Episode 112: Achieving Corporate Carbon Neutrality with Yahoo! Green

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Sean Daily, Green Living Ideas’ Editor-in-Chief, talks with Chris Page, Director of Climate and Energy Strategy of Yahoo! Green, about new Yahoo! announcements, the corporation’s commitment to carbon neutrality, and the specifics of achieving neutrality on a corporate level through carbon projects and third party certification.

Transcript

Sean Daily: Hey everybody, this is Sean Daily, thanks as always for listening in today on Greenlivingideas.com’s Green Talk radio.  Today we’re going to be talking on a topic that we’ve talked about before but a little bit different take on it.  We’re going to be talking with Yahoo Green and instead of talking about green living tips, which is what talked about last time I had them as a guest on the program, we’re going to be talking about some new announcements from Yahoo and carbon neutrality and some of those other related topics.  To talk with me about that from Yahoo Green is Chris Page who is the director for Yahoo Climate and Energy Strategy.  Chris, welcome to the program.

Chris Page:  Thank you Sean.

Sean Daily: So tell us first of all just your role at Yahoo Green what you do day to day.

Chris Page: Alright, I’m director of Climate and Energy Strategy for Yahoo and I’m in charge of making good on our Carbon Neutral Program.  I’ll talk a little bit more about that and I also coordinate with our 200 person volunteer Green Team which is internal to Yahoo, help them figure out ways to continuasly make the company more green than we already are.

Sean Daily: Yes. I understand too, that the way that it works, if I remember from the last time when I was talking to Meg Garlinghouse on the previous pod cast that, being part of the Yahoo Green Team is something that regular employees sort of cycle themselves through and can be participate and can sort of get, and I don’t want to say get a reprieve from their day job, but they get to sort of participate in this for a certain period of time in the company.  Is that about right, the way it works?

Chris Page: That’s actually is a Green Scrum Program, it’s a little bit different but yes, it is an opportunity to get a break from their regular cycle.  The Green Team in addition to that is just folks who in addition to their regular day jobs do volunteer activities, get involved with our Green List Serve; I’ve got an individual who is helping to really make our recycling program a bit more exciting.  She’s a part-time student getting a degree in Sustainable Design.  We’ve got some very interesting projects coming down the pike soon and some other areas as well.  So yes, 200 people across the company the numbers are growing.  There’s a lot of excitement just in every single Yahoo around this particular inicuative and the work we’re doing there.

Sean Daily: Now I understand that Yahoo just had a recent major announcement related to carbon neutrality.  Can you tell us about that?

Chris Page: Certainly.  Back in April, we committed as a company to being carbon neutral by the end of 2007.  We’re the first major Internet Company to do so and a few weeks back we made an announcement that we’re making good on our promise and provided details about how we’re getting there in terms of offset projects that we’ve purchased and other incentives, other steps we’re taking to do so.

Sean Daily: So now exactly what is for those not completely familiar, these terms get banted about and sometimes don’t always get very defined very well,  so what exactly does it mean to be Carbon Neutral?

Chris Page: Right.  There are a couple of steps along the way to the road to Carbon Neutrality.  The first thing you want to do is figure out is how much greenhouse gas we are emitting as a company, as a part of doing business.  And then absolutely first and foremost you want to look for ways to address energy efficiently, look for ways to reduce energy consumption within your company.  Mitigate your way to impact doing that, that’s good business practices.  And what you want to do with the remainder of that is purchase carbon offset projects to offset the remaining greenhouse gas emissions that Yahoo emits over the course of the year as part of doing business that’s how you get to Carbon Neutral.

Sean Daily: I see.  So the offsets are something, can you technically define for us again, as long as we are doing basic term definitions what a Carbon Offset is? 

Chris Page: A Carbon Offset Project is a project that reduces carbon somewhere, via either alternative energy, via sequestrations, disforestry force, whatever.  Beyond business as usual.  So it results in a net reduction in green house gas emissions above what would have happened in the absence of the Carbon Offset Project.

Sean Daily: OK.  And so I understand there’s an entire total market, almost a like stock market for carbon trading and offsets and things like that and tell us about these third party providers that can provide these offsets for businesses or even individuals how can they help in this case a company looking to go to carbon neutral achieve that and specifically who did Yahoo choose in this regard?

Chris Page: Yahoo worked with two providers.  We worked with Cantor CO2E, which is a subsidiary of Cantor Fitzgerald.  They’re a broker who provided us with wind credits from India, from South and Eastern India, South and Western India.  And we also worked with Eco Securities which provided us with offset project in Western Brazil a small run of river hydro-electric projects primo vera which just went online this past year in the spring.

