Posted by: kurtsh | March 28, 2008

INFO: How “green” is Microsoft?

Every so often the question comes up, "How "green" is Microsoft?" so I thought I’d put some answers that we have together and post them to my blog.

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Q: How green is Microsoft?  Is Microsoft environmentally friendly?  Is Microsoft a major contributor to global warming?  Does Microsoft have a commitment to decrease its environmental footprint?

A: Every company has a responsibility to be a part of the solution. Microsoft is committed to environmental sustainability, continuously implementing new ways to preserve and improve the environment. We have built innovative energy-saving features into our products, we have implemented internal programs to further reduce any environmental impacts of our business operations, and we are partnering with numerous groups to draw attention to the problem and potential solutions.

For a full description of our efforts, you can review our online environmental page: Read More.

We focus our environmental efforts in two key areas:

  1. Applying Microsoft’s expertise and industry position to environmental challenges
    1. Our newest operating system – Windows Vista – is Microsoft’s most energy efficient operating system to date. It features significant changes to power management infrastructure, functionality, and default settings that can reduce PC energy consumption.
    2. Microsoft is a leader in the development of collaboration software, such as Live Meeting, SharePoint and Microsoft Office Groove, which enable virtual meetings – thereby reducing the need for the physical transfer of documents and business travel.
    3. The company also recycles used PCs, monitors, servers and other surplus electronics. Additionally, Microsoft participates in programs throughout the world that refurbish thousands of PCs every year and donates them to schools and nongovernmental organizations.
  2. Lowering the company’s consumption of fossil fuel energy
    1. We have eliminated PVC (polyvinyl chloride) from all Microsoft packaging, effective December 31, 2005. Based on historical product shipments, these measures will reduce PVC packaging by over 1.6 million pounds in the first two years.
    2. Microsoft is researching ways to improve product packaging by using environmentally-friendly ingredients and decreasing the amount of disposable packaging. Through participation in the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a cross-industry group of more than 100 global companies, Microsoft created packaging made out of recycled plastic beverage containers for the Microsoft Streets and Trips GPS case.
    3. Our Mountain View, Calif., campus has a system of 2,000 solar panels covering over 30,000 square feet of roof-top area, which generates 480 kilowatts of power at peak capacity, enough energy to power approximately 15 percent of the campus’s total energy needs.
    4. Microsoft has an extensive recycling and conservation program at its corporate headquarters that reduces waste and conserves resources at all of the company facilities; this includes an advanced irrigation system that saves about 11 million gallons of water annually.
    5. We also have a goal of increasing the number of employees who use alternative and efficient modes of transportation, and we have been recognized as a leader in this area. In 2006, we received an award from the EPA as the 2nd best workplace for commuters among Fortune 500 companies. At many campuses, the company offers public transportation passes to its employees and assists with the arranging of van/carpools and reductions in cost of bicycle maintenance.
    6. In the Redmond area, we’ve increased our commuter group to 30% of all employees – representing more than 11,000 commuters in Puget Sound. In 2007, we’ve introduce a ‘Connector’ bus transporting employees to our Redmond campus from various parts of the city, and eliminating hundreds of cars from the streets.

Q: How do company executives feel about global warming? Are they supportive of this issue?

A: Environmental stewardship is important and integral to Microsoft’s business. Over the past 30 years, we have translated our personal beliefs and corporate philosophy into meaningful environmental action. Today, more than ever, we are focusing our efforts on environmental sustainability and continuing innovation.

In addition, the company has created a new role and group focused solely on environmental stewardship for our products and our operations. This group is part of our Trustworthy computing division and represents a commitment at the highest level of our company to the issues of environmental sustainability.

Q: What environmental organizations do you work with?

A: Microsoft is a member of and serves in a leadership capacity on many industry organizations and groups who work to promote responsible business practices and improve social and environmental conditions across the globe. As many environmental issues are industry-wide concerns, we work with others to share best practices, solve challenges and create consensus and awareness on issues. We also work with groups that have a global perspective and reach, as the environment is a worldwide concern.

A sample list is below:

  • AeA in both Europe and the US (American Electronics Association)
  • IEC (International Electrotechnical Congress)
  • BSR (Business for Social Responsibility)
  • EICC (Electronic Industry Code of Conduct)
  • GeSI (Global e-Sustainability Initiative)
  • Green Grid
  • SPC (Sustainable Packaging Coalition)
  • Climate Savers
  • Clinton Foundation Climate Initiative
    …and others

PC Recycling/Windows Vista

Q: Isn’t Microsoft in the business of creating products that encourage waste of hard-to-recycle electronic hardware?

A: Microsoft is committed to enhancing the reusability of PCs and other devices, so that they are kept in use and out of the waste stream as long as possible (and can be recycled properly when they reach the end of their useful life). Through our Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher (MAR) programs and by supporting other programs such as Digital Pipeline (DP), the life of older retired computers is extended through low-cost licenses for Microsoft software, so that these computers can continue to be used.

Information on how to contact a MAR refurbisher can be found at either www.microsoft.com/communitymar or www.microsoft.com/oem/mar. Tips for donating computer hardware can be found at: http://www.microsoft.com/Education/TenTips.mspx.  

In addition to our focus on enhancing the reusability of computer hardware, we are also looking to design products which can help customers make better environmental choices. Our expertise in technology has the potential to make significant positive contributions to environmental sustainability. In addition to the power management features of Windows Vista, there are other important ways that we are helping customers use technology to lessen their environmental footprint.

  • Microsoft is a leader in the development of collaboration software, such as Live Meeting, SharePoint and Microsoft Office Groove, which enable virtual meetings – thereby reducing the need for the physical transfer of documents and business travel.
  • Microsoft Dynamics is developing an environmental dashboard – using the familiar interface of Microsoft Office – that will enable companies to manage greenhouse gas and other sustainability-related data. The dashboard will work in concert with other Microsoft Dynamics’ business management solutions.

Q: Several environmental groups have criticized Microsoft for causing a major e-waste problem with Windows Vista, because it requires users to upgrade to new computers. Is this true?

A: Actually, it is important to note that many PCs are purchased on a set schedule regardless of when a new OS is released. This is very common in the enterprise space, where PCs are refreshed every 3-5 years. Therefore, we don’t anticipate that Windows Vista will impact normal PC refresh rates or growth in consumer demand.

We do recognize that there is a serious e-waste problem in parts of the world, and have set up PC refurbishment programs that help to license computers for reuse, and support computer recycling programs that send unwanted PC’s to those who need, but can least afford them. With the MAR (Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher) and DP (Digital Pipeline) programs, the life of older retired computers is extended through low cost licenses for Microsoft software – so that the computers can continue to be used.

Information on how to contact a Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher can be found at  http://www.microsoft.com/communitymar and http://www.microsoft.com/oem/mar. Tips for donating computer hardware can be found at: http://www.microsoft.com/Education/TenTips.mspx.  

Q: Doesn’t Vista require more power to run? I’ve heard it is a “power hog”.

A: Not at all. According to Tom’s Hardware Guide, an independent online technology guide, “Windows Vista doesn’t require more energy than Windows XP, whether running under full CPU load or idle.” The comparison also found no evidence that “Windows Vista’s new and fancy AeroGlass interface consumes more energy than Windows XP’s 2D desktop. Although our measurements indicate a one watt increase in power draw at the plug, this is too little of a difference to draw any conclusions.” You can view the full report here.

Windows Vista is Microsoft’s most energy efficient operating system to date.  It features significant changes to power management infrastructure, functionality, and default settings that can reduce PC energy consumption.


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