Going A Little Overboard: Online Advertisers Urged To Measure Their Environmental Impact

from the uh,-really? dept

The tech industry's attempts to "get green" have been a mixed bag. While some companies have made legitimate moves to reduce their energy usage through greater efficiency, some efforts, like Dell's plan to plant trees in Second Life in honor of Earth Day, have been little more than publicity stunts. Now a group called the Institute for Sustainable Communications is urging digital content firms to become aware of their carbon footprint, even to the point of calculating the energy needed to run a banner ad. This is pretty silly, if for no other reason than the fact that electronic content is a substitute for other forms of media (like print), which have a much greater impact on the environment. Although the servers needed to run a website do consume electricity, an assessment that takes the bigger picture into account would likely conclude that electronic media has a positive environmental impact.

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  • identicon
    LN, 24 Jul 2007 @ 6:32pm

    Personally I'm all for it. Although the sooner digital content firms start to calculate the energy needed to calculate the energy needed to run a banner ad, the better...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    GoblinJuice, 24 Jul 2007 @ 6:40pm

    Eh. It's a scam. The "Institute" offers "consulting" (read: pay us money).

    Much like the carbon offset industry, it's a feel-good and PR scam. Hell, environmentalism itself is a scam.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jul 2007 @ 7:03pm


    So then, using Adblock and Flashblock can save the Earth? But what about the carbon footprint for every Firefox plugin download?

    I get this feeling that Green Living is going the way of Organic Food: it goes mainstream and then just becomes another way to cash in on consumer trends. Ugh.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jul 2007 @ 7:14pm

    Carbon offsets are a scam. The total output of pollutants is merely switched from one company to another - no reduction. A nice trick by big business to continue doing what they want to, while appearing (to the shallow thinkers) to be virtuous.

    Because there are scammers, doesn't mean that the cause itself is a scam.

    You may think environmentalism is a scam until you are personally hurt by it. Then you'll wonder why nobody did anything - but it will be too late.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Unknowledgeable Geek, 25 Jul 2007 @ 6:54am


      But that total output is still the same number, whether Company A sells it excess allowance to Company B or not the net total is still the same and if Company B purchased Company A's excess but still excedes the limit, they pay fines. So, to say it is all a scam and use the example you just used, makes you look like the scammer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        EvilTreeHuggingConspiracy, 26 Jul 2007 @ 2:16pm

        Re: Re: Carbon Offsets NOT a Scam

        I tried to post this the other day, but it did not go through for some reason. In the meantime, it looks like more people have just been parroting the same crap. Carbon offsets are not a scam because they work on a Cap & Trade system. Most people only talk about the Trading part, and say (incorrectly) that it makes no difference. They fail to consider the Cap portion of the system. Imagine it this way. I elect myself king of everything and say all industries must cut pollution 20% from last year. In other words, I am capping future emissions at 80% of last year's emissions. Half the businesses manage to actually cut 30%, but the other half contains big polluters like the steel and cement industry, so they are only able to cut 10%. This still gives an average reduction of 20%. However to make things fair for the companies that cut the most, we cannot just let the big polluters off the hook. Thus I decree that the compnaies which could not cut 20% must buy emissions credits for the balance from the companies who made extra cut. So, the carbon offset is just a way to use the principles of the market to enable everyone to particpate in cutting the pollution they produce. It does not try to squeeze blood out of a stone by mandating that a steel mill must cut just as much as flour mill, but it gives those who can cut a financial incentive to keep innovating as much as possible. This could create a whole new technology industry that actually devotes its brainpower to helping instead of harming the Environment. There is nothing remotely scam-like about it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Overcast, 24 Jul 2007 @ 10:09pm

    Maybe if the "Institute for Sustainable Communications" shuts itself down, it will save enough energy to offset this.

    It's unbelievable the BS you hear about all this Eco-Make-Me-Feel-Happy-Because-I-Am-Rich-and-Waste-Power Garbage.

    I'm so sick of hearing about it, it makes me want to dump 15 gallons of oil right down the sewer.

    And yes - Carbon offsets are a scam - either save energy or don't. Paying some corporation for extra energy is - frankly - quite idiotic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jack, 24 Jul 2007 @ 11:41pm

    I think the Carbon Offsets has simply become a PR thing. I want to see real things instead, like Amazon.com having to take back all of their shipping materials that they send out every, every day.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Laura Thomas/Pyrrha Dell, 25 Jul 2007 @ 12:26pm

    Just wanted to clarify that the virtual trees we give away in Second Life are intended to create awareness of our Real Life Plant a Tree for Me program. Each one carries with it a link that points to http://www.dell.com/plantatree, where a donation can be made to plant real trees.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Don Carli, 2 Sep 2007 @ 2:33pm

    Uh... Really: Sustainable Computing and Communicat

    I am delighted to see that the InternetNews article by David Needle has stimulated discussion on your site.

    It would suggest that TechDirt increase its coverage about GreenIT as well as its coverage about credible Carbon Offsets.

    TechDirt might like to consider the degree to which the degree to which the IT sector's failure to address its energy footprint is threatening the repeal of Moore's Law and put the brakes on the growth it has enjoyed thus far.

    See: http://uptimeinstitute.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=48&It emid=38

    Also, it is unfortunate that some of the posters to this forum characterize ISC as a scam, and that fail to see the value in measuring and managing the resources required in order for you to have TechDirt and other communication resources at your disposal.

    The Institute for Sustainable Communication (ISC) is a constructive entrepreneurial 501c3 nonprofit organization with a mission to raise awareness and build capacity for the sustainable use of digital and print communication media.

    In addition to conducting education and outreach with inner city youth we assist organizations with the measurement and analysis required to manage and improve their sustainability performance.

    In order to fulfill our mission, ISC like all other businesses need money and other resources. Rather than relying solely on volunteer effort and charitable donaltions, ISC also provides companies with fee-for-service consulting services that are aligned with our mission at below market rates in order generate income to support our outreach and educational programs.

    ISC assists companies in using credible standards-based methods to calculate and reduce the carbon footprints associated with their computing and communication supply chains and their operational business communication practices.

    ISC does not sell offsets.

    We advocate the retirement of credible independently verified carbon offsets employing third party standards such as the Gold Standard as a first step in getting the various stakeholders involved in the supply chain to take action.

    We do not believe it is possible to offset one's way to sustainability. For that reason we do not sell carbon offsets. Rather, we emphasize conservation, closed-loop local recycling, the use of renewable energy and materials as well as the adoption of "design for sustainability" methods.

    In the case of complex digital or print media supply chains in which no one company has a dominant market share or control, we work to build solutions-oriented business coalitions that preserve and create jobs, restore the environment and seek to improve the quality of life enjoyed by current and future generations.

    Whether you use digital media or print media, atoms and electrons are required. Our goal is to help people to use them more effectively, more efficiently and more sustainably so we can meet the needs of the economic, environmental and social needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same.


    Don Carli

    Senior Research Fellow

    The Institute for Sustainable Communication

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