Back to Safety topics

Environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP)

Green Purchasing

Premier's environmental leadership

Serving 2,500 U.S. hospitals and 73,000-plus other healthcare sites, members of the Premier healthcare alliance are working together to improve healthcare quality and affordability.

environmentally preferable purchasing  Premier leads the industry, being named a "Champion for Change" award recipient from Practice Greenhealth (formerly H2E) eleven years in a row - firmly establishing Premier and its members as leaders in healthcare and setting the bar in the industry for commitment to environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP) and sustainability best practices.

Premier's GreenHealthy® program

Premier was selected for the award for its commitment to a healthy environment, evidenced in its GreenHealthy® program, led by the Premier Safety Institute®. GreenHealthy includes Premier's EPP™ (environmentally preferable purchasing) program, an internal corporate-wide Yes to Green program, leadership education and "quick win" case studies on sustainability best practices, and Premier's healthcare energy reduction initiave, a collaborative climate and energy initiative to reduce the healthcare industry's carbon footprint.

Premier recognizes contracted suppliers with environmentally preferable products
Premier uses a green leaf icon to tag "environmentally preferable contracts" from contracted suppliers in its electronic catalog for members, Supply Chain Advisor. These contracts have products or services with environmentally preferable attributes that reduce the negative impact on the quality and health of the environment and consider, for example, the product materials, potential toxicity, production, packaging, reusability, energy efficiency, disposal, nationally recognized certification, or its impact on the environment.

Premier EPP Work Group

Premier's EPP Work Group provides advice and guidance on our EPP program and other GreenHealthy initiatives at Premier.

More information about Premier's GreenHealthy program

Introduction to environmentally preferable purchasing

The health and safety of our patients and the public are linked to the health of the environment. The healthcare community therefore has a responsibility to help maintain a healthy environment with a commitment to environmentally sound purchasing. This is accomplished through the purchasing and use of environmentally preferable products and services.. In general, compared to competing products and services, environmentally preferable products are:

What is environmentally preferable purchasing?

environmentally preferable purchasingEnvironmentally preferable purchasing (EPP) is the act of purchasing products and services for which the environmental impacts have been considered and found to be less damaging to the environment and human health than competing products and services that serve the same purpose. The comparisons may consider raw materials, acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance, or disposal of the product or service. The initiative is an ongoing process, in which healthcare facilities continually refine and expand the scope of such efforts. Facilities may begin on a small scale with recycled paper, or examine potential products at each stage of impact from manufacture through final disposal. The overall goal is the same; careful selection of products and services to reduce the negative impact on the quality and health of the environment.

Key elements

The basic elements of an EPP program include:

Back to top

Federal initiatives

Executive order

A 1998 Executive Order, Greening the Government Through Waste Prevention, Recycling, and Federal Acquisition, was an important endorsement of the EPP concept. The document outlines multiple steps that can be taken to improve the environment. Greening the Government may be downloaded or located in the Federal Register as Executive Order 13101. The intent of the Executive Order was to incorporate waste and pollution prevention and recycling into daily operations of the federal government and to establish policies favoring the acquisition and use of recycled products and environmentally preferable products and services. Among the highlights of the order:

The President's new Executive Order, approved October, 2009, strengthens internal federal agency activities regarding sustainability and environmental purchasing. Download Federal Leadership In Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance 13514. Among other issues, federal agencies will be required to advance sustainable acquisition to ensure that:


"... 95 percent of new contract actions including task and delivery orders, for products and services, with the exception of acquisition of weapon systems, are energy-efficient (Energy Star or Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) designated), water-efficient, biobased, environmentally preferable (e.g., Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) certified), non-ozone depleting, contain recycled content, or are non-toxic or less-toxic alternatives, where such products and services meet agency performance requirements."

Back to top

Healthcare industry initiatives

American Hospital Association

Hospitals are collaborating on pollution prevention and waste reduction, with a specific focus on eliminating mercury. In June 1998, the American Hospital Association (AHA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) formed a historic partnership by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to promote a healthy environment. This MOU addressed the development of tools and resources and set forth specific goals, including:

The AHA-EPA partnership resulted in the development of an initiative called the Hospitals for Healthy Environment for (H2E). H2E is now called Practice Greenhealth. As part of Practice Greenhealth, several technical tools and resources were developed to help hospitals prevent pollution and reduce the volume of waste. See the Practice Greenhealth Web site for downloadable tools.

Although the formal MOU expired in June 2001, the AHA renewed the partnership and its commitment to the numeric goals for mercury elimination and waste reduction, as well as to the continued dissemination of information and resources to achieve these goals. Premier's Mercury Pollution Prevention module provides additional information on Practice Greenhealth and resources for mercury reduction.

