In today's dim economy, with the housing market in disarray, the only bright lights are those of the cost-effective and energy-efficient variety. Installing a solar panel system isn't exactly a priority for most homeowners at the moment, but there are plenty of other effective steps they can take to reduce their environmental impact. Congress recently has made some opportunities more attractive by boosting tax credits and incentives for owners and first-time buyers.
Leading the effort to spread awareness of these opportunities is Energy Star and the 15,000-plus businesses and institutions enrolled in the government-backed program. By promoting and developing products and practices that save energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save consumers money, organizations partnering with Energy Star are advancing efforts to stem global climate change.
So far the results have been nothing short of stellar: a recent report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that Americans, with the help of Energy Star, avoided 43 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions while saving more than $19 billion in utility costs—and that was just in 2008.Since 2000, more than 2.5 billion Energy Star-qualified products have been purchased and 940,000 Energy Star-labeled homes have been built.
Energy Star, a joint venture of the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), acknowledged these achievements at its annual awards ceremony in March. The 89 top-performing organizations that were honored account for less than 1 percent of Energy Star's total partnerships but span all sectors of society, from designers to door manufacturers. Awards were bestowed in three categories: Sustained Excellence, Excellence, and Partner of the Year.
The most prestigious of the awards, Sustained Excellence, went to longtime Energy Star partners who continue to excel in leadership and exhibit the utmost dedication to environmental protection. These 37 recipients specialize in new product manufacturing, program delivery, and energy management for buildings and industry, including commercial real estate, industrial firms, and schools.
From Austin Energy, an electric utility whose energy loan program prevented the emission of nearly 6,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into the environment, to North Carolina-based Anderson Homes and Vanguard Homes, builders of a promotional house that demonstrated Energy Star features to home buyers, Sustained Excellence winners set the benchmarks for the Energy Star program.
Public corporations were also honored, among them the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The public benefit corporation's contributions included home retrofits and building affordable multifamily houses and commercial buildings. NYSERDA's construction efforts resulted in 1,900 new Energy Star-qualified homes that saved residents $1.8 million in energy costs. This was the fourth time NYSERDA has been honored for its commitment to Energy Star principles.
The Excellence Award recognized emerging leaders whose promotional practices raised awareness of Energy Star products and educated employees and consumers about the principles of energy efficiency. Eight of the 17 honorees are home builders and organizations specializing in affordable housing. This included two government institutions: City of Topeka, Housing & Neighborhood Development, which proclaimed October "Energy Star Awareness Month" and pursued community outreach activities in Kansas' capital city, and the Ithaca Housing Authority, a New York state public housing agency that helped families save billions of kilowatts by installing energy-saving measures.
This category recognized retailers as well, including Seattle Lighting and DestinationLighting.com, a Pacific Northwest company that doubled stock on Energy Star-qualified light fixtures and even replaced 28,000 incandescent bulbs in its showrooms with Energy Star-qualified compact fluorescent lights (CFLs).
partner of the year
This year's Partner of the Year honorees represent a diverse group of product and service providers, product manufacturers, retailers, new home builders, schools, and commercial real estate companies with comprehensive approaches to energy efficiency. The majority of these winners excelled in the areas of program delivery and energy management.
Among the first-time honorees were flat-glass and building products manufacturing company Saint-Gobain, whose 2.3 percent decreased energy usage translated into a nearly 70,000-ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, and family-owned and -operated Satco Products, which sponsored Green Levittown, a campaign to make Long Island's Levittown the most energy-efficient suburb; educated campaign staff about Energy Star lighting products; and donated 20,000 specially packaged CFLs.