Chevrolets New Environmental Labels Germinate a Good Idea But Dont go far Enough

Consumers are well aware of fuel economy and concerned about tailpipe pollution. But its much harder to get information on the whole lifecycle environmental impact of cars: how much energy it takes to produce a car, the pollution generated, and recyclability. Now Chevrolet is taking a step toward making this information more readily available. 

Starting with the 2012 Sonic, Chevrolet will begin putting what it is calling EcoLogic labels on the windows of all its models.

Chevrolets New Environmental Labels Germinate a Good Idea But Dont go far Enough

So far the label is more self-serving and less useful than it could be, listing some minor fuel-saving features on the car, such as variable-valve timing (which other automakers have had for about 20 years) and electric power steering (not exactly uncommon these days). What it doesnt highlight is whats left out, such as the makeup of the paint used to spray the car.

This label also lists the estimated percentage of the cars content that is recyclable (85 percent) and special processes at the factory that reduce its environmental footprint. In this case, the Sonics engine and transmission are built in a landfill-free facility, and the final assembly factory is cooled and heated 20 percent by landfill gas. (Some other automakers, such as Subarus Indiana plant, produce all their cars at 100-percent landfill-free facilities.)

Most cars today are highly recyclable. The bigger question may be, how much of cars are actually recycled?

To be more meaningful, the label would have to be tied to industry standards that could, for example, rate the cars and the factorys environmental qualifications against its peers. Still, as long as consumers view it with a critical eye on Chevrolets marketing claims, it seems like the label could be a good first step toward developing such standards to make all cars lifecycle environmental costs more transparent.

Already, the revised EPA window stickers now used on all new cars contain much more information than in years past, further empowering consumers to make informed decisions.

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