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Google's Mountain View headquarters has been overtaken by a pack of hungry goats.  (Source: Google)
High tech Google is resorting to some surprising measures in its quest for green

Internet search provider Google is undeniably a king of high tech with some of the world's most advanced server farms, arguably the best (or, at least the highest traffic) search engine in the world, and its own smartphone OS.  So some would be surprised at Google's latest drive in its quest to green its business and protect the environment.  Google is going for the goats.

Visitors to Google's headquarters saw something unusual this last week -- a pack of hungry land animals.  The playful creatures were devouring Google's lawn.  Did Google know about this strange incident?

It turns out it did, and in fact engineered it.  Dan Hoffman, Director Real Estate and Workplace Services at Google, writes, "At our Mountain View headquarters, we have some fields that we need to mow occasionally to clear weeds and brush to reduce fire hazard. This spring we decided to take a low-carbon approach: Instead of using noisy mowers that run on gasoline and pollute the air, we've rented some goats from California Grazing to do the job for us (we're not "kidding")."

He continues, "A herder brings about 200 goats and they spend roughly a week with us at Google, eating the grass and fertilizing at the same time. The goats are herded with the help of Jen, a border collie. It costs us about the same as mowing, and goats are a lot cuter to watch than lawn mowers."

One would figure that such zany ideas would arise from a place where employees play in sea of colorful balls on their breaks.  It is amusing to note, though, how some of Google's best green solutions are decidedly low tech (though others, like its servers are really complex).

Google did not release a comment on whether it got any extra perks -- like goat milk or cheese.



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Prediction.
By MrPeabody on 5/5/2009 10:10:09 AM , Rating: 2
This is, ostensibly, an "environmentally-friendly" approach. Therefore, I predict outrage by at least two earth-friendly groups. One will probably be PETA. The other group will probably have a beef with goat "emissions" or some such.




RE: Prediction.
By smackababy on 5/5/2009 10:12:36 AM , Rating: 2
PETA already said it was alright with it as long as the goats had water and shelter.


RE: Prediction.
By FaaR on 5/5/2009 3:00:53 PM , Rating: 3
Yes, because in pre-historical times, goats never ventured very far from their irrigated, corrugated steel shelters... ;)

Seriously, screw PETA. These are friggin' GOATS, alright. They're built by nature to live outdoors. I seriously hope Google didn't consult those loons or seek an endorsement from them before doing this.


RE: Prediction.
By foolsgambit11 on 5/5/2009 5:18:03 PM , Rating: 2
Not that I necessarily disagree with you - PETA does frequently go too far, I'd say - but your argument doesn't really hold water.

Humans, after all, are built by nature to live outdoors, too. The question is, were they built to live in the same climate as California's Central Coast? Even if they are (and I'd say close enough), once you restrict their grazing, I think you'd be responsible for reasonable requirements of providing for things they are denied. So if they can't go find water, then you'd better provide a trough, for instance. If there aren't trees for cover (from the sun, more than the rain), then some accommodation should be provided for.


RE: Prediction.
By Grabo on 5/6/2009 7:35:27 AM , Rating: 3
On the other hand, should the goats expire they will undeniably attract more of nature's wonders. Vultures, among other things, and those are also cute to look at.


RE: Prediction.
By callmeroy on 5/6/2009 1:06:57 PM , Rating: 2
So do you think folks in PETA ever had a good steak or lamb chop?


RE: Prediction.
By mindless1 on 5/6/2009 5:13:21 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with most of what you wrote but no, humans are no longer "built by nature" to live outdoors.

Natural selection would have favored attributes different than those of people dwelling indoors. To put it another way, there are still tribes living a large portion of their day outdoors but that only works on smaller scales in certain environments, and technically these tribes do have homes, albeit crude ones.

Possibly we could say the same about goats, I really don't know enough about the decisions a goat faces, but they at least still maintain a full fur coat which tends to aid in outdoor survival. Maybe humans are the apes that went off to build their own condos and never looked back.


RE: Prediction.
By foolsgambit11 on 5/6/2009 7:19:20 PM , Rating: 2
True, humans in Papua New Guinea, for instance, are still living effectively unclothed, away from everything 'unnatural' about the modern world. And the argument of having shelter for sleep is pretty thin. There are animals who make their own shelters - polar bears, some crabs, etc. - and you wouldn't claim that makes them unable to survive in nature.

The issue isn't that humans have evolved to the point where they cannot survive in nature. We can. But it sucks, I'm sure. And we can't survive everywhere we currently live. We have moved beyond our natural habitat, and beyond our natural population density. These changes haven't yet made us unable to survive in our natural habitat, without our technology, as well as any other animal.


