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European research provides incentives to boost eco-efficiency in Public Administrations


Brussels, 28 March 2003

Public administrations can save greenhouse gas emissions amounting to 18% of Europe's Kyoto obligations just by switching to renewable electricity. Purchasing organic food for consumption in public canteens would reduce damage to European soils and waters by an equivalent of over 3,500,000 inhabitants. These are some of the first results of the EU research project RELIEF, which is laying down easy-to-use guidelines for local authorities to adopt a more environmentally friendly approach to the purchase of electricity, construction, information technology equipment, food and public transport. The RELIEF project involves 6 local authorities in 5 countries (Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Sweden and Switzerland). The project will end in September 2003.

The RELIEF project is the first of its kind to quantify the environmental impact of switching to eco-friendly products, as well as the financial gains that can be made by using more efficient products. "Thanks to this data, public administrations can begin to make informed choices about their responsibility to the environment and to citizen's quality of life," said European Research Commissioner Phillippe Busquin. "The challenge for the public authorities now, is to integrate the environment into their procurement policies and to use their purchasing power to set a benchmark for suppliers, who should be encouraged to compete on the eco-market, and to set an example to private consumers."

Clean public procurement

The RELIEF project has brought together six local authorities - Hamburg, and Stuttgart in Germany, Zurich in Switzerland, Malmö in Sweden, Kolding in Denmark and Miskolc in Hungary - to calculate the financial and environmental benefits of using renewable electricity, energy-saving desktop computers and water-saving sanitary devices.

Eco-friendly products proved to be of high quality and cost-effective. Local authorities noted significant savings in energy bills; organic food proved to be as cheap as traditional food. Calculations of the environmental relief achieved through the use of these products were even more compelling. In order to make the research results meaningful to local authorities, they were recalculated into "person equivalents"(1) to allow appreciation for the scale of environmental impact.

Save energy, water and food

Thus if public administrations would switch to renewable electricity they would reduce greenhouse emissions by an equivalent of over 7 million people. Water saving taps and toilet flushes would reduce water consumption equivalent to that of over 3 million people. Providing organic food in European public canteens would represent a relief on waters and soil equivalent to the impact of a big city like Berlin.

Just by switching to low-energy computers, public administrations would save greenhouse gases emissions as produced by 100,000 persons. But the high level of public purchase of computers is likely to have a significant market impact and so give a strong signal to suppliers for progressively offering more and more green devices. The potential emissions reduction is of nearly 1,000,000 person equivalents

Buying green

The development of environmentally friendly purchasing strategies throughout Europe's Public Administrations will not only improve the well-being of local citizens, it will also have a significant global impact on the environment.

The RELIEF Project is now engaged in promoting these measures via information dissemination, training, networking and joint procurement programmes held in public administrations at both national and local levels. These initiatives will be presented at the next EcoProcura conference, which will take place from 8 10 September 2003 in Göteborg, Sweden.

Further details are now available in the recent publication "Buying into the Environment: Experiences, Opportunities and Potential for Eco-procurement".

For ordering the publication and further information please visit:

For information on research projects on urban sustainablility and cultural heritage see :

Note to editors

Media contact
Julia Acevedo Bueno, Press and Information Officer, Research Directorate-General
Tel.: +, Fax: +32.2.295 82 20, E-mail:

Commissioner Busquin's Spokesman
Fabio Fabbi, Commissioner Busquin's Spokesman, DG Press,
Tel + 32.2.296 41 74, Fax: +32.2.295 82 20, E-mail:




International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) (co-ordinator)

European Secretariat Eco-Procurement Programme Eschholzstr. 86, D-79115
Center for Environmental StudiesAngyal u. 15/b. 4. Szoba H-1094
dk-TEKNIK ENERGY & ENVIRONMENTGladsaxe Møllevej 15 DK-2860 Sø
IFZ Interuniversitäres Forschungszentrum für Technik, Arbeit, KulturBeschaffungs Service Austria Schlögelgasse 2 A-8010
Oeko-Institut e.V.Environmental Law Division Elisabethenstr. 55-57 D-64283
TU DresdenFakultät Wirtschaftswissenschaften Lehrstuhl Betriebswirtschaft D-01062
TU WienInstitut für Finanzwissenschaft und Infrastrukturpolitik Karlsgasse 11 A-1040 Wien,
Vrije UniversiteitIvM Institut voor Milieuvraagstukken De Boelelaan 1115 NL-1081 HV Amsterdam,
Freie und Hansestadt HamburgUmweltbehörde, Department for the Rational Use of Water and Energy Billstraße 84 D-20539
Kolding KommuneTeknisk Forvaltning Nytorv 11 DK-6000
City of MalmöEnvironmental Department Bergsgatan 17 S-205 80 Malmö,
Municipality of MiskolcDepartment of City Development and Information Városház tér 8 H-3525
Landeshauptstadt Stuttgart

Amt für Umweltschutz Gaisburgstraße 4 D-70182 Stuttgart
Stadt ZürichUmwelt- und Gesundheitsschutz (UGZ) Walchestrasse 31 Ch-8035 Zü

The Potential of Eco-Procurement


Impact categoryEnvironmental relief through public eco-procurementEnvironmental relief through eco-procurement on the whole European market
BusesPhotochemical ozone formation (tC2H4-equiv.)-3,350-6,980
Corresponding person equivalents**-134,110 (European)-279,390
Sanitary devicesWater consumption (l)-251,046,679n/a
Corresponding person equivalents**-3,086,387n/a
ComputersGreenhouse gas emissions (tCO2-equiv.)-832,320-8,049,385
Corresponding person equivalents**-101,503 (Global)-981,632
FoodNutrification (tPO4-equiv.)-41,560-763,295
Corresponding person equivalents**-3,676,492 (European)-67,524,295
ElectricityGreenhouse emissions (tCO2-equiv.)-61,350,363-922,639,465
Corresponding person equivalents**-7,481,752 (Global)-112,517,008

*The measures needed to achieve these results are as follows: Buses All new purchases comply with EURO IV emissions standards instead of EURO III; Sanitary devices Replacement of standard 9l-flush toilets, with 6/3l-flushes, and the installation of water-saving taps; computers All new purchases fulfil better than EnergyStar requirements with TFT monitors; Food 100% of meat, wheat and milk produced organically; Electricity 100% switch to renewable electricity.

**European person equivalents describe the emission of an average European Union citizen. Global person equivalents describe the emission of an average person living anywhere in the world.

(1) A person equivalent is calculated by dividing total emissions of a substance from a given geographic area, for example Europe, by that areas population. This gives the average emission per person, which can then be compared with the reductions generated by green purchasing.

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