This Earth Day, Microsoft is outlining some of the steps the software company is taking in achieving carbon neutrality across all of its operations in the current fiscal year.
On April 22, Rob Bernard, Microsoft's chief environmental strategist, said the company has made big strides in accomplishing its goal. One major contributor to the company's progress was to put a price on carbon.
"We are one of the very first companies to put an internal price on carbon emissions, which provides our business and operational groups more awareness and incentives to conserve energy and seek renewable power. The fee enables us to invest in renewable energy credits and certified offset projects to meet our carbon neutrality goal," wrote Bernard in a company blog post.
The fee has led to millions of dollars in eco-friendly investments. "Since the implementation of the carbon fee, we have invested over $4 million in renewable energy and carbon offset projects around the world, including wind, hydro and biomass," Bernard said.
Its efforts have earned the company the Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Partner of the Year Award, Bernard said. The company purchases 1.9 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually, enough to cover 80 percent of the company's electricity use and make it the second-largest organizational buyer of renewable energy in the United States.
Many of Microsoft's high-profile endeavors to mitigate its environmental impact revolve around its massive cloud data centers.
According to Brian Janous, director of energy strategy for Microsoft, a strong commitment to energy efficiency and sustainability pervades the company's growing cloud ecosystem. Besides cleaner air, it's an approach that yields another benefit: lower costs.
"At Microsoft, our sustainability efforts are focused on doing more with less. We strive to continually deliver higher-quality services, to more customers, over more regions of the globe at a lower cost and with less impact to the environment," wrote Janous.
Janous noted that its cloud computing centers are helping customers clean up their acts as well, however indirectly. "Our cloud infrastructure enables our customers to do more with less. Less servers. Less Energy. Less environmental impact," he boasted
To demonstrate its advancements in green IT, Microsoft revealed that the average power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating for its new data centers is 1.125, versus 1.8 for the industry (the lower and closer to 1, the better). The software giant has instituted free-cooling systems at its Dublin, Ireland; Boydton, Va.; and Quincy, Wash., facilities.
In Dublin, the use of outside air to cool servers and other IT equipment cut that data center's water use for cooling to just 1 percent of what is required to keep the temperatures low in traditional data centers.
Other green measures include auto-dimming lights and painting server racks white to reflect light and improve visibility. Microsoft is also extending its outreach to rank-and-file office workers, in a move that is not likely to be championed by Yahoo CEO CEO Marissa Mayer—at least not right now.
"We are also working with government agencies, environmental groups and large employers in countries like the United Kingdom on 'Work from Anywhere' days to promote travel reduction from telework solutions like Skype, Office 365 and Lync," stated Bernard.