Why & How to Buy Green
Products on this site were tested by many San Francisco City staff.
Buying green can mean buying nothing. For example, you can clean glass with just newspaper and water. With concentrated institutional cleaners, green cleaners cost less than traditional ones. Energy Star LED bulbs are more efficient and last longer than incandescents and fluorescents.
Lots of products you use might be toxic. Switching to safer cleaners, for example, can reduce incidents of cancer, allergic reactions, asthma, burns, eye damage, and major organ damage connected with hazardous chemicals in many traditional cleaners.
Even switching to masking/paper tape can make a difference. Paper cannot be recycled if it has plastic tape onit. Buying 100% recycled paper (postconsumer waste, processed chlorine-free) does not release cancer-causing dioxins into wastewater, can decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 37% and water use by 50%, and practically eliminate wood use. Similarly, energy-efficient vehicles and renewable energy sources cut greenhouse gas emissions and harmful air pollutants while lessening our dependence on imported oil.
Each time you buy green for your home or organization, you increase the demand for safer products. That encourages manufacturers to make them more widely available and affordable for all. State and local governments spend more than $400 billion, and colleges and universities spend more than $300 billion, on products and services each year. You have a lot of power to make the world a better place.
Most companies don't pay to recycle the products they make. Instead, local governments and their taxpayers pay. It's time to change that. For this reason, San Francisco passed the SF Extended Producer Responsibility Resolution, which calls for producers to shoulder more of the costs of disposing and and recycling. The City often requires contracted vendors to recycle their products.
Instead of just looking at a product's price tag, look at the total cost through its manufacturing, maintenance, depreciation, upgrade, disposal. For example, it's illegal to trash electronics. When you buy electronics, you might have to pay to recycle them responsibly.
How to choose ecolabels (e.g., Energy Star) and avoid greenwashing. See Ecolabel Index for how an ecolabel created its standard and how a product is verified to meet it.
Here are resources for green products that have not been verified to meet the City's green standards.
- GoodGuide: Groceries, Household Chemicals (Air Fresheners, Dishwashing, Cleaners).
- San Francisco Green Businesses that meet environmental standards set by the City.
Industrial or institutional products:
- Thousands of Ecologo certified consumer and institutional products.
- Hundreds of Green Seal certified products.
- City of Portland's green specs, case studies, policies, reports.
- Green Seal publications, resources and research for best practices in green purchasing.
- Specs for Los Angeles County by Green Seal for 50 product categories.
- Responsible Purchasing Network's best practices, specifications, contract language, and product lists used by hundreds of institutional purchasers.
- Recycled-Content Product Directory by CA Integrated Waste Management Board.
- Get your question answered by other professional green purchasers (EPPnet Listserv by the Northeast Recycling Council).