Greenwashing
By BernardP on 5/5/2009 10:33:03 AM , Rating: 5
Every company is trying to look green and is making symbolic gestures to appeal to the public. For example, Walmart's latest series of TV ads, for those who have seen them, are stretching greenwashing to the breaking point. And Walmart has been putting small wind turbines on some of its stores, probably strong enough to power the coffee-maker in the employees' room.

After the Green fad and Green tech bubble are over, what is the next "in" thing?




RE: Greenwashing
By ChuckDriver on 5/5/2009 11:25:18 AM , Rating: 1
I too am disappointed by Wal-Mart's new ads, if only because they seem to have given in to the demands of those who want them to change. I miss their emphasis on being the store with the lowest prices. That said, I think that they do more than a token amount of appeasement to the green crowd. According to the EPA ( http://www.epa.gov/greenpower/toplists/top50.htm ), they are the 15th largest consumer of green energy overall, and the third largest retail consumer.


RE: Greenwashing
By grandpope on 5/5/2009 12:53:22 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
the third largest retail consumer

I'd like to see there really be a ranking of the largest retail consumers. Y'know, not energy, but retail stores. <grin>


RE: Greenwashing
By zinfamous on 5/5/2009 2:52:10 PM , Rating: 4
To be fair, Walmart implemented a major overhaul of it's transport gasoline uses. When you consider the expense and fuel usage that goes into Walmart's delivery trucks, you might realize that that single effort actually is a huge step towards a serious and extremely significant green business model.

not many people talk about it, and sadly, what you do see is the negligible things that they advertise that are indeed pointless. But their advertisers know that people need to "see" these things to believe it. You can't "see" the improvements in the engines, and the savings and reduced usage that goes into each truck (the largest fleet in the world), so they have to advertise what is tangible to the ave. consumer. a turbine sitting on a roof, for example.

Of course, it's always been cool to hate on Walmart, esp when one remains ignorant to what goes on behind the scenes.


RE: Greenwashing
By Chiisuchianu on 5/5/09, Rating: 0
RE: Greenwashing
By EBH on 5/5/09, Rating: 0
RE: Greenwashing
By FaaR on 5/5/2009 2:53:38 PM , Rating: 1
Why do you want it to go away? Even if you think making small gestures towards the environment such as this one is useless and pointless (which it perhaps arguably is, in the big scheme of things), why would you even care when it doesn't impact you negatively in any way?

So what is wrong with caring - even if only in small ways - of our planet, don't you want air that's clear and sweet, or water that's pure? Don't you like green grass and trees and flowers and hippie shit like that or what?

And where did this atheism angle come from? Lol, because religions have made things so much BETTER on this planet? You gotta be friggin' kidding me. Witchhunts, inquisitions, crusades, burning of the library in Alexandria, jihads, abortion clinic bombings, general nastiness left right and center... I could continue for quite a while.

Look. There's no one true religion, and they can't ALL be true as many religions are mutually exclusive, which strongly implies they're all fake. Christianity/judaism certainly isn't the first, or original religion; there are historically documented older religions that came before it. Just go to a museum and check out some earth mother figurines if you want merely one example of this.

Also, the bible is not the word of god. It was obviously written by man, and has been edited by other men since. Pi = 3? Lul, if that was true, all creation would be screwed up, those decimals really are kinda important. :P Hell, there's even two different myths of creation in it, it can't even get its own story straight.


RE: Greenwashing
By zinfamous on 5/5/2009 2:55:09 PM , Rating: 2
environmental awraeness is not a partisan trend. believe what you want, but responsible action in regards to that which gives you life is not tied to any political belief.

"Liberalism" is the fundamental concept that defines our constitution, the principles this country was founded on, and what we as Americans believe.

If you so wish, you are welcome to secede, but liberalism will not be going away so long as the USA continues to exist.


RE: Greenwashing
By kyleb2112 on 5/5/09, Rating: 0
Interesting, but too bad for their grass.....
By C'DaleRider on 5/5/2009 10:05:47 AM , Rating: 2
Probably unknown to the Google engineers, et al, goats eat the entire grass plant, roots and all. That's in stark contrast to cows which only eat the blades of grass.

Guess Google can afford to replant the patches of grass that'll end up being denuded by the goats.




By Iaiken on 5/5/2009 10:15:31 AM , Rating: 3
You obviously haven't seen the complex then.

It's not exactly a "lawn", 90% of it is just wild grass and they were only cutting it so that it wouldn't be a fire hazard during dry spells.


By Donkeyshins on 5/5/2009 4:48:05 PM , Rating: 2
That's a problem with overgrazing, not goats.


