Yahoo! goes carbon neutral

Breaking news: The folks that brought you your first email account are going carbon neutral in time for Earth Day 2007.

The impact is pretty large, about the same as 25,000 Out of Towner TerraPasses. Full disclosure, the reductions are not sourced from TerraPass (we’re focused on individuals) .

Yahoo! founder David Filo’s blog announcement lays out the details and the case. For other companies considering similar moves, David’s post is a good example of how to appropriately use tools like carbon offsets. Here’s a simple checklist for a well structured program.

  • Reduce first: Shareholders want responsible environmental stewardship, not PR stunts. This is just the last step in a serious commitment from Yahoo! to conserve. For employees, there are biodiesel commute shuttles, but as a shareholder, I like the bottom line impact of cooling improvements in the data centers, window film on offices, and lighting sensors. A 6% drop in the energy bills pays for a lot of offsets.
  • Measure twice, offset once: Yahoo! based the offsets on measurements from October 2005 to September 2006. They went above and beyond the normal guidelines, choosing to include all electricity use, corporate travel and even employee commuting! They even took the extra step of hiring an outside firm to review their internal audit. Cool.
  • Be humble and bold: Yahoo! acknowledges controversy around offsets, linking to last month’s carbon offset protests in London. We’ve tried to adopt the same philosophy at TerraPass. Carbon offsets are one of many tools to fight climate change and aren’t are a substitue for conservation.
  • Engage your customers: Yahoo!’s commitment is not going to stop global warming, but tens of millions of users can. Yahoo! has a quite amazing and rich Earthday site already up for Saturday. High quality content, plus a huge user base makes this commitment lasting and inspirational.

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  1. Anonymous - April 18, 2007

    Why aren’t they using renewable energy to power their servers. That’s the biggest thing they could do – but they like most major industry won’t – and why? because it COSTS MONEY which shareholders don’t like! It’s cheaper to change lightbulbs and “offset” that’s why. So there’s nowhere near the reduction there could be. I mean, 6%??? What about the 80% reduction StepItUp called for – NO ONE wants to make that kind of committment! And without we’re not going to stop the problem. Shoulda been called GiveItUp.
    BTW, it TerraPass using renewable for THEIR web servers?? Business won’t put its money where it’s offset sticker is…

  2. Anonymous - April 18, 2007

    There are discussions going in the corporate world about placement of servers relative to their large pawer demands. Purchsing blocks of power to be delivered over the grid, may not be the most efficient use of Yahoo’s manpower or the most effective way to reduce emmissions. It is afterall up to them to find the right balance. I think it is very important that they have made an investment in offsetting their footprint. Those $s will go to fund new energy sources and technologies that can over time begin to to supplant the energy currently on the grid. I applaud Yahoo, and by simply taking that step they send a great message to the employees and customers, many of whom will naturally begin to consider thier own impact. In the end of the day, positive action is reinforced by positive feedback.
    If the prior post was done by a carbon neutral author I would also applaud you for taking that step.

  3. Adam Stein - April 18, 2007

    Anonymous #1 —
    Your comment is a bit misinformed.
    – Using renewables means purchasing RECs. You can’t literally force the utilities to deliver renewable energy to you. Purchasing RECs is an offsetting strategy, no different than what Yahoo did.
    – StepItUp called for an 80% reduction by 2050. A 6% drop in a year or two is very significant. You can no doubt do the math on where Yahoo would end up if they continued this trend line for several decades.
    – And anyhow, StepItUp did not call for an 80% drop in electricity use, which would be an absurdly unachievable goal. Rather, they called for an 80% drop in carbon emissions, which is a different thing entirely. Low-carbon power is the key.
    TerraPass has offset 100% of our carbon emissions for our entire history.

