Who would have known back in 1992 that Energy Star, a joint initiative of the US Department of Energy and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) would have become such a major heavy hitter in the world of energy efficiency for the 21st century?, in fact so ingrained in our culture are they that 70% of all Americans recognize that Energy Star is synonymous with energy saving, with over one billion products being sold with the Energy Star logo to date.

Before the Kyoto Protocol as we know it came to be, most of the world was in blissful slumber in regards to the issue of global warming, most people had no idea what that even was.  You can say that in terms of global action, we are like a 50,000 ton megaship that only now is finally, yet ever so slowly, turning its rudder in a direction for the positive, but like with big ships as in our consuming habits as a nation, it takes time to change.

With environmental lobbyists rallying to raise awareness of the reality of global warming we have been able to take stock of the situation and make changes in our own lives that can help make a difference.  This is the key if we are to turn the situation around for the better.

One such program that has had its finger on the pulse long before most people were even aware of the environment was Energy Star.  Their objective was to save money and the environment by way of energy efficient practices and products.

With its humble beginnings, Energy Star has gone from strength to strength and has become a frontrunner in energy efficiency.  It began with the Energy Star label on a handful of appliances starting with computers and monitors until in 1995 that range grew to include office equipment and heating and cooling systems for residential properties.

So prolific is Energy Star that it now encompasses over 60 different products ranging from refrigerators to microwaves ovens, televisions, sound systems, dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, home electronics and lighting to name a few with the more recent expansion of the EPA to now include energy efficient solutions for both residential home and commercial buildings.

Each passing year has seen Energy Star’s global reach extend even further with its joint venture alliances with over 15,000 private and public organizations while providing options to consumers to make better informed decisions when choosing energy efficient solutions.  Customers can rest assured in the knowledge that their product will in the long term save money by using less energy and emitting fewer greenhouse gases than some of their less efficient market equivalents.

2008 alone saw Energy Star save nearly 20 billion dollars through reduced energy usage from their inventory of approved products carrying the Energy Star logo.

In April of 2009, the EPA launched their campaign “Change The World – Start With Energy Star” encouraging consumers to join the fight against climate change through small changes in their daily energy using habits and by replacing older, energy wasting appliances with Energy Star recommended products.

By 2012 Energy Star predicts a reduction of around 50 MMTEC of greenhouse gases released into the earth’s atmosphere as a direct result of its initiatives.  This total saving is equal to the output from more than 30 million vehicles while saving over 15 billion dollars annually in energy bills alone.

So how do we make this life changing global impact for energy conservation?, simple, just by one energy compliant appliance at a time.

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If you were to hear that the likes of Leonardo Dicaprio, George Clooney, Brad
Pitt, Matt Damon, Edward Norton, Sheryl Crow and Selma Hayek were all rubbing
shoulders at a star studded event you could easily be forgiven for mistaking it
for some A-List, red carpet movie premiere rather than a summit for the protec-
tion of the environment.  Right now the color of Hollywood is green in fact it’s
the new black.  Hollywood has made green sexy and appealing for the rest of us
and have drawn more attention to the environmental cause than ever before.

Nowadays celebrities are lending their names and their support in the global
message for environmentalism. Leonardo Dicaprio, who spearheaded the film that
raised awareness of environmental issues, “The 11th Hour” has been a committed
activist for years and walks his talk by living green every day.  Leonardo’s
home runs on solar energy and he drives a Toyota Prius which is the new hybrid
car of the 21st century, emitting 90% less green house gases than its gasoline
powered rival.  Leonardo believes that we now have the technology to produce
more inexpensive, environmentally friendly, energy efficient cars.

Brad Pitt brought New Orleans under the microscope with his “Make It Right”
project in a bid to build cleaner, greener more energy efficient “eco-homes”
from sustainable materials for Hurricane Katrina survivors.  His goal was to
build 150 homes and pledged to match up to $5 million dollars in donations of
his own money.  The project was born out of frustration at the lack of effort
from the government to rebuild New Orleans.

Sheryl Crow is another activist passionate about the environment and does her
part by visiting colleges around the country spreading her message about the
consequences of global warming.  She also encouraged youths to rally at Capitol
Hill to influence the change of laws and policy governing the environment.

She lives what she preaches by using only the cold water cycle for washing her
clothes, she drives a hybrid and proudly sports solar panels as a permanent
fixture of her home. Sheryl is the prime example of how celebrity can be used as
an influence for the better and how it can help unite society in a common goal
for the positive.

