Google's Got Goats! - InformationWeek
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5/1/2009
01:54 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Google's Got Goats!

When not organizing all the world's information and making it universally accessible, Google can often be found not doing evil, in keeping with its unofficial motto.

When not organizing all the world's information and making it universally accessible, Google can often be found not doing evil, in keeping with its unofficial motto.The company's latest avoidance of evil takes the form of a hircine employment project: Hiring goats to cut the grass on the grounds of its corporate headquarters.

"At our Mountain View headquarters, we have some fields that we need to mow occasionally to clear weeds and brush to reduce fire hazard," explained Dan Hoffman, Google's director of real estate and workplace services in a blog post on Friday. "This spring we decided to take a low-carbon approach: Instead of using noisy mowers that run on gasoline and pollute the air, we've rented some goats from California Grazing to do the job for us."

Google's low-carbon approach provides a free meal to its unpaid workforce and free soil fertilization. Unfortunately, it doesn't save the company much money -- Hoffman says it costs about as much as hiring people to do the work. But perhaps omitted from that calculation is the public relations value in goat outsourcing and saving the planet.

If Google keeps this up, someone might accuse the company of doing good rather than not doing evil.

But Google's goats may not save the air quite to the extent that the company suggests: Goats, like other animals, contribute to climate change through front-end and back-end emissions of carbon dioxide and methane, among other gases.

Yes, I know it's preferable to engine exhaust. But Frisbee on Google's lawn just isn't nearly as fun when you have to watch where you step.

At the same time, I have to wonder whether it wouldn't be better to grill the goats -- goats, meet fire hazard! -- and serve them to California's unemployed, who'd probably cut the company a good deal on grass-cutting.

Or Google could just let the grass grow wild around its headquarters. Sure, company employees might have to use a machete to clear a path from parking lot to office door, but think of the cardio benefits of that kind of aerobic activity.

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