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Last week 87 student teams from 71 countries converged in St. Petersburg, Russia, to compete in the Microsoft Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals. An exciting and vibrant event, Imagine Cup challenges students to use technology to solve the toughest problems in the world. The year-long contest first has students compete in local events for a spot in the finals. Projects are entered into six competitions: Games, Innovation, World Citizenship, Windows 8, Windows Phone and Windows Azure. Of the dozens of innovative projects, quite a few addressed issues in sustainability, from waste management to beekeeping.
Today more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and it’s predicted that by 2050, 76 percent of the global population will live in urban areas. This ongoing population shift has created unprecedented challenges for our cities, and leaders must meet growing citizen demands for things like efficient transportation and reliable infrastructure with limited resources. But it is vital that our city leaders meet these demands, because it is in cities that opportunities for higher education are pursued, innovations in health care are advanced and business drives economic growth. It is also in cities that 75 percent of the world’s energy is consumed.
At Microsoft, we believe that economically and environmentally sustainable cities are critical to achieving sustainability in society as a whole. Cities that are designed and operated to be energy-efficient have the potential to be one of the most effective means to this end. Today, we are excited that Microsoft has announced the global initiative CityNext, which furthers our vision for energy-smart cities.
When you look across the modern urban landscape, you can see buildings of all shapes and sizes, from iconic architectural landmarks like Seattle’s Space Needle to the mix of old and new buildings that define modern skylines. Buildings define the character of a city in their individuality, but they have one thing in common the world over--they consume a lot of energy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), more than 4.2 million commercial buildings waste an average 30 percent of the energy that owners and tenants pay for. And commercial buildings account for nearly 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., which means that increasing a building’s energy efficiency has benefits across society.
From recycling on our Las Colinas Campus in Texas and fighting wildfires in Greece, to supporting green building in Italy and reducing our carbon footprintin Puerto Rico, we’re proud of the work Microsoft does to reduce the impact of its operations and products and drive responsible environmental leadership around the world. And we’re excited to add the achievements of another Microsoft team to this list.
In Japan we were recently recognized by the MM Research Institute for our commitment to green IT through our Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher (MAR) Program. Over the past three years our MAR program has led to a significant increase of refurbished PC sales in Japan. Our MAR Program not only diverts e-waste from landfills, but it also increases access to information by providing affordable technology solutions around the country.
It was a big week for sustainability news, as President Obama delivered a speech outlining his plans to help reduce greenhouse gas pollution and prepare the country for the future impacts of climate change. The plan includes goals for generating more renewable energy, and a recent report on market trends from the International Energy Agency (IEA) suggested that the global economy is well on its way to significantly increasing sources of renewable energy. The study found that renewables are on track to pass natural gas in three years and are likely to become the second most common energy source behind coal. Read on to learn more about the current sustainability environment both in the U.S. and globally.