Note: This post was written by SEI staff, Aida Sefic Williams.
“Energy efficiency” has been a popular phrase for several years in industries and households. The main motivation behind energy efficiency has been to lessen the environmental impact of our energy needs. With the use of computers, automobiles, televisions, heating and cooling systems within our buildings, and many other everyday operations, people have been increasing their need for energy. In order to get the electricity we need to power most of our electronic gadgets and to provide us with comfortable living conditions, fossil fuels are extracted, processed, and finally used. All three main processes not only deplete the earth of its natural materials, but they also pollute our environment. In current economic times, however, there is another reason we should become more efficient with our energy – we can save money.
Energy Star offers many opportunities for every-day people to become increasingly efficient with the energy they use. Through the Energy Star program (and their website), one will quickly learn that appliances and automobiles are not the only objects which can be energy efficient. The concept of energy efficiency stressed by Energy Star is to find ways in which to spend less money on energy costs. We can achieve this in many different ways. Our appliances can become more efficient if they are properly maintained and work without any leaks, for example. Energy Star has a Home Electronics program, which recognizes products that consume less power while they are in “standby” mode. The program is geared toward consumers to help them find better ways to save their money and the environment. In addition, Energy Star @Home can also serve as a good reference, which suggests small ways to make a home environmentally friendly, one room at a time.
Households are not the only ones who need to take the use of their electronics into considerations. Today’s businesses would not be able to function without computers and other associated electronics. Just ask yourself, could imagine doing your current job without the use of a computer? As businesses have increased their electronic needs, they have also increased their environmental impact. Energy Star has created an Office Equipment section to their website, which serves as a reference tool for offices (large and small) with regards to which office equipment uses the least amount of energy when in “standby” mode. Furthermore, more information is provided for computers, copiers and fax machines, digital duplicators, enterprise servers, external power adapters, mailing machines, monitors, printers, scanner, and all-in-one imaging equipment, and finally water coolers. By providing an extensive library of resources, Energy Star is able to help businesses decrease their environmental impacts due to electronics.
In order to aid business decisions in favor of more “green” electronics, Energy Star also has incorporated a Rebate Finder into their website. This tool acts as an extra tool in convincing businesses of the importance of Energy Star approved appliances. Through this tool, businesses and individuals are able to find rebates, possible tax exemptions, and recycling opportunities of for their old electronics. Such financial incentives have made an impact on businesses and individuals alike who are trying to save money in a very tough economy.
In order to increase individual energy expenditure awareness, Energy Star has an “Energy Star Pledge”. The pledge is way for people to see what kind of differences they can make in their own household to increase energy efficiency. Additionally, individuals can pledge to make certain changes within their household and find out the environmental and financial impact their pledge has. Since 2005, when the initiative was started, approximately 2.29 million individuals have made individual pledges, and saved close to $438 million, which is a reduction in approximately 3.7 billion kWh of energy and a reduction of almost 6 billion pounds of greenhouse gases.
Another program focused on energy efficiency is The Green Grid. It is a network of industry leaders whose goal is to analyze the energy efficiency of current data centers and to create standards which IT centers should adhere to, in order to increase the energy efficiency of the data centers and companies, in general. The members of the Green Grid include product end users, policy makers, facility architects, and utility companies. All members are dedicated to increasing the energy efficiency within businesses, since energy expenditure due to electronics comprises a large percentage of electricity used in industries.
Another source of information regarding energy efficiency is the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and specifically, the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy branch of the DOE. This office has similar goals as the previously mentioned Energy Star initiatives. For example, a section on Appliances and Home Electronics can be used to aid individuals in purchasing and using electronics and appliances. Similarly, the DOE offers an Industrial Technologies Program which is a national initiative for industries to reduce their energy use and carbon emissions. The program has a strong emphasis on reducing energy through more efficient processes, which often times include less or more energy efficient electronics.
In addition to tips and news about increasing energy efficiency, the DOE website also has useful information about ways to finance one’s energy efficient home projects and also explanations of tax benefits one may receive through energy efficient processes. The DOE provides financial opportunities for businesses, tribes, consumers, inventors, universities, and others to increase the use of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies.
Through research and planning, you can decrease your energy bills by purchasing Energy Star rated products and implementing energy efficient methods. If you are interested in analyzing your lifestyle for energy efficiency and sustainability, you can take the Global Footprint Quiz. This quiz takes into consideration your transportation, living conditions, diet, and your use of electronics to estimate your impact on the environment. Are you ready to take the quiz? The results may be more surprising than you think!