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What Every Tech Pro Should Know About 'Green Computing'

For most companies, the movement is about saving money, not the environment. But it's getting better at both.
Vendor Frenzy
IT vendors also are applying green standards to their own operations. There are lots of reasons: new revenue opportunities, regulations, fear of a customer backlash, or just the desire to act like good corporate citizens. It's also good PR: Vendors are trying to make the case that "a key difference between us and our competitors is that we're more concerned about the environment," says Adam Braunstein, a Robert Frances Group analyst.

Salesforce.com in January announced an initiative to "offset its carbon footprint"--that is, compensate for the 19,700 tons of carbon emissions created by everything from its data centers to employee travel. That effort includes a partnership with Native Energy, a Native American-owned company involved in renewable energy projects, and $126,000 invested in five projects to develop alternative energy sources, including windmill and methane farms.

Sun's Project Blackbox is a complete virtualized datacenter built into a shipping container. -- Photo by Sacha Lecca
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Sun's Project Blackbox is a complete virtualized datacenter built into a shipping container.

Photo by Sacha Lecca

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Sun created a Sun Eco office a year ago to oversee all of the company's green programs, including telecommuting but also core products such as low-power servers. It's touting its Project Blackbox--a data center in a shipping container--as not just portable but also 20% more energy-efficient than today's data centers.

Cisco also pulled most of its green initiatives under one umbrella, the Eco Board. Its efforts include using its own high-end videoconferencing and other IP tools to cut company travel by 20% a year--2 million miles--which the company estimates will lower its CO2 emissions by 10%, or 72,000 tons, says Laura Ipsen, VP of global policy and government affairs, who co-chairs the Eco Board. Cisco also is working with San Francisco, Seoul, and Amsterdam, to find ways to reduce CO2 through broadband and other networking technologies that support telework.

Dell in February launched "Plant A Tree For Me," where consumers pay an extra $2 for a laptop or $6 for a desktop to plant trees aimed at offsetting the equivalent computer emissions. It launched www.dell.com/earth to tout its green policies. HP says it has offered recycling since 1987, and today lets consumers send back equipment from HP or competitors. It keeps products such as old Digital Equipment VAX and Alphaserver machines available for parts, for instance. HP set a goal in 2004 to take back 1 billion pounds of product for recycling by 2007, and it brought in 164 million last year.