In 1992, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy created the EnergyStar rating for consumer electronics. This became the new environmental standard for electronics all over the world, and it marked the beginning of sustainable manufacturing. Now, EnergyStar is considered the standard for nearly every electronic device.
While improving electronics is a big leap forward in reducing carbon emissions, cars are a much bigger offender. In 2004, the EPA created SmartWay —
As a two-fold program:
- A best practices for businesses to use when planning out shipping and other forms of transportation
- And a standard (similar to EnergyStar) for auto manufacturers to follow when creating eco-friendly vehicles
The SmartWay Transportation Partnership (STP) consists of more than 600 affiliate businesses (including Wal-Mart, Nike, FedEx, Whole Foods and ExxonMobil) and is backed by the American Trucking Association. Because shipping and transportation is such a foundation of business in America, the STP ensures that small but important steps to reduce carbon emissions take place and makes cars and trucks more efficient. Some of these steps include:
- Wind deflectors on trucks to reduce aerodynamic drag
- Fuel efficient tires and better inflation systems to reduce resistance on the road
- Idle reduction equipment to power and cool the cabin when the truck is not in motion so the engine can be shut off
- Speed governors and hybrid powertrain systems for urban vehicles
The STP now saves an estimated 3.3 to 6.6 billion gallons of diesel fuel every year. That equates to 33 to 66 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions and a huge feat in reducing the footprint on the environment.
On the consumer side of the spectrum, SmartWay aims to make cars more efficient. SmartWay rates new cars, trucks and SUVs on greenhouse gases and carbon-forming emissions on a scale of 1 to 10. The score from each is combined, and if it is lower than the threshold SmartWay sets for the year, it’s given the SmartWay Certification. There is also a SmartWay Elite certification, which is given to the most fuel efficient vehicles in production (the Tesla Model S, for example, would be a SmartWay Elite car).
Fuel efficiency has come a long way, and there are more SmartWay certified vehicles out there than you might imagine. The auto retailer DriveTime, for example, claims roughly 20 percent of its inventory is SmartWay approved. You also can find a full list of every new SmartWay certified vehicle at FuelEconomy.gov.
There’s no law stating an auto manufacturer has to make a SmartWay vehicle or that you have to drive one. The reason certifications like EnergyStar and SmartWay exist is because consumers continue to show more concern for the well-being of the environment and for corporate sustainability as a whole.
Browse the website of almost any major corporation and you’ll find a page dedicated to corporate sustainability and environmental care. From Apple electronics to Chipotle restaurants, companies are embracing responsible change, not because a law is forcing them to, but because the consumers are finally demanding it.