When we go shopping for electronics now we are advised and even incentivized by our local utilities to purchase Energy Star products. Just as recently as 1992 this rating standard was not in existence and now it is accepted as the standard in the European Union, Taiwan and Australia among other countries. The work to get the Energy Star standard was pioneered by a former federal environmental official known as John Hoffman who, unfortunately, passed away a few weeks ago (Sept 24 2012).
According to EnergyStar.gov, the Energy Star rating was introduced as a voluntary labeling program designed to identify services to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote energy efficient products. Computers and monitors were the first products labeled with the Energy Star rating and now the label is on major appliances in the home (TVs, refrigerators, freezers etc.), office equipment and most lighting. It is claimed that the program, by providing tools and best practice information to consumers and businesses, has led to energy savings of about $18 billion globally.
Despite a period in 2008-2009 when the validity of Energy Star ratings were questioned it has been a generally positive reception. The Energy Department, in an internal audit in 2009, concluded that manufacturers were giving their equipment energy star ratings without meeting the required specifications. This came about as consumers were starting to take advantage of the $300M of rebates that were made available under the Stimulus bill. Some companies had to compensate consumers for electricity consumed by electronics, which did not meet the standards but were already sold. This was a win for both Energy Star, which improved its assessments, and for the consumers who got better equipment and money in some cases.
John Hoffman is credited with having the courage to stand for thinking big about environmental issues at a time when it was not popular to do so. Similar to the situation now where the environment is not a ‘big issue’ and gets swept aside in light of the ‘more important’ issues of the day, champions for sustainable living should stay bold and look to the example of pioneers like John Hoffman to realize the positive impact possible.
You can continue to support the movement and pay tribute to John Hoffman by hosting an Energy Star day, instructions can be found here.