Helping Yahoo! Go Carbon Neutral

Have a creative idea about how Yahoo! should go carbon neutral? Well, submit it to the Yahoo! Answers blog and perhaps your suggestion of setting up wind turbines at the company’s various office locations in the U.S. will be selected by founders David Filo and Jerry Yang as they embark on the quest to make their multibillion-dollar search engine company 100% carbon neutral by the end of 2007.

Yahoo!, which announced its commitment to become carbon neutral last week, is planning to offset its carbon footprint by reducing energy consumption throughout the company and investing in environmental initiatives around the world, including possible renewable energy projects such as a wind farm in India or a small-scale run of the river hydroelectric project in Brazil. “We feel it’s a realistic goal because we feel we are definitely committed to becoming carbon neutral by the end of the year,” said Erin Carlson, senior manager of Yahoo! for Good, on the company’s ability to become 100% carbon neutral within the next eight months. And while two-thirds of the potential offset projects and initiatives are already in the review process at Yahoo!, the remaining one-third is where the information powerhouse is asking its vast network of users to submit inventive and creative ideas on how they think the company should go about meeting its carbon neutral goal. “There is a tremendous amount of knowledge in the Yahoo! community of users,” said Carlson, noting that since carbon offsets is a relatively a new and emerging market, the company expects to learn as they go. “We’ve been very clear that we don’t know everything about this area.” Not only does Yahoo! hope to tap into the expertise and experience of those already immersed in the carbon neutral and renewable energy fields, but the company is hoping that by involving users in the decision-making process it will help to inspire others to take action — both on individual and corporate levels. “There are many companies that are looking into the possibility of going carbon neutral. I’m hoping that when it’s all laid out, it might give other companies the confidence and inspiration to take the next step,” said Carlson. Yahoo! measured its own carbon footprint based on data from October 2005 to September 2006 and included energy use in its global offices and data centers, plus the impact of employees commuting and flying for business. According to the data, Yahoo! going carbon neutral is equivalent to shutting off the electricity in all San Francisco homes for a month or pulling nearly 25,000 cars off the road for a year. In terms of renewable energy use, the company already purchases renewable energy credits (RECs) at its Sunnyvale and Santa Clara, California, headquarters — as well as at the Hillsborough, Oregon, campus where the company has been matched with 100% clean wind power. In addition, two of the company’s data centers in Washington State use hydroelectric energy, said Carlson, and the Yahoo! commute-alternatives program has been recognized annually by the EPA since 2001 for incentives like Wi-Fi enabled biodiesel shuttles. While the idea of carbon offsets has been making headlines recently with protesters claiming the concept is flawed, Yahoo! believes that this method can be beneficial in the fight against global warming as long as people aren’t looking at offsets as the only answer. The key is to look at reductions first, and then combine that with renewable energy and other alternative methods. “We know carbon neutrality isn’t without controversy. And it’s honestly deserved if companies and individuals don’t first make an effort to find direct ways to reduce their impact. We’ll continue to be vigilant about cutting ours, looking for creative ways to power our facilities, encourage even more employees to seek alternative commutes, and generally inspire Yahoos around the world to think differently about their energy use,” stated Filo in his Yahoo! Anecdotal blog, last week. In the meantime, the company will continue to be “transparent” in its process to become carbon neutral — sharing the challenges as well as the successes — through regular updates on the Yahoo! for Good website as well as the Yahoo! Answers and corporate blogs. “We’re happily in a good position to be able to get information out to folks,” noted Carlson.
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