With Energy Star, it’s easier to be green than you may think

“It’s not easy being green.” Kermit the Frog, a Muppet, one of puppeteer Jim Henson’s most famous and beloved creations, first introduced in 1955.

The green, energy-awareness, LEED, eco-friendly bandwagon has turned into a wagon train, and continues to grow every day. Every product claims to be green, every manufacturer says it is eco-friendly, and every building wants to be some level of LEED. And you know what, a lot of them are. I’ve shared some products with you that I believe to be green based on their collateral, and buildings are popping up all over town proudly proclaiming to be LEED certified.

If you’re not sure what LEED means, it stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The green building rating system encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green-building and development practices through the creation and implementation of universally understood and accepted tools and performance criteria. I’ll talk more about LEED in future columns, i.e., how do you gain that coveted certification, etc.?

But I wanted to tell you about one of the original green initiatives, Energy Star.

One of the easiest explanations I have found is on Wikipedia: “Energy Star is an international standard for energy-efficient consumer products. First created as a United States government program in 1992, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and the European Union have adopted the program. Devices carrying the Energy Star logo, such as computer products and peripherals, kitchen appliances, buildings and other products, save 20-30 percent on average.

“The Energy Star program was created in 1992 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in an attempt to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission by power plants. … The program was intended to be part of a series of voluntary programs, such as Green Lights and the Methane programs, that would demonstrate the potential for profit in reducing greenhouse gases and facilitate further steps to reducing global warming gases.”

While the program had its origins in computer products, since its inception in 1995 it has grown to include labeling for almost every appliance you will find in your home. According to the EPA, “the labeling program saved more than $14 billion in energy costs in 2006 alone.”

Some of the resulting products you are probably more familiar with include LED traffic lights and low standby energy use. Most computers have this feature that kicks in when the computer is still on, but not in an active mode. Now that we are all a little more energy conscious, I understand that to take that saving a little further, not only should you turn appliances off when not in use, but you should unplug them. This would include anything like your computer, TVs, toaster ovens, and phone and small appliance chargers.

As with any other program, you have to trust that if your new appliance carries the Energy Star label, that it is truly a more energy-efficient model than one without the label. Since most of us are not scientists or energy experts, we must depend on those who are to provide the correct certification of these products.

So while Kermit the Frog wasn’t exactly referencing the environment when the phrase was coined, it’s easier than you think to be green. For those of us who struggle to be good Earth citizens and live lightly on the planet, chances are we have been a part of this wagon train for a long time, simply by having Energy Star appliances in our home. The next time you go shopping for something that plugs in, pay attention to the labels and climb on board.

Carolyn Muse Grant is a founder and past president of the Architectural & Decorative Arts Society, as well as an interior design consultant/stylist specializing in home staging. Her Inside Spaces column appears weekly in the Home section of the Review-Journal. Send questions to creativemuse@cox.net.

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