After 20 years, it’s easier to be green

In 1992, Energy Star was launched as the first national, market-driven energy efficiency partnership program of its kind. If EPA’s estimates are to be believed, the effort has worked wonders. According to the EPA, Energy Star has helped save Americans $23 billion on their energy bills while preventing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the annual emissions of 41 million vehicles.

Today, more than 1.3 million new homes and nearly 16,500 buildings have earned EPA's Energy Star certification. Moreover, the Energy Star label can be found on more than 60 different kinds of products with more than 5 billion sold over the past 20 years.

According to Ann Bailey, director of Energy Star Product Labeling for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), one of the strengths of the Energy Star brand is that “regardless of which message resonates with consumers, Energy Star homes are both cost- and energy-effective.”

She said that consumers may pay a little more upfront for a more energy-efficient product, but they will recover their investment through energy cost-savings over time.

Bailey said the green movement has helped raised awareness among consumers and businesses about the value of sustainable products and practices. “This has allowed the Energy Star program to push markets to adopt more energy-efficient practices and products,” she said. “Energy Star has become a leading source of information for consumers looking for energy-efficient products, homes and buildings. All products, homes and buildings that bear the mark have been certified by a third party as meeting the program's strict requirements.”

Energy Star counts more than 1,700 retail “partners” who have helped spread the word about energy-efficient products so consumers can make informed decisions about cost-effective ways to save energy.

Products can earn the Energy Star label by meeting the energy efficiency requirements set forth in Energy Star product specifications, which are based on the following principles:

• Product categories must contribute significant energy savings nationwide.
• Qualified products must deliver the features and performance demanded by consumers, in addition to increased energy efficiency.
• If the qualified product costs more than a conventional, less-efficient counterpart, purchasers will recover their investment in increased energy efficiency through utility bill savings, within a reasonable period of time.
• Energy efficiency can be achieved through broadly available, non-proprietary technologies offered by more than one manufacturer.
• Product energy consumption and performance can be measured and verified with testing.
• Labeling would effectively differentiate products and be visible for purchasers.