The Patterns of a Conservation Economy
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The National Green Pages provides comprehensive U.S. listings of socially and environmentally responsible products.
Image by Co-Op America.

Green Procurement

Market prices fail to provide accurate information about the ecological and social impacts of products and services. This makes it difficult to generate purchasing decisions consistent with a conservation economy.

Individuals and businesses exert enormous leverage through their purchasing choices. When these choices are based on the full ecological and social costs and benefits over the entire lifecycle of the product or service, they will directly support an emerging Conservation Economy. As True Cost Pricing is gradually implemented, market prices increasingly reflect these underlying costs and benefits. However, in the early stages of such a tax shift, it is critical to supplement market prices with additional information about ecological and social impacts.

In some cases, standard data (e.g. typical rates of fuel consumption for various modes of transport) can be used to calculate impacts within a few percent. However, in most cases, accurate information about these impacts is currently difficult to obtain, creating a critical market niche for Product Labeling programs offering third-party certification and documentation of products and services. Such product labeling programs allow certain dimensions of a product's lifecycle (e.g. labor practices, forest management, or use of recycled materials) to be reliably audited.

Often, additional information will need to be gathered from manufacturers or vendors throughout the supply chain, which provides another opportunity to exert leverage. When products fail to meet specified ecological or social criteria, customers can work with their suppliers to improve product standards.

Increasingly, Green Procurement takes the form of service contracts with vendors, requiring the vendors to take back packaging and unused materials and products, and specifying environmentally responsible management practices. For instance, landscaping contractors may be required to use Integrated Pest Management as an alternative to pesticide application.

Green Procurement policies seek to provide the same level of quality while continuously decreasing destructive environmental and social impacts. They do this by increasing purchases of products and services compatible with A Conservation Economy.

Examples of this pattern in action:

US EPA's Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines
The Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG) a key component of the government's "buy-recycled" program. Today, more and more products are made from recycled materials from the carpeting and insulation used in office buildings, to the reams of office paper purchased each day. Buying recycled helps "close the recycling loop" by putting the materials we collect through recycling programs back to good use as products in the marketplace.

Why green buying? Because purchasing is a critical leverage point that creates markets for products that prevent pollution, are resource-efficient, and reduce pressure on natural resources all key components of sustainability. What's in it for buyers? In business, green buying can be an element of strategies for reducing costs, enhancing value and winning competitive advantage. In the public sector, green buying is an opportunity to increase demand for sustainable products and to "walk the talk." …

RecycleStore.com, an on-line marketing collaborative of Rural California Recycled Content Product (RCP) Manufacturers, is an applied business development project for students at Shasta - Tehama - Trinity Joint Community College District located in Redding, California.

The King County Environmental Purchasing Program helps County agencies find information about environmentally preferable products and processes that meet performance requirements and are economical. Preferable products include those that have recycled content, reduce waste, use less energy, are less toxic, and are more durable…

Organizations whose work incorporate this pattern:

Value-Created Review

Environmental Home Center


Co-Op America. National Green Pages (Annual). Co-Op America. Washington, DC.

Environmental Accounting Project, . The Lean and Clean Supply Chain: A Practical Guide for Materials Managers and Supply Chain Managers to Reduce Costs and Improve Environmental Performa. US EPA Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics. Washington, DC. 2000.

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Pattern Index

A Conservation Economy

Social Capital

Fundamental Needs

Subsistence Rights

Shelter For All


Access To Knowledge


Social Equity


Cultural Diversity

Cultural Preservation

Sense Of Place

Beauty And Play

Just Transitions

Civic Society

Natural Capital

Ecological Land-Use

Connected Wildlands

Core Reserves

Wildlife Corridors

Buffer Zones

Productive Rural Areas

Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Fisheries


Compact Towns And Cities

Human-Scale Neighborhoods

Green Building

Transit Access

Ecological Infrastructure

Urban Growth Boundaries

Ecosystem Services

Watershed Services

Soil Services

Climate Services


Economic Capital

Household Economies

Green Business

Long-Term Profitability

Community Benefit

Green Procurement

Renewable Energy

Sustainable Materials Cycles

Resource Efficiency

Waste As Resource

Product As Service

Local Economies

Value-Added Production

Rural-Urban Linkages

Local Assets

Bioregional Economies

Fair Trade

True Cost Pricing

Product Labeling