The USDA BioPreferred program is a voluntary labeling initiative that aims to increase the use of biobased products in federal purchasing and beyond. Biobased products are those made from renewable biological ingredients, such as forestry materials, agricultural crops, and renewable chemicals. The program was established in 2002 under the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act and expanded under subsequent Presidential Executive Orders.

The program encourages the development and use of biobased products by providing a minimum biobased content requirement for certain product categories. This requirement ranges from 25% to 100%, depending on the product category. Products that meet the minimum biobased content requirement are eligible for the USDA Certified Biobased Product label, which helps consumers and federal agencies identify and purchase biobased products.

The program also provides a biobased product catalog, which lists all products that have been certified under the program. The catalog is available online through the USDA’s GSA Advantage! website.

While the use of biobased products is driven by sustainability principles, it’s important to note that not all biobased products are necessarily more sustainable than their petroleum-derived counterparts. The ASTM D6866 standard used to assess biobased content does not address product performance, functionality, or environmental impact. Additionally, some biobased materials may require extra ingredients and processing to compete with their fossil fuel-based counterparts, resulting in a higher footprint.

However, the shift towards biobased products is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality. The USDA has estimated that biobased products displace around 300 million gallons of petroleum per year in the US alone, which is equivalent to removing 200,000 cars from the road. The growing number of USDA BioPreferred Certified products demonstrates the increasing awareness of the need to shift away from fossil fuels and towards renewable resources.

It’s important to note that biobased products may not always be the greener choice, as some may have environmental drawbacks such as water, fertilizer, pesticide, and energy usage. Additionally, some biobased products may compete with food production or compromise biodiversity. It’s crucial to consider the entire life cycle of a product, from raw materials to end-of-life disposal, when evaluating its sustainability.