WASHINGTON -- Dell Inc. declared yesterday that it will become the country's first "carbon neutral" computer manufacturer next year by making its operations more efficient, buying more energy from renewable sources and planting millions of trees.
Michael S. Dell, founder and chairman of the company, challenged other manufacturers to follow suit.
"Leadership starts at home, which is why we are going carbon-neutral, but this should only be the beginning of building long-term partnerships with customers, stakeholders and suppliers of all sizes to team up and make a difference for the Earth we all share," Dell said at a forum hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
He said the company is implementing a power management program, including steps such as installing efficient lighting and automatically shutting off power to machines during periods of inactivity.
Lighting changes that have recently resulted in a 9 percent reduction of energy use in the company's central Texas operations will be implemented in other facilities in the coming year, Dell said.
He noted that "10 percent of our electric power in Austin already comes from renewable sources" and added that "we're going to buy as much more as we can."
Carbon dioxide emissions remaining after those kind of changes will be "offset," he said, by planting millions of trees to remove carbon dioxide from the air.
He said the company is helping to create a tree-planting initiative called "Plant a Forest for Me," in which the company, its suppliers and its customers can contribute to sustainable reforestation efforts.
Other companies supporting the reforestation initiative include the European banking company ABN AMRO, microprocessor manufacturer Advance Micro Devices Inc., Internet search firm Ask.com, online marketing consultant Salesforce.com, and WellPoint Inc., a health benefits company, Dell said.
Environmentalists were generally enthusiastic about Dell's carbon neutrality pledge.
"It's a very helpful move by a major corporation, and it underscores the urgency of real leadership on the part of the United States," said Rafe Pomerance, president of the Climate Policy Center.
Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, said the fact that "such an important company is making this commitment" was a positive sign.
"However, it is no substitute for national legislation to reduce carbon emissions," he added.
"We hope this means Dell will join the growing ranks of those who are calling for legislation to reduce heat-trapping emissions."