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Of green lights and golden carrots.

The EPA's incentive programs are powering corporations to embrace a more energy-efficient and pollution-free future.

Few issues have gained as strong a hold on global consciousness over the past decade as the environment. As people of all nations have grown to appreciate the fragility of our natural world, we've evolved into a community that is willing to recycle and reuse, reduce waste, and do all that we can to prevent pollution.

Traditionally, many nations, including the United States, have relied on a "command-and-control" strategy to clean up pollution, requiring polluters to comply with "end-of-pipe" regulations that clean up the environment after the damage is done. But without relaxing such regulations, the Clinton administration is also placing a stronger emphasis than ever before on pollution prevention -- keeping pollution from being generated in the first place.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency encourages business to curb pollution voluntarily through several innovative "green" programs. These programs demonstrate that pollution prevention is not only environmentally sound but profitable, too. In fact, only by addressing environmental protection concerns can economies truly prosper. And the environmental protection industry itself creates jobs by establishing markets for new products.

Green Lights is EPA's flagship pollution prevention program. Through Green Lights, EPA encourages organizations to use energy-efficient lighting, thus clearing the air while enhancing the participants' bottom line. If energy-efficient lighting were used wherever it was profitable, U.S. demand for electricity would fall by over 10%. Annual carbon dioxide emissions could drop by 4%, sulfur dioxide emissions by 7%, and nitrogen oxide emissions by 4% -- reductions equivalent to taking 44 million cars off the road each year. These reductions would curb acid rain, help slow the greenhouse effect, and save rate-payers as much as $16 million a year.

Faced with an intensely competitive marketplace, industry has been quick to realize the benefits of Green Lights. There is no down side to energy-efficient lighting -- no burden that an organization has to shoulder to be environmentally responsible. In fact, investing in new lighting technologies brings immediate financial benefits. Green Lights participants upgrade their lighting only where profitable, and only where lighting quality is maintained or enhanced. Green Lights is about results, not sacrifice.

Green Lights participants realize an average rate of return of 25% on their initial investment, and many utility-sponsored rebates and other financing options exist to help an organization get started. Green Lights participants save 50% or more on their lighting bills. That's pure profit that the organization can use to increase its competitiveness.

The financial advantages of such energy-efficiency investments are clear. But Green Lights participants also gain an enhanced corporate image. An organization's environmental record has economic value. Consumers, investors, and surrounding communities are placing an increasing value on a corporation's environmental record. By participating in Green Lights, an organization can demonstrate that its environmental commitment goes beyond the minimum requirements of environmental laws.

$280,000 in Savings

The results are impressive for organizations across the nation. American Express, one of the program's first corporate partners, has upgraded lighting covering more than 2 million square feet of office space, and plans to upgrade 9 million more. Currently, the company is saving $280,000 a year in electricity bills and is preventing a significant amount of pollution from entering the atmosphere. Columbia University has switched to energy-efficient lightning in its 420,000-square-foot School of International Affairs -- an upgrade that is the environmental equivalent of planting 200,000 trees. And Houston-based Browning Ferris has completed an upgrade that prevents the emission of over 1 million pounds of carbon dioxide, 1.4 million grams of sulfur dioxide, and 1.4 million grams of nitrogen oxide. Once the company has upgraded all 400 of its corporate facilities, it will add $1.5 million in profit to its bottom line.

Building on Green Lights' momentum, EPA is designing several similar pollution-prevention initiatives. One program that is off to a strong start is the Energy Star Computers program. Personal computers now account for 5% of commercial energy use -- a figure that is projected to account for 10% by the year 2000. These computers often run at full power while not in use -- during the day, at night, and even on weekends.

EPA approached computer manufacturers and asked them to develop a computer that would save energy by automatically entering a low-power, standby state when no one was using it. In addition, EPA approached corporations, serving as a catalyst to stimulate a market for these energy-efficient computers. And finally, President Clinton issued an executive order committing the federal government to purchase only energy-efficient computers beginning in October 1993. Since the U.S. government is the largest purchaser of computers in the world, this created a powerful new demand for the new product.

Most major computer manufacturers will have Energy Star PCs -- identified with the Energy Star logo -- on the market by the end of this year, and most observers believe that within a relatively short time, traditional computers that are can't power down will be off the market.

EPA's Energy Star Buildings program helps organizations promote energy efficiency in their building through a variety of measures -- including efficient lighting, efficient air-distribution systems, and efficient heating and cooling equipment. Through such measures, commercial buildings can reduce their energy bills by more than 50% while generating an attractive profit: a low-risk rate of return of 20% to 30% or more on the original upgrade investment.

$30 Million in Incentives

EPA also provides business with incentives for developing super-efficient products. The "Golden Carrot" Refrigerator program, which EPA helped develop with utilities and other organizations, pooled $30 million in incentives for refrigerator manufacturers to develop an efficient, chlorofluorocarbon-free refrigerator. Whirlpool recently won this competition by being the first company to develop an energy-efficient, ozone-friendly refrigerator.

And the list continues to grow. EPA hopes to launch "green" programs for a variety of appliances, from shower heads to air conditioning to cooking equipment. "Golden Carrot" programs are in the works for advanced heat pumps, clothes washers, clothes dryers, and other promising technologies.

EPA's "green" programs are powered by the understanding that environmental protection and economic growth are mutually enhancing and that government and industry can work hand in hand to develop and disseminate environmentally sound products and practices.

Carol M. Browner became the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in January 1993. In naming her the EPA Administrator, President Clinton cited her strong background and her record in building innovative partnerships to protect the environment while also promoting economic growth. From 1991 to 1993, Browner was Secretary of the Department of Environmental Regulation for the state of Florida, the nation's third-largest environmental agency.
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Title Annotation:Leadership in Environmental Initiatives; EPA incentive programs
Author:Browner, Carol
Publication:Directors & Boards
Date:Sep 22, 1993
Previous Article:Stewardship starts at the board level.
Next Article:Steady improvement, plus breakthroughs.

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