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Tech Goes Green: Top 5 Companies

  • In honor of St. Patrick's Day, we're celebrating green – the color of shamrocks and the Emerald Isle itself. But in technology, of course, the term "green" doesn't refer to the FD&C Green No. 3 in your pilsner, but to the energy efficiency of your products or business practices.

    "Going green" has long been a goal for large data centers, which use huge amounts of power for climate control. But today it's common for mainstream companies to have sustainability initiatives to increase use of renewable energy, reduce pollution, lower their overall footprint on the planet, and provide healthier work environments.

    Sustainability can also affect a company's bottom line. While overhauling some practices into earth-friendly alternatives is sure to require some up-front investment, the long-term savings can be significant. Just imagine replacing every light bulb in an entire office complex with LEDs. You may cringe at the price of LEDs, but they'll stay lit long after the majority of the employees (and maybe even the business) has moved on.

    In addition, potential customers care about green practices, so having a reputation as a sustainable business can go a long way. According to the recent Global Sustainability Report from Nielsen, 45% of the 30,000 consumers polled viewed a company's commitment to the environment as a key driver when making a purchase, and 66% were willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products.

    The US EPA’s Green Power Partnership organizes companies interested in green technology and publishes quarterly lists of those using the most green power in categories like education, local government, retail, and technology. The agency's Top 30 Tech & Telecom list represents the largest green power users in technology and telecommunications, and includes many household names for IT pros. Count down the top five, and find out what makes them as green as that Paddy's Day brew in your glass.

    (Image: baona/iStockphoto with modification)

  • Number 5: Google

    Google is known as one of the biggest proponents for green energy in the world, becoming a carbon neutral company way back in 2007. According to its Google Green site, Google data centers use only half the power of a typical data center, and the company purchases 879 million kWh of renewable energy annually. The web giant has an aggressive plan to make renewable energy the only kind of power it uses in the near future.

    Google also puts significant money behind renewable energy innovation, and has invested $2.5 billion in projects spanning solar, wind, electricity grids, and data center design.

    (Image: Google)

  • Number 4: Apple

    In 2014, Apple converted 100% of its US operations to renewable energy, and the company is working toward a carbon-neutral footprint across its entire supply chain, according to its 2015 Environmental Responsibility Report. Apple has recently taken steps such as purchasing solar farms to make its data centers entirely sustainable and planting and conserving forests to offset its use of paper packaging. Apple retail stores are also in the mix, with 360 of its 450 locations worldwide running on 100% renewable energy to date. 

    (Image: PumpizoldA/iStockphoto)

  • Number 3: Cisco

    With electricity accounting for 85% of Cisco’s greenhouse gas emissions, green energy usage can make a big difference. Though it uses a large quantity of green energy (1.1 billion kWh annually), the company is looking to further increase its use of electricity generated from renewable sources, according to its 2015 Corporate Social Responsibility Report. The networking giant also plans to reduce electricity emissions by 40% by 2017 and expand conservation throughout its partner and supply chain ecosystem. A big part of Cisco's sustainability effort includes making its products more efficient and recyclable.

    (Image: Cisco)

  • Number 2: Microsoft

    Utilizing more than 1.3 billion kWh of green power annually, Microsoft is one of the largest consumers of sustainable energy in the world. In 2012, the company implemented a carbon fee charging business groups for every unit of carbon produced, creating a carbon-neutral model. Microsoft is also working toward making its cloud data centers greener, focusing on site choice and location, improving efficiency, lessening environmental impact, and increasing use of renewable energy. To that end, the company created the position of Director for Datacenter Sustainability and hired Jim Hanna of Starbucks in February.

    (Image: Microsoft)

  • Number 1: Intel

    Far and away the largest consumer of renewable energy on the EPA's list, Intel utilizes 3.1 billion kWh annually. It gets that energy from a number of different sources, such as solar, wind, hydro, and biomass, according to the company's Corporate Responsibility Report. It even operates 18 of its own solar panels with a capacity of 7,000 kW on site. A reflection of Intel's commitment to the environment is its compensation plan, which links a portion of every employee’s variable compensation to reaching energy efficiency goals.

    (Image: Intel)