AN FRANCISCO - Yahoo Inc. aims to wield its power as the biggest US Internet media company to encourage millions of consumers to take basic steps to help the environment as part of its corporate push to confront global warming.
The Sunnyvale, California-based company is on Monday introducing Yahoo Green, an online education program that will offer users the latest environmental news, consumer tips and ways to be personally and socially active in combating climate change.
Last month, Yahoo said it would become "carbon neutral" as a company by the end of 2007, a pledge to reduce emissions by conserving energy or by buying pollution credits to neutralize, or offset, one's energy use.
Yahoo has joined a growing number of big US companies that are putting corporate resources behind efforts to cut carbon greenhouse gases in business operations and to push for policy changes with local and national government.
Company officials believe that the greatest role Yahoo can play is to encourage personal change among its huge consumer following of 500 million monthly users of Yahoo services worldwide. The program starts in the United States, but will eventually be expanded to international markets, they said.
"What is the biggest way for us to have an impact? The biggest way by far is to get this message out to half a billion people," Yahoo Co-Founder David Filo said in an interview.
The Yahoo Green site allows consumers to choose from a menu of actions to reduce their personal carbon emissions and see the collective impact of everyone who participates. It asks users to change light bulbs, take public transport, reuse shopping bags, properly inflate tires, recycle and more.
"We want to make it easy for consumers to do something as well as help them build enduring habits that can truly make a difference. We believe many small individual actions can add up to significant change," Filo said.
Like other companies, Yahoo has sought to cut energy use in its offices and encourages telecommuting and public transportation use by its employees. It also replaced incandescent light bulbs on Yahoo marketing billboards with energy-efficient compact fluorescent lights.
In Yahoo's operations, the biggest energy issue is the massive computer datacenters used to deliver services ranging from e-mail to news to photos and videos via more than 100,000 powerful server computers. The company uses renewable power, hydroelectric energy and passive cooling to reduce energy use.
Yahoo rivals like Google and Microsoft are racing to outdo one another with corporate environmental measures, said Matt Petersen, president of non-profit advocacy group Global Green USA, which advises Starbucks and Yahoo on environmental moves.
Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. also recently pledged to make its operations carbon neutral by 2010.
"You are having this corporate one-upmanship going on," Petersen said. "It's a healthy competition."
Yahoo also plans an online contest where it will donate 10 hybrid-fueled Ford Escape taxis to the US city where the the most Yahoo users sign up to take the personal environmental pledge or take part in other environmental themed activities on Yahoo sites.
It said it will donate another 10 hybrid taxis to New York, replacing an equal number of conventional taxis.
The campaign will kick off at a marketing event in New York's Times Square Monday featuring Filo and movie star Matt Dillon. The first 150,000 participants to take part will receive a free compact fluorescent light bulb, it said.
Story by Eric Auchard
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE