Using Technology to Create a Legacy of Good: Dell Reduces Environmental Impact Through Recycling Programs, Energy Efficiency, and Creative Design

Dell Reduces Environmental Impact

TL; DR: Seeking opportunities to do the most good for people and the planet, hardware manufacturing giant Dell is using more than 30 years of expertise to positively impact the environment, customers, and communities. The company’s Legacy of Good plan fosters ambitious goals to leave a positive, measurable, and lasting contribution on the world, and Dell transparently aspires, innovates, and reports its progress. From deploying energy-efficient equipment to designing sustainable packaging, Dell’s commitment ultimately enables customers to compute more and consume less — earning our Developers’ Choice™ award for sustainability.

As a former nuclear submarine officer for the US Navy, Paul Struhsaker has first-hand experience about how the world’s oceans are polluted through trash and noise.

“You can hear a boat pulling out a continent away if it’s poorly maintained,” he said in a video. “If that’s what we hear inside a ship, imagine what a whale has to deal with.”

The past CTO and Vice President of Technology Strategy for Dell enlisted the hardware manufacturing giant to support a collaboration with other tech companies producing a three-minute underwater virtual reality expedition. The experience allows viewers to swim with a whale — and witness the effects of plastic pollution and damaging noise levels.

The exposure to ocean pollution — some estimates say there is more than 86 million tons of plastic in the world’s oceans — prompted Dell to create the first commercial-scale ocean plastics supply chain.

The company now processes plastics collected from beaches, waterways, and coastal areas to include them with other recycled materials to make sustainable packaging. The pilot project will keep 16,000 pounds of plastic out of the ocean, and Dell intends to scale the initiative to 200,000 pounds by 2025.

“It’s a good example of showing how technology companies can really help solve the world’s problems, not be part of the world’s problems,” Paul said.

The project is one of several missions Dell is enacting as part of its Legacy of Good plan, which outlines several goals to make a positive social and environmental impact by 2020. The refreshing corporate dedication, coupled with the innovative uses of technology, makes the company our Developers’ Choice™ award winner for sustainability.

Helping Customers Meet Sustainability Goals and Reduce Their Footprint

By focusing on both customers and internal processes, Dell takes a multi-pronged approach to improving technology’s environmental impact. The company embarked in 2008 on a mission to plant 1 million trees by 2020 to sequester carbon and restore natural habitats.

Through the Plant a Tree program, customers can make a small payment through Dell’s online store, which goes toward a nonprofit group overseeing restoration projects across the country. At last count, customers have helped Dell plant more than 820,000 trees.

Recycling Equipment Through Programs to Eliminate E-Waste

Discarded electronic devices accounted for roughly 75 million tons of waste in 2015, triple the amount in 2010. Much of the so-called e-waste, according to Dell, can be repurposed or recycled.

The company provides multiple options for customers to safely and productively dispose of unwanted equipment. The programs are tailored to businesses looking to recycle tech assets or individuals who might want to donate used devices to local nonprofits, schools, and agencies.

A trade-in program rewards customers with a Dell gift card when they turn in used electronics, while a partnership with FedEx enables free pickup and shipping of equipment returned through the mail.

Since 2007, Dell has recovered 1.6 billion pounds of used electronics, with the company amassing 168 million pounds in 2016.

Efficient Datacenters Lower Costs and Energy Consumption

The benefits of operating energy-efficient datacenters are twofold: In addition to aiding the environment, companies can reduce operating costs. Dell’s blade servers can reduce electricity bills by up to 20%, and tools for virtualization and infrastructure management further optimize performance.

Dell largely helps customers optimize datacenters by squeezing more work out of existing infrastructure. The company does so from experience, having doubled computing capacity in 2009 without building a new datacenter.

Concentrated uses of virtualization, automation, and consolidation can free up roughly half of an IT budget, according to Dell, while also reducing the organization’s carbon footprint.

2 Ways Dell Aims to Minimize Its Own Environmental Impact

In addition to helping customers consume fewer resources, Dell works internally to reduce the company’s environmental footprint. Corporate headquarters, located in Round Rock, Texas, has purchased all of its electricity needs from renewable sources since 2007, and many other facilities employ on-site solar generation and water heating.

Image of Dell's headquarters

Dell purchases all of the power needed for its headquarters in Round Rock, Texas, from renewable sources.

In addition to working toward a goal of diverting 90% of all waste from landfills by 2020, Dell reuses or recycles more than 95% of nonhazardous solid waste in the company’s manufacturing processes and facilities.

1. Designing Products Around Energy Efficiency

From smarter material choices to energy efficiency and end-of-life practices, Dell considers several aspects of the product lifecycle when designing and manufacturing new products.

The company used more than 14 million pounds of recycled plastic in 2016 and reduced the average energy consumption of devices by more than 16% from 2015. Since 2008, the energy-efficient desktops and notebooks have saved roughly 25% in energy costs.

Dell even factors in how its products will be recycled. Equipment is designed to be easily disassembled, with minimal glues, adhesives, paint, and coatings, so recycling partners can identify, remove, and reuse various components.

2. Sustainable Packaging and Shipping to Reduce Waste

As the third-largest PC vendor, Dell ships roughly one product every second. To reduce the environmental impact of protecting and delivering equipment, the company follows what it calls the 3Cs strategy, which addresses the cube, or the volume of packaging; the content, or materials used; and the curb, making the packaging easily recyclable.

Through 2015, Dell has saved $53.3 million and avoided 31.3 million pounds of packaging by reducing volume by more than 12%. The company replaced styrofoam in some packages with padding made from bamboo and mushrooms.

Reporting on Corporate Social Responsibility

Dell updates customers about the progress made toward achieving the Legacy of Good goals with annual reports.

Since 2013, the company has decreased greenhouse gas emissions by more than 20%, putting Dell on track to reach the target of 50% reduction by 2020. Additionally, Dell’s manufacturing facilities diverted 97% of waste from landfills in 2016.

Perhaps the most ambitious part of the Legacy of Good campaign is the 10×20 Goal, which Founder and CEO Michael Dell explained as the aspiration to generate 10 times more benefit through the company’s technology than it takes to make and use it.

“It’s about capturing the innovative ways our customers are using Dell technology to do good in the world,” he wrote in a statement. “Our 10×20 Goal is about measuring not only the sustainable and social initiatives Dell can execute, but also the ripple effect of how our technology enables others to benefit the planet.”

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