The Hulk’s Edward Norton wanted to make the hulk more “green” than ever before
by reducing the productions carbon footprint, setting the tone from the very
beginning starting with the first production meeting which included an environ-
mental consultant to help keep their green vision tightly within focus.

They reduced the amount of plastic bottles and utensils used on the set which
markedly reduced the amount of throwaway garbage.A green perspective was used
with regards to set construction, resource management and conservation, recycling
and energy usage making “The Hulk” the first ever film to feature the Green Seal
of the Environmental Media Association in its closing film credits.  The goal of
the film industry is to proudly sport more Green Seal logos in more films for
the future.

Not only are celebrities pushing the green message but the film studios that
back them are also supporting the cause in an effort to create more environment-
ally friendly productions.

Tom Shadyac's film "Evan Almighty" took green thinking to a whole new level by
donating around 2,000 trees to the Conservation Fund to offset any greenhouse
gases emitted during its production.  The tons of wood used for the elaborate
sets were also dismantled and donated to anyone that needed them, reducing the
amount of wastage that usually ends up in landfills with a production of this
scale.

Fox Studios “24” made a pledge to introduce both solar and wind energy for
providing power to their productions where all materials would be recycled and
reused.

Film sets used on the film “The Matrix” were re-used in the construction of
homes in Mexico.  Nonprofit organization “ReUse People Of America” believe that
it costs less to reuse materials than it does to demolish them, an encouraging
incentive to reuse and recycle.

You’ll find celebrities driving their Hybrid Prius cars, opting for green
cleaning products and recyclable cloth bags with the “Apple” brand of computer
being at the top of the list for its sustainability through its recyclable parts.

So as you can see, celebrities are more than just pretty faces and can lend
their status to good causes to give our planet a voice.

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How can you create a sustainable business that has a low carbon footprint on the
environment? Energy and fuel costs have soared so much in recent times that it’s
become more than vital to focus on green practices to avoid layoffs or closing
down offices, more so in these economic times than ever before in recent
history.  Many businesses are unaware of the fact that they can shave at least
20% of their energy costs just by employing simple measures like turning off
lights when leaving rooms, switching off computers when not in use, unplugging
cell phone chargers etc.

Employing environmentally sustainable business practices not only benefits the
environment, it also gives it a competitive edge over other firms in the same
field.  Businesses of the future will need to be environment friendly and making
a move towards that right now gives your business that advantage.  Going green
can be a challenging thing for businesses since it requires a certain amount of
effort and the co-operation of multiple groups, vendors, employees, investors
etc.

Here are some ideas that can help take your business into the future:

1) Energy audit

It’s best to carry out a complete energy and environmental
audit for your business operations and practices and use the findings to draft
sold policies and management systems that can help “green up” your business.
Even doing something as simple as following the basic 3R’s (reduce, reuse and
recycle) can help contribute to big differences yet it’s amazing how few people
do this.

2) Enlist your employees to your cause

It’s difficult for employees to care
about your business unless you take care of their basic needs first and give
them the feeling that it’s their business too. You can do the former by sharing
or underwriting their healthcare costs and the latter by having them involved in
decision-making while also appreciating their contributions.

3) Better Business Model

It’s no secret that businesses which operate on a profit-sharing basis have
happier employees who are committed to the success of the organization. A good
profit-sharing program boosts employee morale, increases profits and helps
employees feel a sense of ownership. A business that invests in the growth of
its employees by making them partners through an employee stock ownership plan
will continue to prosper over time.  Consider implementing a plan that allows
your employees to share in the wealth generated by your business and put it into
action.

4) Better Product Design

How do you design your products? Are they designed to be environment friendly?
Do they have a long life span? How can they be disposed of? Consider every
aspect of product design from the materials that go into them to the time they
will be disposed of before you design them. Aim for creating energy efficient
greener products. Also try to deal with suppliers and vendors who share similar
values. Do they follow environmental polices? Are they socially responsible?
Are they aligned with your long-term vision and goals?  Try to do business with
those who more closely support your own vision for a
sustainable, greener business.

5) Greater involvement with the community

Get the word out on your environmentally sustainable business practices. Let the
whole world know your stand. Describe your position, vision, values and mission
on your website or print out flyers and distribute it to investors, employees
and leaders in your community. Get your employees involved in any activity that
helps your local community or support an environmental cause that benefits the
community in a tangible way. It’s a great way to inspire your employees and to
create awareness of your vision to make your business sustainable and ‘greener’
to one and all.

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