Public Release: 

NIST software to guide federal 'buy green' drive

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

A National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) analysis and decision-making software program will play a key role in selection of biobased products that qualify for a major federal "green" preferential purchase program, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rules published in the Federal Register that became effective Feb. 10.

The USDA guidelines begin a federal government program authorized by the 2002 Farm Bill to require purchase of biobased products containing renewable agricultural materials (including plant, animal and marine material) or forestry materials. Within one year, all federal agencies must create a biobased preferred procurement program based on the USDA rules.

The USDA will use NIST's Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) tool to evaluate the environmental and economic performance of biobased products over their life cycles. With USDA and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency support, NIST expanded the BEES program, once primarily used to evaluate building products, to include performance information for products made from soybeans, corn, wheat, rice, cotton, canola, potatoes, wool and other renewable materials.

As a result, the new BEES program can analyze the environmental and health impact of biobased greases, fuel additives, hydraulic fluids, polymers, industrial solvents, fertilizers, cutting oils and other biobased products. Impacts are evaluated at each life-cycle stage including raw material acquisition, manufacture, transportation, installation, use and waste management. BEES also measures the life-cycle cost of biobased products by considering the costs for purchase, installation, operation, maintenance, repair, replacement and waste management.

USDA will make BEES environmental and economic performance results available to federal procurement officials when designating product categories for preferred procurement. Once designated, biobased products within those categories must be purchased unless they are not readily available, do not perform as required, or cost substantially more than comparable petroleum-based alternatives. USDA is currently working on plans that will enable manufacturers to apply for a "USDA Certified Biobased Product Label" for their products. USDA will require BEES analysis for products seeking the labels.


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