Guide for City Staff

Green purchasing, also known as environmentally preferable purchasing, aims to identify products with lesser impact on human health and the environment compared to conventional products. In San Francisco, we lead by example. San Francisco's landmark Precautionary Purchasing Ordinance requires that City staff buy only green products. These products are listed as "Required" on this website.

This page provides information to help San Francisco city departments meet this mandate in a way that saves money and improves City employee health:


Required products meet City requirements for environmental and health impact, performance and cost. All city departments must buy Required products for the categories below:


In addition, city staff are encouraged to use Suggested products. These are products that meet city requirements for environmental and health impact, but lack complete performance and cost data.


Limited use products are products that are allowed only in special circumstances. These include some lighting products (bulbs and ballasts).

Never Choose:

Although products that do not appear in the categories above should be generally considered as prohibited, some categories of products are explicitly Prohibited due to specific legislation. These include:

  • Arsenic Treated Wood (non-salt water uses)
  • Bottled water
  • Magnetic ballasts (for fluorescent lamps)
  • Printers, scanners, fax machines that are not all-in-one
  • Paint hardeners
  • Styrofoam foodware

Improve green purchasing

The success of the City's green purchasing depends heavily on dedicated staff in all city departments. The best way to help the city's green purchasing efforts is to:

  1. Stay up to date on the latest in city green purchasing by signing up for our newsletter
  2. Let your purchasing colleagues know about this site by email, department newsletters, purchasing forms, or staff handbooks
  3. Use this site for choosing and rating products
  4. Sign up to test Suggested green products to help other city staff
  5. Ask SF Environment for assistance

City's green purchasing legislation

The City's Precautionary Purchasing Ordinance is based on the Precautionary Principle, which is now the first chapter of the Environment Code. The environmental specifications for most of the products on this site are further spelled out in regulations. Other City ordinances that require green products can be found elsewhere in the Code:

  • Integrated Pest Management Ordinance (Env. Code, Chapt. 3): Limits the use of pesticides (as a last resort) to products on the City's Reduced Risk Pesticide List
  • Healthy Air and Clean Transportation Program (Env. Code, Chapt. 4): Regulates the purchase of green vehicles for City fleets.
  • Resource Conservation Ordinance (Env. Code, Chapt. 5): Establishes requirements for recycled content paper and PVC plastics.
  • Green Building Ordinance (Env. Code, Chapt. 7): Requires LEED certification for municipal construction projects, which involves a variety of energy efficient, low-toxicity, and water efficient products.
  • Tropical Hardwood and Virgin Redwood Ban (Env. Code, Chapt. 8)
  • Arsenic Treated Wood Ordinance (Env. Code, Chapt. 13): Limits the use of arsenic-treated wood

By buying Required products, city staff help us meet our mandate while also saving money.

Access reports on city green purchasing

SF Environment uses vendor sales reports to track the city's green product purchases by department and purchaser. Review the latest annual report for the percentage of green purchases in each category and city purchasing champions that help us meet our goals.