  4. Jim Moses - April 18, 2007

    Anonymous #1–
    Aside from your comment being a bit misinformed (comment #3 from Adam) it holds a bit of a defeatist tone as well. I recognize the tone because it was one that I held for a long time. However, the more educated I became about a green economy the more optimistic I have become.
    Sure, money is the baseline (and bottom line) from which business decisions are measured. It also drives most of the decisions that you, I and everyone on this planet make everyday. However, business is business and it doesn’t really matter what drives a market as long as it can. The old (and dying) rhetoric is that going green will cause our economy to fail. On the contrary, a green economy has the potential to move us forward just as hard and fast as an oil-based one. From a business point of view it matters very little what the medium of exchange is. Recall the Tulip (yep, flower) boom of the late 1880s or the economy of the 1990s for example.
    I believe that any dialogue that concerns green policy is good, no matter who (or what) is saying it. Before all of us learn how to wrap our minds around this expansive, all-encompassing issue we need to be patient with those who weigh in. As more of us become educated about the nuts and bolts of truly going green this will eventually sift out the emotionally-motivated rhetoric. In the meantime let’s try and stay positive and withhold the negative, knee-jerk reactions that seem to be a hard wired component of the human experience.

  5. Orion - April 18, 2007

    Well, powering servers? Sure that would be a big deal, but I think you’d have to do some real analysis to decide if that’s less important than concerns like employee commuting and travel, etc. Things take time, let’s be thankful for the change they are making. 6% from a major player is still a success. These things are incremental.

  6. Joe Markert - April 19, 2007

    Too bad Yahoo is also humanity neutral. This news is highly tarnished with the recent announcement that Yahoo may have delivered information to the Chinese government that resulted in the deaths of several dissidents. While it’s nice to see people climbing aboard the train to make an effort in pushing the climate issue further into public view – responsibility to this planet, and humanity, needs to be well represented on all fronts.
    Yahoo claims it had no choice but to submit to Chinese requests or it’s employees would rish punishment. My response to this is yes, you do have a choice. You can leave that market. Oh, I do understand – there’s money to be had – and no good corporate CEO is going to keep his/her shareholder from potential revenues.
    However, it cannot be denied that part of the reason we’re where we are today environmentally is because of the impact corporate ideology has had on our resources both human and non. We cannot continue to sustain the corporate growth curve and we need to know when it’s time to stop chasing it and to live with what we have.
    And we need to recognise that our voices have power and we do not need to enable companies like Cisoc, Google or Yahoo to bow down to a regime that continually scoffs at human rights. The US indeed has it’s own list of atrocities to atone for – that’s another topic that bears discussion as well – but for now I’d like to propose we stop supporting companies that operate in this manner.
    We do have a choice and while we can’t stop all the flooding in the dike – we can at least put our finger in one hole. Don’t congratulate Yahoo for this carbon neutral move. Force them to step back from the humanity neutral stance by avoiding their services.

  7. Chad - April 20, 2007

    Joe: You believe that if Yahoo had left China, things would be better? How so? By your logic, all western internet firms would have to leave, leaving only Chinese ones – who would have even less ability to resist their tyrannical government. Both the dissadents and the average Chinese internet user would be worse off.
    Yes, being forced to give over names of dissadents is bad. Running away from the problem is worse. You shouldn’t be criticizing Yahoo (and Google, etc) from choosing the lesser evil. You should be criticizing China for forcing the choice upon them.

  8. Joe Markert - April 25, 2007

    I think we’re both talking somewhat in parallel here. I believe you make a good point regarding having some presence over none – but what good is our presence making at all if the content we’re delivering is essentially the government line?
    A foothold is indeed a start and I agree – the Chinese government indeed needs to shoulder a good portion of the blame. However, we can vote with our dollars and our interest. Most US corporations are not there out of some interest to change the culture – they are there because it is a large market waiting to be served and to further line the coffers for shareholders back home. This is my primary point – we need to make some real decisions about what is important here. Paying for our Terra Passes is not enough – the global climate issue is more than carbon offsets – it is also a human issue. Yahoo doesn’t need to leave – but they, and other US corporations operating in that country, need to let the government know – that if they wish to make the change to economic power and enjoy the growth that they are entitled to, (as is any other country) they need to address these human rights issues.
    I really don’t see how we can disagree on that point.

  9. KGrandia - May 1, 2007

    “Reduce first: Shareholders want responsible environmental stewardship, not PR stunts”
    Hear! Hear! I congratulate Yahoo’s attend of do the right thing, THEN, be seen to be doing the right thing.
    Now all we need is Ford, Toyota, Honda, GM etc. who claim to be the big “green” car companies to drop the lawsuit against California for their 2002 proposed greenhouse gas reducing/fuel efficiency standards.
    While Ford might tell us all “it is easy to be green” and Toyota continues to tout their green friendly Prius – their activity behind the scenes begs to differ.