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At Microsoft, we have an opportunity to shift the needle on corporate sustainability practices at many levels due to our size. This extends beyond initiatives such as our carbon neutrality commitment, our work in IT efficiency and our efforts to create green data centers. This is even true in Microsoft’s dining facilities, which recently achieved the distinction of being near-zero waste by diverting 99 percent of food waste to recycling and compost.
While we’re primarily known as a devices and services company, our Redmond campus is similar to a medium-sized city with more than 50,000 employees. That explains why in addition to making Xbox and Windows, Microsoft is also certified by the Green Restaurant Association (GRA), a national organization founded in 1990 to provide a convenient and cost-effective way for restaurants, manufacturers, distributors, and consumers to become more environmentally responsible.
The GRA’s certification system is based on points given for seven criteria: water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable furnishings and building materials, sustainable food, energy, disposables, and chemical and pollution reduction. Microsoft is the first corporate dining program to receive the 3-star certification and is working toward four stars.
At Microsoft, we are reminded daily of our industry’s impact on climate change – both positive and negative – and we are working constantly to reduce our carbon footprint and lead the way for others in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector. In 2008 we supported an independent study by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) called SMART 2020 to determine the carbon-reducing potential of ICT. The results showed that 7.8 gigatons ofcarbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e), or 15% of global emissions, could be reduced through the use of ICT solutions.
This Monday at the COP18 climate change conference in Doha, Qatar, GeSI and the Boston Consulting Group released SMARTer 2020. This updated report indicates that ICT-enabled solutions now offer the potential to reduce annual emissions by 9.1 GtCO2e by 2020, representing 16.5% of the projected total in that year. This figure represents a potential to reduce carbon emissions by more than 16% compared to the 2008 report, showing an increasing role for technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
This week, GreenBiz discussed data center efficiency, a hot topic across the tech industry as companies seek to reduce their carbon emissions and environmental impact. A global industry group called Green Grid, which is working to improve resource efficient IT and data centers, compiled a five-step list on energy efficiency best practices. Important best practices including calculating the power usage effectiveness (PUE), which provides information regarding how efficient the data center is at using and sending power to its servers, and using virtualization to make better use of IT resources. Finally, Green Grid recommends companies think ahead and begin measuring water usage effectiveness (WUE) and carbon usage effectiveness (CUE), two more recent measurements that track other key areas of data center environmental impact. Microsoft is an active member in Green Grid and has been key to the development of these three measures.
Microsoft is always seeking partnerships to extend energy efficiency in our operations. In 2011 we partnered with E2 Services, an energy consulting leader in the United Kingdom, to find ways to reduce our carbon footprint in our UK headquarters in Reading. The project was such a success that our Microsoft UK team was honored at the EMAP Energy Awards last Wednesday, December 5, with the Energy Efficient Partnership of the Year andthe Judges Supreme Award.
This week, Huffington Post posted a piece on a new study published in Nature about climate change predictions from 22 years ago. In 1990, climate scientists predicted a rise in global temperatures of 0.55 degrees C by 2010 and 1.1 degrees C by 2030, and current global temperatures indicate that these predictions were remarkably accurate. The accuracy is especially interesting given the technology used in 1990 was much simpler than what scientists rely on today. The 1990 predictions, which came from the first climate assessment report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), were based largely upon the amount of carbon dioxide that was already in the atmosphere. As climate change becomes an increasingly important issue for the planet, this report is a reminder that while we can’t know everything about how our actions impact the climate, we know that they do.