Cooperative Purchasing: U.S. Communities Program
The U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance is a national structure for agencies to make use of their collective purchasing power and to improve the overall effectiveness of their purchasing processes. Known as the U.S. Communities Program, its national sponsors and participants include the National Association of Counties (NACo), National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP), National League of Cities, the United States Conference of Mayors, and 39 states including Minnesota.
Designed in cooperation with an Advisory Board of local government purchasing officials, the U.S. Communities Program pools the purchasing power of public agencies, achieves bulk volume discounts on behalf of public agencies, competitively bids quality products through a lead public agency, and provides a purchasing forum for public agencies nationwide.
Eligibility for participation is open to all non-federal and non-state agencies that have the authority to purchase from another public agency's competitive bid contract. This includes:
- Counties, Cities, Towns and Villages
- Special Districts (e.g., Fire, Sewer, Water, etc.)
- Public Schools including K-12, Community Colleges, Universities
- Nonprofit agencies providing services on behalf of government agencies
A variety of products available through the U.S. Communities Program prevent waste, have recycled contentThe portion of a product that is made from materials diverted from the waste stream, usually stated as a percentage by weight., or conserve energy. You should be aware that some contracts in the U.S. Communities Program offer similar products that do not have environmentally preferable attributes. If you have questions about the environmental attributes of a product, contact the vendorOne who sells something; a "seller." directly.
How can I access this program?
Eligible agencies work directly with the U.S. Communities Program to access all products and vendors. To participate, an agency must complete a certificate of participation which is available through each vendor, or complete the "Register to Participate" page at the U.S. Communities web site. There are no membership requirements or fees for participation.
Minnesota local units of government that wish to access any contracts established by other local units of government must follow all locally established purchasing policies and requirements in state law in doing so. Please refer to Minnesota Statutes § 471.59 for more information.Consult your agency attorney's office and purchasing department for further guidance on whether and how your agency can access contracts through the U.S. Communities Program. Issues to consider include review of its lead agency's contracts, along with the consistency of its bidding, preference, and environmental review processes with the bidding policies or requirements that apply to your agency.
What products are available?
The four main product areas in the U.S. Communities Program are office supplies, office furniture, computer equipment, and industrial supplies. For more information, visit the U.S. Communities web site or call 1-800-635-3993. See the "What's New" section regularly to learn about upcoming new product and service contracts.
As the U.S. Communities Program contractor for office supplies, Office Depot sells a wide array of recycled products ranging from paper to furniture. In the Office Depot catalog, products with recycled content are labeled with an icon, and the post-consumer recycled-content level is noted in the description. On-line ordering is also available. The contract offers discounts off the manufacturer's list price, with next-day free delivery in most areas. If you do not see the recycled-content product you would like, ask if it can be ordered or carried for your agency. A fee of $5.95 will be charged for all deliveries under $50.
To purchase products or set up an account, contact Office Depot's Contract Sales Division. Mention the U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance when calling this vendor.Office Depot
Office Furniture and Panel Systems
The following four U.S. Communities Program contractors are manufacturers that offer a variety of office furniture and panel system options. Ask for products that are remanufactured or contain recycled materials. See Office Furniture and Panel Systems for more information on other environmental features to consider when evaluating office furniture purchases. Mention the U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance when calling these vendors.
The U.S. Communities Program maintains contracts with six vendors for computer equipment and services. Each vendor offers models that feature environmentally preferable attributes, such as compliance with Energy Star® requirements for energy conservation. These contracts give local governments preferable discount rates. See Computers and Monitors and Laser Printers for more information on environmental features to consider when buying computer equipment offered through these contracts. Mention the U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance when calling these vendors.
The U.S. Communities Program has a contract with Grainger for its entire catalogue of industrial supplies. Categories of products include shop supplies, lubricants, cleaners, lighting, safety equipment, tools, outdoor equipment, and metal working. When ordering from Grainger, inquire about products that are remanufactured, made from recycled materials, conserve energy or water, are less toxic or have other environmental attributes mentioned throughout this guide. Mention the U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance when calling these vendors.
