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Yahoo! goes carbon neutral

April 20, 2007

Breaking news from TerraPass: 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 125,000 tons of carbon, or about 25,000 Out of Towner TerraPasses. Remarkably, Yahoo’s reduction is about the same CO2 reduction TerraPass members have accomplished in our short two year journey together. 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: 125,000 metric tons 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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