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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

Innovation. Collaboration. Practical Solutions.

Phone: 503-823-7700

Curbside Hotline: 503-823-7202

1810 SW 5th Ave, Suite 710, Portland, OR 97201

Harmful Pollutants

2030 Objective: Fully eliminate the use of harmful pollutants in the indoor environment

Needs work

Harmful indoor pollutants are found in all types of products, from cleaning and maintenance products to electronics and furnishings. The ubiquitous nature of pollutants means there are many opportunities to address this 2030 objective. The City has funded a staff position for over ten years to address harmful pollutants along with other sustainable purchasing activities, such as sweatshop free supply chains and energy efficient electronics. The variety of the City’s sustainable procurement work and achievements have yielded national attention, but the work is far from complete.

Each employee can make a contribution to eliminating harmful pollutants in the workplace. Pollutants in our air have a compounding effect so each product or service decision is an opportunity to add to or take away from indoor air pollution. Learn more by visiting the City’s Sustainable Procurement website


Supporting Projects

Sustainable Procurement Policy

In August 2018, City Council passed an update to the City’s Sustainable Procurement Policy.  This update consolidated procurement-related sustainability policies, including previous mandates around reducing exposure to harmful pollutants.  In addition, the sustainable procurement employee website is currently being revamped with “how to” resources for each best practice to help employees with implementation.  One of the easiest best practices employees can take today is to stop buying canned air for cleaning keyboard trays. Lastly, one of the priority issue areas identified in the Policy involves “Prevent[ing] or otherwise reduce[ing] exposures to Substances of (Very) High Concern (SVHCs, SHCs).”  In the future, program staff will be prioritizing issue areas and implementing projects, metrics, and reporting.

Clean Air Construction Standard

The Portland Air Toxics Study revealed a need to reduce average diesel particulate matter levels by 86 percent across the Portland Metro region to meet the State’s adopted health benchmark. Just over two-thirds, or 65 percent, of the region’s diesel particulate matter is emitted from nonroad equipment, such as construction equipment. Yet, Portland Metro government agencies do not have authority to regulate air quality. Consequently, in 2016 the City of Portland, the Port of Portland, Metro, Multnomah County, Clackamas County, and Washington County formed a regional workgroup, the Clean Air Construction Collaborative. The purpose of the workgroup was to develop a regional approach to reduce harmful diesel particulate matter pollution on public construction project sites.  The group developed a Clean Air Construction Standard to be adopted by each participating jurisdiction.  Phased in over a 7-year period, the Standard requires that all contractors working on public construction projects utilize cleaner on-road cement and dump trucks and nonroad diesel construction equipment. Compliance is achieved through use of newer vehicles/equipment, retrofits with emission control devices, or use of alternative fuels.  The City of Portland was the first jurisdiction to adopt the Standard in December 2018.

Office Furniture

In 2017, the City issued a solicitation for space-optimized office furniture, which standardizes the City’s office furniture purchases. The resulting contract will ensure that furniture meets strict human health requirements, including compliance with the most stringent standard for minimizing furniture emissions of toxic chemicals. 

Cleaning Products and Indoor Air Quality

The Citywide Green Team collaborated with operations managers in ten work sites to remove toxic cleaning products. A checklist and recommended product list was created based on the least harmful solution available via city contracts. In some cases, green team staff recommended replacing cleaners altogether and switching to microfiber cloths that can be washed and reused. Ongoing assistance is available to other City work sites interested in improving indoor air quality.

The Citywide Green Team collaborated with the Mayor to distribute office plants to any staff willing to keep them watered. This effort helps to mitigate pollutants already in the air. It was also a nice way to thank the many actions City staff already take each day to make the City a more sustainable workplace.

Portland Parks and Recreation (PP&R), with the assistance of OMF-Procurement Services staff, switched custodial supplies.  In doing so, PP&R realized an estimated 30 percent savings, improved transparency, and changed purchasing habits to favor safer, more effective cleaning products.  The project report is available here.

Green Spend Snapshot and Sustainable Supply Chain Analysis

The City does not maintain a comprehensive database of indoor harmful pollutants or levels of pollutants, but does regularly report the percent of "green" products purchased in broad categories such as office supplies, office paper, electronics and furniture. In order to be classified as green, the product must be third-party certified to a reputable green product standard or otherwise reflect best practices in reducing negative environmental impacts. This Green Spend Snapshot shows some positive outcomes. The most recent reporting year indicates paper and furniture purchases far exceeding 50 percent green, while other products such as toner and ink still needing work, coming in at 19 percent green.    

Harmful pollutants fall into a broader range of toxics found within the products we buy and their supply chains.  In 2016, the City conducted a Sustainable Supply Chain Analysis to determine the environmental impacts of the City’s supply chain. Results indicate that greenhouse gases and toxics are the priority environmental impacts to address within our supply chain. The product/service categories that contributed the most to City supply chain toxic releases include: vehicles and related equipment and supplies, pipes, electrical equipment, and some metal and plastic manufacturing.