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Dell Says Plant a Tree, Help the Environment

by: Damon Darlin    9 January 2007

Michael S. Dell, who made his name building computers, has a new goal: planting trees.

In a speech Tuesday at the Consumer Electronics Show here, Mr. Dell urged the electronics industry to foster the planting of trees to offset the effect on the environment of the energy consumed by the devices they make.

He said Dell, the computer company he founded, would begin a program called "Plant a Tree for Me," asking customers to donate $2 for every notebook computer they buy and $6 for every desktop PC. The money would be given to the Conservation Fund and the Carbonfund, two nonprofit groups that promote ways to reduce or offset carbon emissions, to buy and plant trees.

Mr. Dell said the trees would absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, offsetting the equivalent emissions from the production of electricity for computers over three years.

"I challenge every PC vendor in the industry to join us in providing free recycling," Mr. Dell said. "This is a better way than government regulation."

Dell intends to cover the administrative costs of the program. Mr. Dell was not able to estimate those costs.

Customers in the United States will be given the chance to donate when they place an order for a Dell PC. Mr. Dell also said the program would be expanded in April to consumers overseas.

Mr. Dell said in an interview before the speech that the tree-planting idea came up when he and Kevin B. Rollins, Dell's chief executive, discussed the company's efforts to recycle and reduce the use of various chemicals like brominated flame retardants and polyvinyl chloride. He said he thought, "This would be a fantastic way for our customers to get involved."

Mr. Dell said, "I am personally interested in the environment, but I have to give credit to our customers who have encouraged us in this direction."

Dell offers its customers free recycling of their old computers. Dell said it wants to recover about 275 million pounds of old computers from customers by 2009. "We're on track, a little ahead, in fact, to meet our goal," he said.

In his speech, Mr. Dell appealed to the telecommunications industry to speed its efforts to lay high-speed fiber cable that would provide more capacity for content like movies and videos over the Internet to the home.

"I applaud the telecommunications companies that are driving fiber to the home, and I encourage the entire telecom industry to step up and make such fiber available much more broadly," he said.

He noted that high-speed networks are already available in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Dubai, France, Iceland, Japan, Kuwait, Romania and Slovenia, while the United States lags behind. He said that just 44 percent of American households have a high-speed broadband connection and that only 1 percent of those homes have a fiber connection.