Last Friday, I posted a short piece about Energy Star, the U.S. certification assigned to appliances supposedly demonstrating exemplary eco-efficiency. As my post explained, a small scandal erupted at the end of March, when the New York Times published an article revealing that the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) had managed to secure Energy Star certification for fifteen products that don’t actually exist. The EPA seems to have spent the month scrambling to put in place a set of checks and balances to prevent against further embarrassment.
One reader of my Energy Star piece commented that she was not surprised by what happened since she has never fully trusted certifications. But what is a normal run-of-the-mill consumer trying to do the right thing (while saving money) to do WITHOUT certifications to guide him or her? Aren’t labels a necessary tool?
While certifications provide valuable shorthand for people trying to find products that meet certain standards, it is important for consumers to consider what each label ACTUALLY represents. For example, if you are in the market for a refrigerator and desire one that saves energy, take the time to do figure out what attributes you are seeking and determine if there are additional ways to come by this information. As the Energy Star saga illustrates, Consumer Reports is one good source for information, but the internet has many more.
On that note, I would welcome suggestions from readers. What online resources do you trust for sustainability-related product information and why?