Sean Daily: OK. Now I’m just curious, now what made Yahoo decide on those particular projects in Brazil and India above other potential options?

Chris Page: Well when we went into this we actually reviewed about 100 different potential offset projects and we had certain criteria in mind.  We wanted to make sure that the offsets we were buying were high quality.  We wanted them to be verified by a third party.  We did that.  We wanted to have an approach that was uniquely Yahoo.  We wanted to buy offsets from projects that were in an area where Yahoo has a presence; we’ve got a presence both in Brazil and India.  And we wanted to tie it back to a community project that empowers people in a specific way.  What we did there was we found a community in Western Brazil, my first day on the job here I got on a plane, flew down to Brazil to check out the hydro-electric project that we were considering purchasing offsets from and we went to a small community called Cortasa Del Rio who receives it’s power in part from this particular offset project.  Currently school is not connected to the Internet.  They just started getting power a year ago.  So what we’ve done is we’re setting up a computer lab in the school in this community in order to get them connected to the Internet and the outside world in order to empower them and increase their communication.

Sean Daily: Alright.  Well we’re going to a break right there Chris because I have to break for a word for a commercial and our sponsor so we will be right back with Chris Page who is the director for Yahoo Climate and Energy Strategy.

[commercial]

Sean Daily: OK, we’re back with Chris Page who is the director for Yahoo Climate and Energy Strategy at Yahoo Green.  Chris we were talking about the project in Brazil.  Can you describe that the project, we were talking about the carbon offset project that Yahoo got involved with from the third party provider to offset, and I think that you had mentioned that the India was the wind farm and that Brazil was the hydro electric?

Chris Page: That’s correct.

Sean Daily: OK, can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Chris Page: Certainly.  You know in both those countries it’s an incredibly important time to support and boost the presence of clean energy.  India is the fifth most carbon intensive country in the world in terms of this electricity and demand for electricity is growing.  Huge amount of coal is being used there so anything that supports the growth of the wind industry there is incredibly important.  In Western Brazil, again demand for electricity is growing incredibly quickly.  Diesel is subsidized by the Brazilian government.  So projects like the small scale [xx] hydro project we’re supporting really running neck and neck in competition with that kind of development.  The development of Diesel, so really both those places are at a crossroads in support of offsets like what Yahoo is doing is incredibly important and crucial at this point.

Sean Daily: So would it be fair to say that Yahoo is a company really believes in these carbon credits because there has been some controversy around it, whether it’s some you know some people have liken it to the medieval sort of buying off your sins and such and the market and their not quite as effective.  I mean you know certainly there’s two side to the argument what is Yahoo sort of position about that?

Chris Page: Well what we see is that this is an important tool in the toolbox.  And what’s required to really address climate change and to mitigate it is a bunch of different approaches.  We need the efficiency that we are prousing aggressively here.  We need carbon offsets because they are a market based approach that’s really valuable.  We need engagement of our 500 million users who log onto Yahoo and increasing their awareness by our activities and green living tips.  So definitely offsets are part of the piece of the puzzle.  Part of one of the tools in the toolbox, it’s not the whole picture.

Sean Daily: Right, OK.

Chris Page: The other part about offsets is that you want to make sure you buy stuff that’s high quality and verifiable.  And they’re a nation market and I feel like by being transparent in our approach and talking about this, we’re offering information and sharing our learnings with other people so that we can really make this market [xx] as possible.

Sean Daily: Now on continuing on that point, if you don’t mind me continuing this a little bit more because I know that a lot of people and a lot of our listeners about this, have you found at Yahoo any resources that you can point our listeners to that help them make that assessments as to what are sort of you know third party accredited or real or better carbon offset providers versus ones that are more fly by night or not quite as have as much integrity. 

Chris Page: You know if you go to [email protected], there’s lots of resources to cross a bunch of different industries to look at.  There’s also an excellent report, on eco security. Sorry, excuse me.  There’s also an excellent report on eco system market place which gets into the voluntary carbon market and outlines a bunch of the issues and some of the good things that are going on there as well [xx] as well.

Sean Daily: OK. Thanks.  I’m curious also what is this term additionally all about?  I mean can you explain sort of why buying carbon credits you know for an existing damn, in this case, in the case of  Brazil is helping miniamalize environmental impact?

