How Green Was My Silicon Valley?

How Green Was My Silicon Valley?

Seeing the forest and the trees

I'm seeing an increased emphasis on environmental greening of the IT industry. It may be due to the reduced levels of green on the actual environment due to ongoing drought, or to Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth. Gore recently addressed a group of 1500 Silicon Valley business leaders, imploring them to promote green technology that causes less pollution. Companies seem to be heeding his request in one of two ways: Green by Proxy or Do as I Say.

The Green by Proxy method involves continuing current high environmental impact (though high profit) production methods, and using these profits to buy carbon credits from companies who aren't making a quid, but aren't changing global climate either. Storage company 3Par announced carbon neutrality by purchasing carbon credits for every terabyte sold in 2007 to compensate for its disk drive products' greenhouse gas emissions. In Australia, Renewtek has gone carbon neutral in the same way under the Australian government's greenhouse friendly program. This is the same greenhouse friendly government that, along with only one other major Western country (now who would that be?), still refuses to sign the Kyoto Protocol on carbon emissions.

Paying someone else to do jobs too dirty and difficult for you is a noble and historic tradition. English upper class mothers frequently engaged a wet nurse to feed their babies. During the US Civil War, conscripted wealthy Southerners often paid another Confederate to go in their place.

The Do as I Say method involves loudly and proudly proclaiming one's green credentials by producing reports and recommendations — often as glossy white papers — for others to enact.

The Ethan Group (what is the correct collective noun for a group of Ethans?) is being green by creating recommendations. They have also created a Carbon Friendly accreditation, which awards silver, gold and green merits to companies that have reduced emissions by 10 percent, 25 percent or are carbon neutral respectively. I can foresee companies immediately expanding their polluting activities so they can then reduce them by 25 percent and get a gold medal, which would be prominently displayed on every brochure, proposal and office door.

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