Best Practice

Step 3 Recognition Best Practice for Category A, B and C cities

Category A and B cities: implement this best practice by completing action 1 and one additional action.

Category C cities: implement this best practice by completing action 1.


Sustainable purchasing, also known as environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP), shifts city purchasing to procurement of goods and services that have a reduced effect on the natural environment and human health when compared to competing products and services that serve the same purpose. While life-cycle assessments offer the best metric for determining what is the most sustainable, product and service attributes are commonly used as a proxy, and include:

  • Increased energy efficiency
  • Reduced toxicity
  • Beneficial to indoor air quality
  • Water-conserving
  • Recycled-content
  • Minimized waste
  • Plant-based
  • Locally produced
  • Embodied energy/life-cycle greenhouse gas impact

Greenstep Advisor

Alison Cameron with long dark hair, green eyes, light skin; wearing a gray sweater and earrings; in front of a blue wall.

Alison Cameron, Sustainable Purchasing Coordinator, MN Pollution Control Agency: 651-757-2195,

Connection to State Policy

  • Cities in Minnesota are required to use paper containing a minimum of 30% post-consumer recycled content (within a 10% cost range) and follow a number of other environmentally preferable printing practices listed in MN Statute 16C.073 (Environmentally Preferable Printing ).
  • The Minnesota carbon-free electricity standard (2023) sets targets for achieving 100% carbon-free electricity in Minnesota by 2040. The bill establishes a standard for utilities to supply Minnesota customers with electricity generated or procured from carbon-free resources:
    • 80% for public utilities; 60% for other electric utilities by 2030
    • 90% for all electric utilities by 2035 
    • 100% for all electric utilities by 2040
      The bill also requires that, by 2035, an amount equal to at least 55% of an electric utility’s total retail electric sales to customers in Minnesota must be generated or procured from eligible energy technologies.
  • Cities are able to purchase products/services that directly reduce adverse environmental impacts through Minnesota's Cooperative Purchasing Venture.


Major Benefit

  • Green purchasing standards, benefit calculators and more are available on the U.S EPA's greener products and services page. Benefits include cost, environmental and improved worker productivity and improved public health.
  • Sustainable purchasing considers environmental, social, and economic factors by taking into account the lifecycle impacts of a product — from raw material extraction through end-of-life management. This approach allows buyers to decrease the impact of their purchases more strategically and effectively. See Sustainable Governmental Purchasing information from MPCA. 
  • Ductile iron pipe for drinking water mains has stronger walls allowing a larger inside diameter reducing friction and thus saving energy. According to St. Cloud’s Pumping Cost Study (July 2014), the city's use of ductile iron pipe (certified under the SMaRT standard ) results in an annual savings of $210,530 compared to competing pipe, measuring power cost, pump efficiency, and head loss.