Earth Day: Is the impact worth the build-up?

At the high-tech industry conference where I spent most of my day holed up in meetings on Monday, there was nary a mention of Earth Day. Surprised?

At the high-tech industry conference where I spent most of my day holed up in meetings on Monday, there was nary a mention of Earth Day. Surprised? I was, but that's naive little ole me. Then again, I spent the day with VARs and integrators, companies that rarely exercise the marketing might of their vendor partners.

When I finally got to my e-mail this evening, of course there was a fresh deluge of communiques from the green marketing types. I had sworn not to succumb, but there's definitely some worthy stuff to report. In the spirit of my previous Earth Day post, however, I've filtered out quite a bit of the greenwashing and tried to focus on the efforts that seemed most tech-focused from some of the green tech giants.

- The list from Cisco is several pages long (yes, I printed it, so one black mark against me), with individual activities depending on the geography. Many are very good feel-good worthy, such as the Cisco Bike to Work Day, which actually is the day AFTER Earth Day on April 23. But what really intrigues me is the company's E-Scrap Event, which is in its sixth year. Last year, Cisco collected 141.3 tons of various household electronics and Cisco-brand electronics from both Cisco employees and contractors (There are a lot of the latter. I should know, as I am technically classified as one.) This year, 53 sites are supposed to participate. Three of the other more unusual programs being planned around the world: In Germany, the company will bring in representatives from local renewable energy companies and hybrid vehicle companies to discuss alternatives to existing technology and energy options. In Austin, the facility will focus on organic gardening and other sustainable practices that encourage the use of local resources. And in Bangalore, Cisco will set up vehicle emissions tests and rainwater harvesting presentations.

- Xerox also is supporting a number of individualized efforts. One worth noting is the ongoing program in Cincinnati to reclaim and remanufacture Xerox systems that are coming off lease. More on remanufacturing and reuse in a different post. Meanwhile, here's the complete list of the Xerox Earth Day activities.

- Web referral and personalization network StumbleUpon hopes to build its membership by promising to plant a tree for every click on this link. It also is running an auction until May 2 for a New York trip with New York Giants football legend Tiki Barber on the eBay Giving Works site at this link. The auction includes NBC television studio tours with Barber, lunch in the Rainbow Room and Tiki's tickets for the Sunday New York Giants game, and the proceeds will benefit the National Forest Foundation.

- Yahoo is hoping to entice more visitors to Freecycle by randomly placing prizes such as a Smart Car, green cleaning services and eco-trips within the various Freecycle communities. (The groups are organized by local towns and neighborhoods.) It also has created a microsite dedicated to talking up Earth Day information.

- Videoconferencing pioneer Polycom is using the Earth Day event as the opportunity to launch a green services program called Going Green With Polycom. The program will actually be offered through Polycom's VARs, resellers and other channel partners and will include specific ways of helping demonstrate to companies how video applications can specifically reduce their carbon emissions. The metrics include: Video Benchmark Readiness, Green Rollout Planning and Implementation, and Tracking and Measurement. (This one is on the edge because it's very obviously self-serving, but I like the fact that Polycom is helping its channel partners spread the green gospel.) Plus, Polycom believes that about 54 percent of businesses are willing to use videoconferencing to get greener. Who can argue with that?

- Finally, here's the Google green gossip. First off, like Yahoo!, they have a complete Earth Day site at this link to get people thinking and talking. It is using its mapping applications for various campaigns, including adding more cities to Google Transit, which helps you plan a trip in certain metropolitan using public transportation options. I'm sure Google will update its blog throughout the day, so check it out.

However you choose to honor Earth Day, or ignore, I hope you spend at least one moment reflecting about green tech isn't just about being green, it's about better business. At least that's the way I look at it. So, in the face of tremendous economic uncertainty, I'm relieved that there's this much energy being put into reducing our world's energy emissions profile.