We recently installed solar panels on our roof at home. Hopefully, they will be sufficient to generate power for all of our electric needs – plus a bit more. I’m waiting for plug-in hybrids to become available and it would be nice to cover the energy used for my commute and home with a single system.
A few weeks ago, I showed the system to my Dad (whom I will lovingly refer to here as “Mr. Curmudgeon”). I hoped he would share my excitement. Instead, his interest was only in the financial aspects of the system. When I told him that it would take more than a decade for the system to cover its costs, Mr. Curmudgeon questioned why I would make such a poor investment.
My reply was that it wasn’t a financial decision – it’s about the environment. My family is fortunate enough to be able to purchase at the early stage of the adoption cycle. While that’s the point when technology is the most expensive, our feeling is that if enough of us do this, it will help to create demand, drive down costs and lead to broader deployment of solar power. The bottom line, as I told Mr. Curmudgeon, is that it feels like the right thing to do.
As a company, Sun is also doing many things that are the “right thing to do”. These include everything from moving to recycled paper products in our cafeterias to expanding the availability of Sun buses for employees using mass transit. These things make us feel good as employees, but as with my solar panels, are at this point, mainly symbolic.
One of my colleagues recently stated: “It’s not about the environment – it’s about economics.” And, this is the real point I think my Dad was trying to make. Good intentions are great, but widespread change occurs only when the financials make sense. Which is why many of us are especially enjoying working at Sun today where we have so many opportunities to do “the right thing” from both a environmental and economic standpoint.
Here are a few examples. Sun has reduced the size of our datacenter footprint by 62%. This results in lower real estate costs and reduced electricity consumption for cooling and power. There’s a good video about the project that you can find here. The design of the datacenter is very innovative (we received a nice award for it), but it’s our products that are the real story. The SPARC Enterprise T2000 is one of these – it uses a third of the energy of comparable systems. If you’re operating a datacenter filled with thousands of servers, the expense of cooling and power may be more than the cost of the equipment. With products like the T1000 and T2000, companies need far less equipment and can save on real estate and electricity.
The SunRay client is another example. These systems use less power than a standard night light (4 watts v. 80 watts for a standard PC). And, many of our employees use a SunRay at home.
Which leads to another interesting item. Over 50% of our employees (and I’m one of them) don’t have a dedicated office. They work from home or use drop-in offices. This minimizes employee commute time (estimated savings of 30,000 tons of carbon emission) and the amount of real estate we need to power.
And, finally, I should mention that Sun is one of the first companies to take advantage of the SEC’s new “Notice and Access” rule. This allows us to provide proxy materials to stockholders electronically rather than in printed form. The result is a nice cost savings for the company and a much reduced impact on the environment (we printed 800,000 copies of our proxy materials last year).
All my way of saying, perhaps, Mr. Curmudgeon had a point.
I’ve been receiving calls from attorneys who want to learn more about what their clients can do in the “eco” area. Dave Douglas is Sun’s Vice President of Eco Responsibility. His blog is a good resource for additional information.