Energy Star Certification: One Small Step Businesses Can Take to Make a Big Difference

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Energy Star Certification: One Small Step Businesses Can Take to Make a Big Difference

From pizza delivery chains to chambers of commerce and even car dealerships, the Energy Star program is more than just a label on an appliance; it’s a way to run businesses in the most energy efficient and eco-friendly ways possible.

The Energy Star program began in 1992 as a voluntary program under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Air Act and today it boasts more than 18,000 partners, along with Energy Star approved appliances in more than 65 different categories. Over the past 20 years, more than 4.5 billion Energy Star appliances have been sold worldwide and more than 1.2 million homes and 20,000 businesses have become Energy Star certified.

Benefits of Energy Star certification

There are a number of benefits for businesses to becoming Energy Star certified. Along with knowing that you’re making a positive impact on your company’s overall carbon footprint, you can also pursue financial incentives and receive regional and potentially national recognition.

Energy efficiency loans: There are two loans offered through the Small Business Association (SBA) that can be used for the purpose of installing and updating to energy efficient equipment.

    • The 7(a) loan has a maximum loan amount of $5 million and can be used by a business for the purchasing of “equipment, machinery, furniture, fixtures, supplies or materials” or “to construct a new building or renovate an existing building.” By comparison, the average loan amount awarded to businesses in 2012 was $337,730.
    • The 504 CDC loan is an option for nonprofit corporations in need of “long-term, fixed-rate financing for major fixed assets, such as land and buildings.” This is a much smaller loan with a cap at $50,000 and an average loan amount of $13,000.

For more information about energy efficiency loans in your state, visit the National Association of State Energy Officials website: www.naseo.org/members/states/default.aspx.

Carbon footprint: Businesses that have participated in the Energy Star program and used the Energy Star Portfolio Manager to gauge their performances have shown an average of 7 percent savings in energy and a 6 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. In 2012, a record number of 75 industrial sites achieved a 10 percent reduction in energy usage and saved 14.7 trillion Btu in energy.

While businesses are not required to keep a Portfolio Manager to measure their energy savings, it does help businesses to gauge their overall success and helps the Energy Star program in acknowledging businesses for reaching significant milestones.

Marketing appeal: Becoming Energy Star certified is a great means of helping your business stand out in your field. Not only does Energy Star provide your company with the Energy Star logo for use on letterheads, they also provide a promotional packet containing Energy Star infocards, posters, co-brandable print advertising logos, web banners and access to a comprehensive catalogue of Energy Star publications. They even provide a sample news release so you can let the local media know about your new partnership.

The Energy Star Award: Every year, Energy Star acknowledges some of the more outstanding small businesses with the Energy Star Small Business Award. Each of the award winners are chosen for their achievements not only in energy efficiency but also in financial and environmental stewardship. Press releases about the winners are sent to each of the award winners’ regional media by the EPA and their stories are highlighted in the annual newsletter and on the Energy Star website.

Becoming Energy Star certified

There is no cost to becoming Energy Star certified and the online application takes about five minutes to complete. All the program asks of new partners is that they take steps to reduce their energy consumption by:

  • Measuring, tracking and benchmarking energy performance
  • Developing and implementing a plan to improve energy performance
  • Educating your staff and the public about your partnership and achievements

Your business is also encouraged to look into creating a Community Energy Challenge to get your area involved in energy savings and to prepare an energy strategy for the future. If your business is considering building new facilities, the Energy Star website provides a list of qualified energy saving architectural and engineering firms.

And if you need some help, insights or encouragement, Energy Star also provides a growing list of success stories from businesses across the United States. From grocery stores to bed & breakfasts to retail shops and even home-based businesses, you are likely to find someone in your field who was able to make a significant difference in their business’ energy usage.

Have you or your business considered becoming Energy Star certified? What has prevented you from making energy efficient changes in the past? What services do you wish Energy Star provided to small businesses?

Brent Hardy implements sustainability programs for www.extraspace.com. The Extra Space self storage facility in Greensboro is reducing its energy consumption and adopting sustainability practices.

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