So you’re shopping in a store, let’s say Kohl’s or Best Buy or maybe you’re dropping off your ink cartridges for recycling at Staples. Just then a voice comes over the store’s PA system announcing with audible pride that the very store you’re standing in is “Energy Star rated”. The delight in the announcer’s voice is so infectious, you yourself are bubbling with joy over the store’s prestigious Energy Star status before you realize…you don’t exactly know what it means.
You can rest assured that your feelings of goodwill toward any business that is Energy Star rated aren’t misplaced. These are the companies that care enough about the environment to make a conscious choice in building design, construction, operation and maintenance of their building and their business. They are the stores that pay attention to and participate in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.
These stores and other businesses strive to include energy efficient features on their premises like high-efficiency lighting which can include high intensity discharge light bulbs, LED bulbs or compact fluorescent light bulbs, all of which leave traditional incandescent bulbs in the dust when it comes to comparing the lumens per watt each puts out. Other valuable energy saving aspects include occupancy sensor lighting, high efficiency heating and cooling systems to assure minimal energy will be used in keeping the building’s environment comfortable, and energy management systems that are centralized to run the whole show as efficiently and energy-conscious as possible.
When a business is environmentally aware and concerned with becoming Energy Star rated, it finds ways of purchasing green energy, electricity that is from a renewable source such as hydropower, solar or wind energy. To give full appreciation for what purchasing green energy could mean, a recent EPA report estimated purchase of green power by Kohl’s stores to being equivalent to the amount of energy that would easily power almost 60,000 American homes in a year. But what if these stores went the extra mile in powering their businesses and in addition to purchasing green energy, they installed solar panels that would shoulder anywhere from 20 to 30% of their energy requirements? Okay, now we’re talking.
It’s not all about energy efficiency, either. The store you were hypothetically visiting earlier when you got the good Energy Star rating news does its part by encouraging recycling with on-site recycling stations. It also consulted with a professional landscaper to assure that the exterior presentation of their site is water efficient as well as pleasing to the eye. And actually, the planners in the corporate office got started way before the building was constructed to assure that the layout would be energy efficient and that the building materials would be purchased regionally to reduce pollution from having them transported in from a distant location.
Knowing that energy and environmental concerns aren’t just on the shoulders of individuals, but that the “big guys” (the corporations that get a lot of flack most of the time) are doing their part, too, is encouraging. Heading up the list of retailers who have put green building practices into operation are the aforementioned Kohl’s, Office Depot, Staples and Best Buy. They are in good company with other Energy Star rated stores that have started the process of installing solar panels on their roofs to take some of the responsibility for the power required to run their businesses, stores like Macy’s, Safeway and Wal-Mart. Now you can see why the Energy Star rating is truly a ranking to be proud of.