Back to top

Environmentally preferable purchasing implementation


A commitment to EPP communicates to the consumer that a healthcare organization is concerned with:

Environmental Issues

Environmentally preferable concerns include a number of important topics and issues that need to be considered in the context of emerging information on the potential effects on human health, worker and patient safety, the maintenance of a healthy environment, and the availability of safe and effective alternatives. These topics include:

Back to top


Polyvinylchloride (PVC) has been the most commonly used polymer in the production of plastic hospital products because of its cost effectiveness, flexibility, and optical properties. Two concerns have been raised about PVC:

Both dioxin and DEHP have been identified by the EPA as probable carcinogens.

DEHP-plasticized PVC

FDA Public Health Advisory, July 2002

environmentally preferable purchasing  In July 2002, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Public Health Notification on medical devices made with polyvinylchloride (PVC) using the plasticizer di-(2–Ethylhexyl) phthalate or DEHP. The FDA provided advice on steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of exposure in certain populations. They noted that there are certain products used in specific procedures that the FDA stated pose the highest risk of exposure for certain populations. The list of those devices and procedures from the FDA advisory is provided below for convenience .

Devices that may contain DEHP-plasticized PVC include:

The following procedures have been identified as posing the highest risk of exposure to DEHP:

Alternative Products

In their July 12, 2002 PVC/DEHP Public Health Advisory, the FDA provided a link to the Sustainable Hospital Project sponsored by the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, as one source for identifying alternative products that do not contain DEHP-plasticized PVC.

Health Care Without Harm also maintains lists of alternative products.

FDA Draft Guidance PVC-DEHP, September 2002 for public comment

On September 6, 2002, the FDA issued Draft Guidance for public comment: Medical Devices Made with Polyvinylchloride (PVC) Using the Plasticizer di (2-Ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP). This draft guidance encourages manufacturers to consider all mechanisms to reduce patient exposure to DEHP, including uses of alternative materials or use of coatings. In addition, FDA recommends that user labeling clearly indicate that the devices contain DEHP. Public comments should be submitted to the FDA by December 5, 2002.

New research on DEHP devices and neonates - 2005

On June 8, 2005, a study was released from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease control and two Harvard-affiliated hospitals that found that infants, whose care required the use of medical devices containing DEHP [di-(2–Ethylhexyl) phthalate], had a component of DEHP in their urine. Although the health risks of DEHP were not evaluated, this study did confirm that there was a direct relationship between the levels of DEHP in the urine of neonates and the intensity or amount of exposure to DEHP-containing medical devices.This has implications for product selection as noted. See environmental and safety products lists.

Back to top

Bisphenol A


Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical that has been present in many hard plastic bottles and metal-based food and beverage cans since the 1960s.

Studies employing standardized toxicity tests have thus far supported the safety of current low levels of human exposure to BPA However, on the basis of results from recent studies using novel approaches to test for subtle effects, both the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health and FDA have some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children. In cooperation with the National Toxicology Program, FDA's National Center for Toxicological Research is carrying out in-depth studies to answer key questions and clarify uncertainties about the risks of BPA.

In the interim:

FDA is also supporting recommendations from the Department of Health and Human Services for infant feeding and food preparation to reduce exposure to BPA.

FDA is not recommending that families change the use of infant formula or foods, as the benefit of a stable source of good nutrition outweighs the potential risk from BPA exposure. For more information go to the FDA Web site:

Back to top

Safer cleaners and pesticides

Pesticides and cleaning products

Hospitals and other health care institutions use a surprising number of highly toxic chemicals on their premises, including pesticides and environmental cleaners. These chemicals may contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other toxic chemicals that contribute to poor overall indoor air quality (IAQ) and have been reported to be associated with a host of health problems.

Patients are particularly vulnerable to indoor air quality threats, as many have compromised respiratory, neurological, or immunological systems and/or have increased chemical sensitivities. Health care facilities can manage pests and provide a clean and sanitary environment without the use of toxic pesticides or cleaning products. There are safer, effective methods of controlling pests and cleaning the environment that can improve indoor air quality and will not harm the health of workers, patients and the public.


Several comprehensive reports are available (See Key documents.)

Other resources provide additional guidance (See Links)

Cleaning chemicals

Major resources reviewing cleaning chemicals include the following. (See Key Documents.)

Chemical Reduction Strategies

Other resources for clean chemical information include the following (See Links)

Back to top

Strategies and tools

Many organizations have found that setting up a specific EPP team has enhanced their efforts to initiate and maintain such a program. A discussion of designing such teams, and other tools and strategies for effective action, may be found in resources such as Practice Greenhealth.

Three tools to assist with product identification and selection:

Premier's position on EPP

Premier is committed to working with its members to define what environmentally preferable purchasing means. In addition, Premier will assist its members in identifying environmentally preferable products under contract to meet national or federal requirements. The complete statement of Premier's position on EPP may be downloaded.

Back to top