Chris Page: Right. Understood.  The Primo Vera Damn in Brazil is one that came up online this year and additionally basically is would this project have occurred in the absence of the carbon offsets that are purchased from it.  You know is this a project that would have happened anyway as a normal cost of doing business?  So that’s one of the criteria that you want to look for.  Is this something that above and above business as usual, is this actually contributing to reduction of Greenhouse gases above what would have happened otherwise.

Sean Daily: Right, which really gets back to the previous question, about you know, how sort of real this is, or whether it was sort of put up just for you know, again if you have something additional or if something were to happen anyway that seems like a pretty important question. 

Chris Page: Exactly.

Sean Daily: Well we’re going to take one more break and we’re going to come back and when we come back, Chris I’d like to talk to you a little bit more about on personal side about how you know you personally became passionate about all of this and about your own life and being green so we’ll be right back with Chris Page, Director of Yahoo Climate and Energy Strategy.
OK, well we’re back with and we’re talking with Chris Page at Yahoo Green she’s the Director of Yahoo Climate and Energy Strategy. Chris I just had a couple questions switching gears from our previous topics, to talking more personally about your own connection to becoming passionate about carbon neutrality.  Can you tell us about that?

Chris Page: Certainly.  Well much of the stay on campus here I came from my interview, and Gary Young and David Silo were so wrestling on the front lawn. 

Sean Daily: Sumo Wrestling.

Chris Page: They were making good on a promise to the employees that if the employees during Earth Week, could reduce their energy consumption by 20% they would Sumo wrestle on the lawn.

Sean Daily: Did they wear the big suits?

Chris Page: They had me at the Sumo Wrestling.  So in terms of my passion of my work here at Yahoo…

Sean Daily: You had you at Sumo.

Chris Page: Yes.  They had me at Sumo.  Exactly.  So my passion for the that we’re doing here is very much tapped into the enthusiasm from employees, the enthusiasm from the 500 million users, you see I’m a long time user of Yahoo mail user.  In terms of, I think really what this provide is a tremendous leverage point in terms of addressing these issues.  Our footprint is 250 metric tons; we’ve been transparent about that.   Offsetting that is the equivalent of is that turning off the power to the Las Vegas strip for two months or taking 35,000 cars off the road.  So that’s one leverage point.  Another is just the opportunity to reach all of our users, and really spread the word about the importance of addressing the issues of climate change and living a green life.   So just a really tremendous opportunity for me personally I feel very honored to be here and that at an executive level yes who has a commitment to this program and to establish this program.

Sean Daily: You know if you don’t mind me asking too Chris, I’m just curious about in your own life you know how has this impacted you and what sort of things do you do that you’d be willing to share with our listening audience as far as what you’re doing to be green and sustainable in your own personal life.

Chris Page: Certainly.  I live in a relatively small apartment that’s about ten minutes from work.  Most days I hop on the Yahoo shuttle that runs from the train station about a 10 minutes walk from my house and take it into work.

Sean Daily: Very nice.

Chris Page: That’s one thing, is using public transit, using Yahoo commuter options as much as possible.  You know I’ve got a big history in the back, the back country and outdoors.  Before I came here I spent a lot of time educating young people in the outdoors as part of the National Outdoors Leadership School and working, volunteering on the search and rescue team.  So and the other part of it is for the last six and half years before I got here this summer, I was working in Rocky Mountain Institute, in [xx] Colorado which is founded by energy efficiency gurus Aridan [xx] so it’s been pretty much a continuous thread throughout my life and I’m really excited for this next chapter in [xx]

Sean Daily: Have you found that your involvement with Yahoo has even taken that farther?

Chris Page: I think so, yes.  Absolutely.

Sean Daily: Well great, well Chris Page has been my guest today talking with us today about Yahoo Green and some of the recent announcements there in carbon neutrality.  She’s the director of Yahoo Climate and Energy Strategy.  You can find out more about   Yahoo Green at green.yahoo.com and I should also mention that Chris is one of the bloggers on the [xx] I think its yodel.yahoo.com is that correct?

Chris Page: That’s correct.

Sean Daily: Great.  Well Chris thanks again for being with us, always a pleasure and would love to have you again in the future.

Chris Page: Thank you.

Sean Daily: Thanks as always to everyone listening in today.  Remember, for more free on demand pod casts, articles, videos and other information related to living a greener lifestyle visit our website at www.greenlivingideas.com.  We’d also love to you’re your comments, feedback and questions.  Send us an email at [email protected]