Google's Next Big Move: Carbon Neutrality

California, USA – Google becomes the latest of the big tech companies to announce major environmental initiatives, starting with its goal of becoming carbon neutral by the end of 2007.

In an announcement made this afternoon, the company said it had calculated the total amount of its GHG emissions through operations, employee commuting and business travel, construction and the manufacturing of its servers. Tallying the carbon footprint is Google’s first step in its mission to reduce and offset all its GHG emissions.

Google’s plan goes beyond its own operations, though. In addition to taking care of its own footprint, the company will also leverage its massive reach to spread information about climate change to users, develop new technologies that can make a low-carbon future possible and campaign for policies to stem the tide of climate change.

There are three steps to Google’s zero-footprint strategy: increasing its energy efficiency, purchasing renewable energy and offsetting the remainder through carbon credits.

After lowering its energy use through as many means as possible – from energy-efficient computers and servers to encouraging employees to ride Google’s extensive shuttle service or buy fuel-efficient vehicles – Google will buy carbon offsets through projects that meet three requirements:

  • That go beyond “business as usual”
  • That offer measurable environmental integrity
  • And provide a clear plan for monitoring and verification by a third party
One project the company said it has funded will install new waste-control systems in small livestock operations in Mexico and Brazil, which will work to prevent methane and nitrous oxide pollution and protect air and water quality.

iGoogle is one of the new features that make up the company’s plans to increase user awareness of environmental issues. Google has added new tabs to its iGoogle homepage that will give surfers up-to-the-minute climate-related news and resources. The company is also using YouTube to create and promote videos on environmental issues, and has developed a Google Transit Planner to encourage people to ride on public transit instead of driving.

In addition to the Climate Savers Computing Initiative that Google announced last week, which aims to raise energy efficiency in computers around the world,, the company’s philanthropic foundation, has launched a $10 million call for proposals to develop plug-in hybrid technology for cars that can reduce the need for fossil fuels.

The final phase of Google’s announcement focused on advocating for policy measures that will speed the adoption of climate-friendly technologies. The four areas the company plans to focus on are: developing standards for energy efficiency in electronics; developing a Renewable Portfolio Standard that requires the purchase of a certain amount of renewable energy, driving the development of renewable energy markets; boosting the public funding for research and development of clean technologies; and setting a “price signal” for greenhouse gas emissions, which the company said will create incentives for deploying energy efficient technologies.

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