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Director's Corner: The Promise and Perils of Eco-Labels

May 01, 2010

Source: RPN

Eco-labels can be an incredibly useful tool for purchasers.  It isn’t always easy to ascertain if one product is more “green” than another or if its environmental claims are true.  Eco-labels can help facilitate the procurement of responsible products because, when credible, they provide an objective authentication of environmental assertions and ensure products meet varying environmental and human health requirements.  However, as a March 5 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found, sometimes there are imperfections that need to be rectified. 

The GAO report, Energy Star Program: Covert Testing Shows the Energy Star Program Certification Process Is Vulnerable to Fraud and Abuse, found several serious flaws in the collaboration between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that provides an eco-label that marks thousands of appliances such as refrigerators, HVAC units, and electronics as energy-efficient.  For more details, see this New York Times article.

Fortunately, Energy Star has taken measures to rectify these problems.  EPA and DOE announced new changes to the Energy Star program on April 14 to “bolster the verification, testing, and enforcement aspects of the Energy Star program.”  These are welcome changes as Energy Star was the most recognized eco-label in RPN’s 2009 Trends Report, and is widely used to guarantee the energy-efficiency of many products. 

To understand these new changes and provide purchasers with the opportunity to ask questions directly to Energy Star staff, RPN has organized a webinar on the topic, Energy Star Takes Your Questions on New Product Certification Changes, which will take place May 6 at 3:00 PM (EDT).  The webinar is free for both RPN members and non-members, but registration is required.  To register, please click here. We’ll look forward to your participation as RPN continues to provide tools and resources that save money, conserve resources, reduce waste, and improve efficiency.

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