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With increasing awareness of climate change and the effects of global warming, companies and countries are shifting toward net-zero emissions. Organizations are taking steps to reduce carbon emissions through various efforts, and the automotive industry has not been left behind. Consumer Reports (CR) took the initiative to track automakers’ efforts toward net-zero emissions by launching the Green Choice program. The program aims to make information about vehicle emissions available to buyers, to help them make more informed decisions. So, how does a particular vehicle qualify for a place in the Green Choice program?

Green Choice Program: An initiative for clean emissions

A green leaf sticker, symbolic of the Green Choice Consumer Reports program, seen in Krakow, Poland
A green leaf car sticker | Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Consumer Reports announced the launch of the Green Choice Program in 2021 as an initiative to make information about auto emissions more accessible to consumers. Before the announcement, CR conducted a national survey to determine if vehicle emissions influence Americans’ car-buying decisions.

According to the survey, two-thirds of Americans reported that tailpipe emission is, to some extent, a critical consideration when shopping or leasing a car. To address this concern, the organization introduced the Green Choice program. CR started using a green leaf icon for vehicles with the lowest amount of smog-forming emissions and greenhouse gasses in its rating to help buyers make more informed decisions. 

To run the program, CR collaborates with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, collects vehicle emission data, and uses it to assign the green leaf icon to vehicles with low emissions.

How can vehicles qualify for Consumer Reports’ Green Choice designation?

At the start of the program, Consumer Reports considered two main factors before assigning the Green Choice designation; smog-forming and greenhouse gas emissions. The auto reviewer designated a green leaf symbol if a model had low or no emissions

However, in the new update, Consumer Reports says it will use the green leaf symbol only on the top 20% of low-emission vehicles on the market. The cars don’t necessarily have to be electric. Gas-powered or hybrid models can be Green Choices, so long as they have low emissions.

According to the recent report, Customer Reports will expand its Green Choice sustainability program to push the consumer landscape where products use less water and energy, last longer, and are easily repairable during their lifespan. The program will include vehicles with a combined fuel economy of at least 35 mpg for cars and 20 mpg for trucks, SUVs, and minivans. The rating is based on the EPA data for fuel economy, which measures the miles a vehicle can cover on a gallon of gasoline.

Which are the current Green Choice vehicles?

When CR launched the Green Choice program, the auto market had limited clean vehicles. However, the world is adopting EVs in droves, and the market is flooded with many low-to-zero emission models. In response, Consumer Reports announced it would restrict its current Green Choice designation to only the top 20% of new vehicles with the cleanest emissions. 

Among cars, Consumer Reports lists the BMW i4, Volkswagen Jetta, Tesla Model 3, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Toyota Corolla, Toyota Corolla Hatchback, and Nissan Leaf as the cleanest models. Other options include the Kia Niro EV, Kia Niro (Hybrid), Kia EV6, Lexus ES300h, Hyundai Elantra Hybrid, and Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.

Green Choice SUVs, trucks, and minivans include the BMW iX, Ford Maverick Hybrid, Ford Escape Hybrid, Genesis GV60, Hyundai Ioniq5, and Hyundai Tucson Hybrid. Buyers can also go for the Lexus NX350h, Lexus RX350h, Subaru Solterra, Toyota bZ4X, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Toyota Hybrid, Toyota RAV4 Prime, Toyota Sienna, and Toyota Venza.

While the Green Choice designation can help you find lower-emission vehicles, the title doesn’t necessarily mean the best option in the market. Consumer Reports says the Green Choice label only indicates the vehicle’s emission level. The designation doesn’t consider other factors such as price, reliability, and performance.