Microsoft gets earth-friendly, goes carbon neutral

The software giant pledges to be carbon neutral company-wide by this summer. All of its data centers, software development labs, air travel, and office buildings are scheduled to go green.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read
Entrance to Building 99 on the Microsoft Redmond Campus, which has become more energy efficient over the last year. Microsoft

Weeks after coming under fire from Greenpeace advocates for using excessive energy for cloud computing, Microsoft announced it will become carbon neutral across all of its operations starting July 1.

"It's the right thing to do. And it's also an opportunity to promote positive change, as the world transitions to new ways of using energy and managing natural resources," Microsoft's chief operating officer Kevin Turner said in a blog post yesterday. "That's why today, Microsoft is taking a significant step to further reduce our environmental footprint."

July marks the beginning of the fiscal year for 2013, and that's when the software giant plans to make sweeping changes and upgrades to all of its data centers, software development labs, air travel, and office buildings.

The green measures Microsoft plans to take include creating an incentivized accountability model to make all of its business units responsible for the carbon they generate, focusing company purchases on renewable energy, and collecting and reporting data more efficiently.

"For emissions not eliminated through efficiency measures, Microsoft will purchase renewable energy and carbon offsets," Turner said.

Leading tech companies, like Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft, use massive amounts of energy, electricity and power. Greenpeace estimates that some individual data centers consume as much electricity as 180,000 homes. The overall number for the data center industry, estimated at about two percent of all energy use, continues to expand as more mobile devices get online.

Many of these companies have been working to become more efficient and green, which not only cuts down on environmental costs but also saves the companies money. Apple's North Carolina data center will be powered partly by a giant 20-megawatt solar array and nearly five megawatts of biogas-powered fuel cells. Google has purchased 200 megawatts worth of wind power from local utility grids as a way to lower the carbon footprint of its operations.

Microsoft too has already started cutting back. It uses "software solutions" to make its Redmond campus buildings more energy efficient, which it estimates will save the company up to $1.5 million in the coming year. Microsoft was also recognized as the third largest buyer of green power in the country by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month -- it purchases enough green power each year to offset 46 percent of its electricity use.

"We recognize that we are not the first company to commit to carbon neutrality, but we are hopeful that our decision will encourage other companies large and small to look at what they can do to address this important issue," Turner said.