The goal of this webpage is to encourage green purchasing practices by providing consumers (residents, businesses, and other organizations) with the information necessary to buy products that protect our health and our environment. Today, many local resources support green purchasing efforts throughout the Finger Lakes. After visiting this website to learn more about green purchasing terms and guidelines, please refer to a local resource for specific information.
The Tompkins County Department of Recycling and Materials Management's mission is to manage the solid waste of Tompkins County in a manner that is environmentally sound, cost-effective, socially responsible and safe. This is accomplished through coordinated administrative, operational, and educational projects in waste reduction, reuse, recycling, composting and disposal.
This is accomplished through programs, operations and financial incentives. We began our work in 1989 after the County closed two old landfills and began developing a 20-year solid waste management plan. We offer residential and small business curbside recycling, food scrap recycling options, a Recycling and Solid Waste Center, a Household Hazardous Waste Depot, a business waste reduction program called ReBusiness Partners, a green purchasing website, and various educational programs with local non-profit partners. We are proud to collaborate with a variety of organizations and businesses in the community to increase the reach of 4R programs throughout Tompkins County, such as Finger Lakes ReUse, Cayuga Compost, and the Compost Education Program at Cornell Cooperative Extension.
Sustainable Tompkins is a coalition of citizens, community organizations, elected officials, educators and professionals from diverse fields all working to promote a more sustainable community. Growing out of a study circle process with community leaders in early 2004, our initiatives include promoting green buildings and sustainable development patterns, conducting small group inquiry into the roots of our consumer culture, creating new partnerships to promote healthier lifestyles, and reaching out to the business community to encourage and facilitate energy conservation, recycling, green purchasing, and the adoption of sustainable technologies.
Why Buy Green?
Buying green has a positive impact on health, the environment, and our local economy. Purchasing is a way of voting with your dollar. As consumers, it is important that we are aware of the growing range of environmentally friendly items available to us. By choosing to buy green products, we tell manufacturers and suppliers that we want goods that do not harm our environment.
Buying green signals that we want products that:
- Contain recycled content, thereby conserving natural resources
- Use less packaging, reducing our waste stream
- Emit fewer toxins both during production and with use, improving human health
- Are produced locally, cutting down on energy required for transport and supporting local industry
Products are deemed "green" because they have a reduced impact on our living environment compared to other similar products. Buying green also improves our health and our local economy, and shows that we care about our community.
Environmentally Preferable Products (EPP)
All products, whatever they may be, will have consumed energy and raw materials during their manufacture. They also have an impact on the environment through their use and ultimately their disposal. Choosing an EPP reduces this impact and helps to leave our planet cleaner and safer.
Buying EPPs helps to close the recycling loop by adding a fourth step, REBUY, to the REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE process. Diverting recyclable materials from landfills for reprocessing into new products conserves natural resources by decreasing our demand for raw materials. It also helps shrink our solid waste stream, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from landfills that contribute to global climate change. By doing this we can make an important contribution to sustainable development.
During manufacture, use and disposal, green products give off less pollution and save more energy and resources than the items they replace. To truly qualify as "green," they should also use recycled materials, responsible packaging and be durable and non-toxic.
Unfortunately, many products which claim to be green fall far short of these ideals. Watch out for unqualified claims that a product is 'environmentally friendly' or 'eco-safe'. Look for product labels with specific information about the product and its packaging. For example, if the label says 'recycled', check to see what percentage of the product or packaging is recycled. Guidelines have been established to prevent manufacturers and producers from advertizing misleading statementsabout green products; these guidelines are issued by the Federal Trade Commission, with the cooperation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Consumer Affairs. However, these are guidelines only, with no legal enforcement procedure in place.
Tips for Buying Green
- Reduce packaging. Look for products with minimal or no packaging. Check if the packaging is made from recycled materials or can be recycled. Two packages of fresh peppersmay be exactly the same, except one comes in a styrofoam tray while the other comes in a paperboard tray that can be recycled. The best option would be buying fresh preppers, that you pack yourself, into reusable produce bags.
- Check for quality and durability. A package of pens might seem very reasonably priced, but another seemingly more expensive packet of pens may be refillable, providing a savings in the long term, both for you and for the environment as it does not contribute to the waste stream.
- Buy local. Check to see if the product is produced by a local company, or produced within your region. Consider how far the product has traveled to get to you. Supporting local businesses also supports your local economy.
- Buy in bulk, as long as you use it all. Purchase products in bulk from grocery stores or cooperatives. This will lessen your unit cost, while increasing demand for the product, further lowering the cost of an item. Cooperatives tend to keep more money from purchases in the local economy, reinvesting your dollar over and over again.
- Make informed decisions. It is important to make your own educated decisions about which products have a smaller environmental impact. Different factors will be important for different individuals. For instance, someone faced with a chronic illness may rightfully focus on the health effects of their purchases, whereas a farmer may concern themselves mostly with protecting soil quality and water supplies.
Visit our Buy Green Glossary
View our list of Local Green Resources