When the co-op board of 31 Jane Street in New York City decided to upgrade their building's windows, the directors decided to purchase window glass that came with an Energy Star rating. "Initially we were going to pay for the window project outright," says Toni Kamins, Jane Street resident and board president, "but getting Energy Star window glass enabled us to get a loan for the project with interest subsidized by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Getting an subsidized loan saved us thousands of dollars in interest."
This is exactly what the founders and promoters of the Energy Star program like to hear. According to Energy Star spokesperson Maria Vargas, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) founded the program in 1992 as a means of identifying more energy-efficient computers. "At that time, the rationale was that a lot of computers were still running when nobody was using them, so the EPA met with computer manufacturers to develop a way the computers would "˜go to sleep' when they weren't being used," says Vargas.
Today, the program is a voluntary labeling effort that identifies over 35 products, including major appliances, office equipment, lighting, and home electronics. In 1995, the program expanded the label to include additional office equipment products, as well as residential heating and cooling equipment. In addition, the EPA has also extended the label to cover new single-family homes and entire commercial and industrial buildings that exceed minimum federal standards for energy consumption.
According to Vargas, the Energy Star program has surpassed the goals set for the program at its inception, including saving money and protecting the earth's atmosphere. "We measure our goals in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere, in million metric tons of carbon equivalent, or "˜mmtce.' As of 2002, the program helped to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 18 million metric tons, which is the same as eliminating emissions from 14 million cars. At the same time, we reduced people's energy usage in homes so that consumers and business saved $7 billion in energy bills."
However, getting the program off the ground wasn't easy. "One of the biggest obstacles we had to overcome is really fundamentally making sure people appreciate what efficiency is about and what it can do for them," says Vargas. "It was such a learning curve for the consumers."