Microsoft plans to reduce carbon footprint by 30 percent

Microsoft said it hopes to reduce its carbon footprint by 30 percent by 2012 compared to 2007 levels.

Microsoft has set a goal for reducing its carbon emissions and has plans to support the development of software that can help address climate change issues, the company's chief environmental strategist said.

Microsoft hopes to reduce carbon emissions per unit of revenue by 30 percent of 2007 levels by 2012, Rob Bernard said in a blog post on Wednesday.

Improving energy use in buildings and operations, reducing air travel and increasing use of renewable energy will help the company meet that goal, he said. Last year, Microsoft saved US$90 million on travel costs by using its Unified Communications software, he said.

Features in new buildings at the company's headquarters may already be helping. Microsoft is still working on a $1 billion campus expansion. Some of the new buildings include environmentally friendly features. For example, they feature under-floor cooling systems, which save energy because they blow cool air from the ground up, rather than forcing cool air from the ceiling through warmer air that naturally rises. They also include lights in offices that turn on automatically when someone walks into the room and off when the room is empty.

The company has also been vocal about its attempts to build and run its massive data centers efficiently. In one new data center in Washington, construction vehicles burned locally grown and processed biodiesel. Other new data centers comprise shipping containers full of servers, which can reduce the amount of energy required to cool the machines.

Bernard said that CEO Steve Ballmer has also charged employees around the world with helping to accelerate the development of software and advance research in the areas of energy and climate change.

Microsoft has already begun offering products for companies to use to help them control their carbon footprint. An application for Microsoft's Dynamics AX enterprise resource management software, introduced in February, lets businesses find out the carbon footprint of various aspects of their operations.

Microsoft is not alone among technology companies that boast about their environmental efforts. In mid-2007, Google turned on solar panels covering nearly all the roof space on its corporate campus, a platform that was expected to supply about one third of Google's energy use on campus. It also planned to build up a 100 car fleet of plug in electric cars that employees who use public transportation could use to run errands during the work day.

Companies typically don't implement such measures for purely altruistic reasons. Cutting energy costs saves money and announcements about environmental policies can create a positive image for a company.

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Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
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