10 Ways Tech is Celebrating Earth Day

What’s the meaning of Earth Day to the tech industry? This year, we’ve got a host of announcements from tech giants picking their own particular way to mark the occasion, from Facebook’s “Billion Acts of Green” app to Microsoft’s green data center project to the host of e-cycling and energy efficiency efforts underway by telcos and gadget makers.
Here are a few announcements that caught our eye:
Facebook: Beyond opening up its energy-efficient data centers to the world, the social media giant is using its strength — its 500 million-plus users around the world — to promote a shopping list of personal green actions in partnership with the Earth Day Network. Facebook’s “Billion Acts of Green” app allows users to choose actions such as writing a letter to Congress to support green legislation, planting a garden, taking public transit at least once per week, or getting a home energy audit. Whether that’s enough to get Greenpeace off Facebook’s back for building its new data center in a region powered by coal-fired electricity remains to be seen.
Microsoft (s MSFT): The world’s biggest software company marks Earth Day by publicizing how it’s trying to reduce the energy devoted to all the computing it’s enabled. That includes the company’s new modular data center design, as well as driving down the share of power going to non-computing uses in its datacenters from about 50 percent to less than 10 percent. That ratio is usually expressed in terms of power usage effectiveness, or PUE — a term that Christian Belady, Microsoft’s general manager of data center advanced development, created in 2001, by the way. But now Belady is working on new metrics, including carbon usage effectiveness (CUE) and water usage effectiveness (WUE) to keep the industry on its toes.
IBM (s IBM): The granddaddy of business machines wants its customers to know that it’s been putting IT equipment otherwise headed to landfills to good productive use for decades, via its Global Assets Recovery Service. As part of its leases with customers, IBM pledges to collect IT gear that’s at the end of its lease and refurbish and resell it, use it for repair and maintenance work or, as a last resort, disassemble it and sell or recycle the parts. That’s about 1.35 million pounds per week of IT gear, and 90 percent of it is reused or resold.
Dell: The PC and server maker that likes to tout its electronics recycling record is at it again for Earth Day, with news that it diverted 150 million pounds of electronics from landfills in its 2011 fiscal year, which actually ended on January 29th. That puts Dell about two-thirds of the way toward its 2014 goal of e-cycling 1 billion pounds of e-waste. It’s not just Dell stuff that’s getting recycled — Dell and Goodwill have teamed up to recycle computers of any make or model.
Best Buy: Speaking of e-cycling, Best Buy says it recycles more electronics than any other retailer in the U.S., with a volume it measures at 387 pounds every minute — a sense of how big the electronics recycling market has become. Best Buy also has partnered with 10 other retailers and consumer electronics makers in an EPA Energy Star-branded program to make recycling easier for customers.
Gazelle: This electronics recycling and reuse startup marks Earth Day with news that it’s helped about 285,000 orphaned iPads, cell phones and other personal electronics devices find a new home over the past year. That is, about 95 percent of the 300,000 items the company diverted from landfills went to new users, rather than traditional recycling — an important market, when one considers how quickly early adopters are willing to chuck their latest gadget for the even more recent one.
Philips: The Dutch lighting giant has chosen Earth Day to highlight its new EcoVantage halogen light bulbs, now on sale at Home Depot, which use about 28 percent less electricity than old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. That’s not exactly the most eco-advantageous or technologically advanced bulb that Philips has to offer — its Ambient LED bulbs, which use 12 watts to give the equivalent light of a 60-watt incandescent, sell for a cool $40 apiece. The EcoVantage 60-watt equivalent, which uses about 43 watts, sells for $6.96 on Amazon, by comparison.
Sprint: More eco-friendly phone news from Sprint, which last week launched its first Android phone, the Replenish, built with recycled materials and energy efficient operation in mind. Sprint’s other green phones include the Samsung’s Reclaim and Restore, and LG’s Remarq, and while they’ve not exactly caught fire with consumers, Sprint insists they’re selling well and at a price that allows profit. Earlier this week, it launched its Green ID set of applications for Android users, which bundles a bunch of green-themed news feeds, recycling tips, personal carbon footprint trackers and the like.
Verizon: For Verizon Wireless, Earth Day means boasting about how many of its stores have won Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star certification to date. That’s 85, according to a Wednesday release, up from the 61 stores noted at the company’s Green Initiative Web site, and more than any other U.S. wireless carrier, the company claims. Of course, Verizon also has its HopeLine recycling service up and running, and is backing up about 20 cell sites with solar power.
Greenpeace: Let’s not let another Earth Day pass without noting the yeoman’s work that Greenpeace has done to focus the attention of the rest of the world to how the high tech industry can help reduce its own global warming and toxic pollution footprint — and where it feels those companies are falling down on the job. From its ongoing green consumer electronics gadget reviews, to its recent “Clean Cloud Power Report Card” that reviews tech giants’ various strategies on reducing the dirty power use of their data centers, the environmental organization has done a lot to bring attention to topics that some in the high tech industry would rather avoid — and that others see as an opportunity to differentiate themselves on the green scale.
Image courtesy of dullhunk via Creative Commons license.