It used to be that Energy Star was the de facto standard for knowing that a product was energy efficient. That was, until an undercover investigation involving the formation of fake companies with blatantly non efficiently products such as a gasoline powered alarm clock passed muster.
It’s a credibility gap that needs to be filled, and a trust that will take some time to rebuilt. Fortunately, in the Pacific Northwest region of the US, a new standard has emerged that exceeds Energy Star standards by at least 30%: Energy Forward.
Currently focusing on televisions, computers and monitors, it claims that if everyone in the Pacific Northwest region (Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana) purchased energy efficient electronics, they could save enough electricity to power all of Seattle for year, saving $60 million.
Reading the FAQ, it’s clear that EF has talked to consumers and are aware of the issues they may have. Things I wouldn’t have fathomed asking, like “Will I sacrifice performance by buying these electronics?” are answered effectively. And one that is likely on many people’s minds, “In relation to other things, most electronics don’t use that much energy, do they?” The answer is surprising:
“According to the International Energy Agency, consumer electronics represent 15 percent of worldwide home power demand. And without major changes in current trends, the agency expects that percentage to triple over the next 20 years.”
One question that is not answered here is whether/how their claims are verified for legitimacy by a third party. Though Energy Forward is not letting a space heater with feather dusters attached pass as an efficient air filterer, it would be useful to bolster its legitimacy in the eyes of the public.
Who is Energy Forward?
It is an alliance between the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), retailers such as Sears, Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart, Costco, 43 independent retailers that are part of the Brandsource buying group.
Other such efforts exist, like California utility company PG&E’s energy efficient electronics initiative which was the inspiration for Energy Forward. But Energy Forward take it further, seeking to forge a link in consumer’s minds between ‘most efficient’ and ‘most performance.’
This is key, since many people equate being more sustainable with a quality of life sacrifice. If Energy Forward succeeds, people who seek to be seen as having the best, most boast worthy gear will seek out Energy Forward approved electronics. In a time when people are paying much more attention to their finances and the impact of their choices, I see Energy Forward being well received, something to replicate elsewhere.
And from what I learned, it’s on the way to happening. NEEA is working to influence national standards, and closely with Energy Star and other energy efficiency organizations throughout the country.
Readers: Where else in the world do you see effective efforts to encourage more sustainable buying choices? What could be done to improve these efforts? I look forward to your comments below.
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations about, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media marketing.