As consumers, being environmentally friendly is one of the most important considerations when purchasing a new product or household appliance. Throughout the last few years, shoppers have been heavily focused on buying cost-effective products that are energy efficient and therefore have less of an impact on the environment.
It must be noted, however, that some corporations have been taking advantage of the current trend for environmental awareness by “greenwashing” their products.
What is “Greenwashing?”
Similar to the meaning of the term, “whitewashing,” “greenwashing” is when a company spends more money, and time, on claiming to be environmentally friendly, rather than actually implementing green-friendly business practices.
A company that greenwashes is likely to have a few energy efficient products or practices that they adhere to, rather than having their whole focus on sustainable business practices. It is important to know that even if a label contains claims that a product is environmentally friendly, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the truth.
When the packaging of a products contains claims such as “nontoxic,” “green,” or “natural,” the consumer would be forgiven for believing they’re looking at something that is eco-friendly. However, these are just words.
Always look for the ENERGY STAR, and WaterSense labels on products to ensure that they’re truly energy efficient. Remember too that even ENERGY STAR labeled products have different efficiency rankings. It’s also good practice to ensure most, if not all, of the product packaging can be recycled.
What to Look Out For
Many people don’t have the time to research energy efficient products, especially when they are in the store looking for a new green appliance. With this in mind, how can a customer ensure they are purchasing an environmentally-friendly, and energy-efficient product?
ENERGY STAR Label
It’s important to look for products that display the ENERGY STAR Label. This way, the customer can be assured that the appliance fully meets the energy efficiency standards outlined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
There are some key household appliances that appear on the Energy Star Most Efficient list. These include:
With the average U.S. family washing 300 laundry loads annually, switching over to an ENERGY STAR-labelled washer will use 40% less water, and 25% less energy than a regular machine.
The best clothes washers for residential use are considered to be those that measure around 2.5 cubic feet, and those with simply constructed DirectDrive motors that increase both reliability and energy performance.
An essential fixture in all modern kitchens, fridges that qualify for the ENERGY STAR program, must be 15 percent + more efficient than federal requirements, as well as using 637 kWh or less per year.
Just because a refrigerator is expensive, it doesn’t mean that it’ll be the most efficient model. Look out for features such as LED lighting when thinking of making a purchase, and remember that ENERGY STAR refrigerators save 10 percent more energy on average than their standard counterparts.
Although they aren’t a fixture in every home, most modern families own a dishwasher. To qualify for the Most Efficient list, water use needs to be under 3.2 gallons per cycle, with a yearly energy use of under 240 kWh.
There are ENERGY STAR offers and rebates available, in order to save money as well as energy, and they can be found here on the ENERGY STAR website.
Quick Checklist When Buying an Appliance
Choosing the right green appliance for the home and for the needs of the family can be difficult. To ensure you buy the correct one for your needs:
- Always look at the ENERGY STAR label first.
- Compare the energy use of different models.
- Try to estimate the differing energy costs between models.
- Consider both the estimated energy use, and the price of the appliance before making a final decision.
As well as saving electricity, water conservation is something all of us need to be aware of. When considering the purchase of new toilets, showerheads, faucets, and the like, look for products bearing the WaterSense label.
The WaterSense partnership program from the EPA aims to:
- Reduce strain on water infrastructure and resources.
- Decrease water use.
- Encourage innovate manufacturing.
- Promote water efficiency.
- Label products, and provide information to consumers to enable them to use water more efficiently.
Saving water helps customer’s wallets, as well as the environment, and all WaterSense labeled products are backed by independent certification, and third-party testing. They also meet EPA performance, and water efficiency specifications.
Through upgrading to water-efficient products, the country as a whole can save billions of gallons of water annually, and will contribute significantly to protecting and preserving the county’s water resources. In fact, products bearing the WaterSense label have been certified as at least 20 percent more efficient than their regular counterparts, without sacrificing any aspect of performance.
In order for companies to be able to use the WaterSense label, they must first sign a partnership agreement. This document defines the responsibilities and roles of both the partnering organization, and the EPA. It also defines the correct use of the label on packaging, on products, and in promotional and marketing materials.
Energy-Saving Facts and Figures
Purchasing energy-efficient products can significantly reduce a home’s impact on the environment. According to the Energy Federation, some of the benefits include:
- Installing certain WaterSense-labeled shower heads can effectively reduce household water use by 3,650 gallons per annum (based on a 10-minute daily shower.)
- Replacing just one regular 75-watt bulb with one that’s ENERGY STAR certified, can reduce CO2 emissions by 92 pounds, as well as providing an annual electricity saving of 65 kWh
Hints and Tips
There are many ways that energy and money can be saved in the home. These include:
- Remembering to maintain, and service all existing appliances.
- Taking advantage of energy efficient tax rebates.
- Unplugging small household appliances that can actually leak electricity even when they’re switched off. There are $3 billion of energy wasted annually in the U.S. through not unplugging microwaves, televisions, and so on, when they’re not in use.
Every (even seemingly small) action taken in the home can add up to many energy saving benefits, both for the consumer’s wallet, and for the earth. That’s why it makes sense to always purchase energy efficient products in the store.
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