The Minnesota Department of Administration is a member of the Western States Contracting Alliance (WSCA). WSCA was formed in 1993 to establish the means for participating states to join together in cooperative multi-state contracting for the cost-effective and efficient purchase of products and services.
All governmental entities in Minnesota that are Cooperative Purchasing Venture (CPV) members can access WSCA contracts through the Minnesota Department of Administration. For more information, visit the Department of Administration's Materials Management Division website or call the Materials Management Division Help Line at 651/296-2600.
For more information about becoming a member of the Cooperative Purchasing Venture program, see Cooperative Purchasing Venture.
When reviewing product and service contracts offered through any cooperative purchasing program, be sure to look for environmental attributes.
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Using the Symbols
Less HazardousProducts containing hazardous chemicals can pose health risks to employees and the public, as well as threaten the environment. In addition, hazardous products often require special and costly waste disposal methods. Buy products that are labeled with none of the following signal words or those with the lowest level of hazard possible (but that still get the job done).
- Caution: mild to moderate hazard
- Warning: moderate hazard
- Danger: corrosive, extremely flammable, or highly toxic
- Poison: highly toxic
If less-hazardous alternatives are not readily available, use the least amount of a hazardous product needed to accomplish a task. Use up all of the product before throwing the container or packaging away.
Conserves EnergyReducing energy use is important because most energy production contributes to problems such as carbon dioxide emissions (tied to global warming), mercury releases, acid rain, volatile organic compounds, and nuclear waste. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy developed the Energy Star label to help purchasers identify energy-efficient products. These products reduce utility bills and help the environment.
Recycled ContentRecycled-content products save energy and resources, while also keeping waste out of landfills and incinerators. Recycled-content products can be made with post-consumer content, pre-consumer content, or a mix of both. Products made with post-consumer recycled content support our recycling programs at home and at work. If people do not buy products with post-consumer recycled content, manufacturers will no longer want the paper, cans, glass, or plastic we separate from trash. Pre-consumer content comes primarily from manufacturer scrap, and as such does not directly support such recycling efforts.
Prevents WasteMinnesota generates over 5 million tons of municipal solid waste annually, and this amount is increasing every year. Much of this waste comes from disposable and over-packaged products. Preventing waste can conserve natural resources and avoid the need to build new, expensive waste disposal facilities. You prevent waste when:
- Reducing the amount of material you buy to accomplish any task;
- Reusing a product in its original form; or
- Using repairable, refillable, or durable products.
Low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)VOCs evaporate ("volatilize") easily at room temperature and often have a sharp smell. They are contained in many products, such as office equipment, adhesives, carpeting, upholstery, manufactured wood products, paints, solvents, pesticides, and cleaning products. Some VOCs can cause cancer in certain situations, especially when they are concentrated indoors. When VOCs hit sunlight, they create ozone, an air pollutant harmful to both people and plants. Many low-VOC versions of products reduce risks to human health and the environment.
Conserves WaterLess than 1% of the Earth's water is available for human consumption. There is no "new" water on Earth. Dry spells have reminded us that our water supply can be threatened - even in the Land of 10,000 Lakes - resulting in watering bans in some municipalities. Choosing products and services that conserve water, such as automatic flushers and low-flow faucets and toilets, can conserve this vital resource while reducing water and sewer bills.
End of Life ManagementWhat happens to a product after we use it? Some materials cannot go in the trash because they are hazardous in some way and therefore need separate - and sometimes expensive - special management. Some products are more easily recycled than others that do the same job. Making wiser buying choices can prevent a disposal concern at the end of a product's useful life, keep hazardous materials out of the environment, and expand options for recycling and reuse.
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Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Guide published by the Solid Waste Management Coordinating Board, 4/00. The SWMCB includes members from the Minnesota metropolitan counties of Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, and Washington, with ex-officio members from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.Last Revised February 5, 2013 - 4:54pm