"It's a piece of our overall strategy and one we're pretty excited about," Dane Parker, Dell's director of environmental, health and safety, told GreenBiz.com.
The company announced last year its goal of becoming carbon neutral by late 2008. Since then, it focused on reducing energy consumption and buying renewable energy before offsetting the remaining emissions.
Overall, Dell lowered total energy demand by about 5 percent through efficiency projects such as lighting upgrades, HVAC retrofits, tweaking building temperature settings and shutting off computers not being used.
Most projects had a payback period of three years or less, Parker said. As the company moves beyond the low-hanging fruit, it is considering projects with longer ROIs, such as equipment upgrades for building controls. Dell's data centers, accounting for about 20 percent of its global power use, represent another opportunity for energy savings.
The company currently buys enough renewable energy to comprise 20 percent of its worldwide portfolio, the majority of it wind power. In the U.S., green power purchases meet a third of its demand. Dell now buys roughly 116 million kWh each year, compared to 12 million kWh in 2004.
Although the company met its goal early, it will continue looking for ways to weave additional efficiencies into its operations, Parker said. In addition to electronics waste efforts and more efficient products, Dell plans to reduce and reuse 99 percent of its waste by 2012.
"We're at 95 percent now," Parker said. "The last 4 percent doesn't sound like a lot but it's the hardest part."