that affect a product over its life span, including raw material acquisition, manufacturing, distribution, use, maintenance, and ultimate disposal of the product. (Compare with Lifecycle Cost.)

Recovered Materials - Waste materials and by-products that have been recovered or diverted from the solid waste stream.

Recyclable Product - A product that after its intended end use can be diverted from the solid waste stream for use as a raw material in the manufacture of another product.

Recycled Material - Material and byproducts that have been recovered or diverted from solid waste and have been utilized in place of raw or virgin material in manufacturing a product. It is derived from postconsumer recycled materials, manufacturing waste, industrial scrap, agricultural waste, and other waste material, but does not include material or byproducts generated from, and commonly reused within, an original manufacturing process.

Refurbished Product - A product that has been completely disassembled and restored to its original working order while maximizing the reuse of its original materials.

Renewable Materials - Materials made from plant-based feedstock capable of regenerating in less than 200 years such as trees and agricultural products. Rapidly renewable resources, such as grain-based feedstocks, regenerate in fewer than 2 years.

SNAP (Significant New Alternatives Policy) - An item designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for which EPA establishes approved alternatives to ozone depleting materials and which federal agencies, their contractors, and subcontractors must give preference to when purchasing.

Sustainable - Creating and maintaining conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations.

Sustainable Acquisition - Sustainable acquisition means acquiring goods and services in order to create and maintain conditions –

1. Under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony; and
2. That permits fulfilling the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations (Office of Management and Budget).

Sustainable Product/Material - product or material that a life cycle analysis determines is ecological, economical, and equitable.

Teratogen - A substance that adversely affects fetal development.

Upgradeable Product - The ability to increase a product's performance or features without replacing the product.

USDA Biobased Content - An item designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for which USDA specifies the percent of biobased content by weight and which federal agencies, their contractors, and subcontractors must give preference to when purchasing.

Virgin Material - Any material occurring in its natural form. Virgin Material is used in the form of raw material in the manufacture of new products.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) - Chemicals that readily evaporate and contribute to the formation of air pollution when released into the atmosphere. Many VOCs are classified as toxic and carcinogenic.

Water Efficient - A product that is in the upper 25 percent of water efficiency for all similar products, or that is at least 10 percent more efficient than the minimum level meeting U.S. Federal government standards.


For DOE Sustainable Acquisition questions, contact Shab Fardanesh (202-586-7011).

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Last Updated: January 04, 2019