Putting a Brand Label on Wind Power

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Consumerism—perhaps more than any other factor—has driven the growth of green ideas and policies over the past decade. (Which, if you think about it, is a little ironic, but never mind that for now.) Whether it’s the near-vertical growth of the organic food movement, the spread of BPA-free bottles and other products for the concerned and conscious parent or simply the now iconic Prius hybrid, with the sleek silhouette that pronounces just how much its owner cares about the planet, green is now something we can buy. And business is good.

But one very important piece of the sustainable equation is something few of us can buy: renewable electricity. Of course, the intrepid—and the relatively well-off—can buy rooftop solar panels, and some utilities offer customers the opportunity to tack renewable energy credits onto their electricity bill, as a way to support green power. But for most of us, electricity is something that just comes out of the outlet, undifferentiated electrons that allow us to run our Playstation 3s and TiVos. It’s much more difficult to show your support for wind or solar through your consumer choices than it is to vote with your wallet for organic food or fuel-efficient transport.

That’s beginning to change, though. Today—on Global Wind Day, of course—a group of NGOs, wind companies, corporations and trade associations publicly presented WindMade, the first global consumer label for companies using wind power in their product line. The concept—which was first mooted at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year—would create a standard that requires participating companies to source at least 25% of their electricity demand from wind power. The idea is that the standard would give companies an extra incentive to green their electricity portfolios. Said Steve Sawyer, the chairman of the WindMade board and the secretary-general of the Global Wind Energy Council in a statement:

The initiative is backed by the wind power industry, and we believe that the label will build a bridge between consumers and companies committed to clean energy. We hope to see widespread participation in the public consultation and strongly encourage interested parties to review and comment on the standard.

The WindMade standard is still being worked over, and it’s now entering a two-month public consultation period that should help it take shape. But this graphic—from a webinar put on earlier this morning—shows roughly how the system should work:

Eventually, the coalition behind WindMade hopes to put to be able to put a certification standard on individual products that will signal to consumers that they were made with wind power. That choice could prove a tipping point—certification standards for forestry and seafood have helped motivate sometimes reluctant industries towards more sustainable practices. Of course, the effectiveness will hinge on just how tough the wind standard ultimately is—and whether consumers show they’re willing to go out of their way to buy products with a WindMade label. As is always the case, the power—and the responsibility—for going green rests with the rest of us.