By austinag on 5/5/2009 10:34:28 AM , Rating: 2
A new Google employee ran into his boss’s office and said “boss, I just saw the most horrible thing. There is an employee jerking off in the bathroom.” To which his boss replied “Oh that’s John from Accounting, never could catch a goat.”




By MozeeToby on 5/5/2009 11:11:39 AM , Rating: 5
You see that bridge? I built that bridge, but do they call me John the bridge-builder. NO, they don't. You see that Church? I built that Church, but do they call me John the Church-builder. NO, of course not! But if you F**k just one goat...


In Related News...
By bwmccann on 5/5/2009 10:13:36 AM , Rating: 4
Since the goats arrived on the campus the percentage of single engineers went drastically down and several goats have been reported as Missing.




By Kuroyama on 5/5/2009 12:20:19 PM , Rating: 2
Several years ago after big fires in Berkeley and Oakland destroyed lots of homes it became fairly common to use goats for clearing mountain brush in the Bay Area. It makes sense in the hills above Oakland and Berkeley because it's not so easy to mow up and down mountains, in crevasses, and around trees, so goats are one of the few cost effective solutions.

But based on Google's own statements it sounds like they're just being silly in this case. It is worth noting though that since the goats are already in use in the Bay Area they probably just trucked them over from Oakland, not from a distant farm.




By walk2k on 5/5/2009 1:46:17 PM , Rating: 2
They are good for both actually.

Yes they are ideal for hilly, uneven terrain, but they work just as well on flat ground too.

This isn't anything new, as you said they've been using mountain goats in the Oakland hills and other hilly areas to clear a fire break.


Ironic
By yomamafor1 on 5/6/2009 11:34:59 AM , Rating: 2
It is very ironic that Google would replace lawn mowers, which can be obtained locally, with goats, which would have to be transported from farms all across California using trucks and trailers. What's the carbon footprint of trucks and trailers transporting over 200 goats compared to just a several lawn mowers?

Looks like more of a marketing spin to me than anything.




RE: Ironic
By mindless1 on 5/6/2009 5:18:55 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. Google could have simply bought a particularly low-emission tractor/mower instead. If they wanted to get fancy then make it run on alternative energy.

Let's not forget the carbon footprint of the goats themselves.


Google Goatse
By donnsuil on 5/6/2009 2:24:58 AM , Rating: 3
I read it as Google Goatse.... DON'T DO IT!!!




Phew
By Mojo the Monkey on 5/5/2009 4:31:50 PM , Rating: 2
When I first clicked the article title, I thought I was going to be taken to an article about a GoogleGoat that lives on your desktop and munches on your personal data.




Publicity stunt
By segerstein on 5/5/2009 5:03:16 PM , Rating: 2
This is a publicity stunt for Google. And sadly, it promotes ecofascist agenda.

I suggest you to read Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them by Steven Milloy

ebook: http://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/steven-milloy/gre...

audiobook: http://www.audible.com/adbl/site/products/ProductD...




Nothing New
By SnakeBlitzken on 5/6/2009 9:34:52 AM , Rating: 2
Folks in rural areas have always used livestock to keep areas trimmed that they didn't want to mow. Goats were adapted to living and eating in hilly terrain where broadleaf plants were the predominant food source. That doesn't mean they won't eat nice grass if it presents itself. A local ranch tried using thousands of goats and even camels to control brush (they wanted more grass for grazing cattle). Once the goats & camels figured out the grass tasted better, they ate it.

Eco-friendly or not, isn't it just more fun to watch goats eating than to have to listen to a gas-powered tractor? Besides, this article is making me hungry for a gyro.




By erple2 on 5/5/2009 10:48:51 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe, however you still have to transport lawn equipment and a crew to the campus too to mow.

So you really have to look at the cost of transporting goats vs. the cost of transporting the lawn equipment + the cost of running the mowers (which tend to be far more polluting per gallon of gas than a car or truck).

I suppose that 200 goats (plus water?) probably weigh more than the mowing equipment plus crew.

Not necessarily idiots, but incomplete, I'd agree.


By Sunrise089 on 5/5/2009 11:19:41 AM , Rating: 3
I grew up on a family farm, though I'm hardly the ultimate authority. In my opinion though, the issue isn't weight (which may be close if the fields required large mowers pulled by tractors) nor is it emissions (mowers and tractors pollute, but so do goats). The issue is distance. Urban and suburban areas have plenty of lawn care companies located nearby. I'm guessing though that the goats are probably pastured a lot further away. So rather than just calling up the lawn care place down the street, they had to ship the goats in and then return them home. That's probably the biggest deadweight loss of this silly exercise.

Also, anyone else think "fire prevention" is code for "didn't want the grass to look unsightly?"


By SandmanWN on 5/5/2009 11:32:41 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
Also, anyone else think "fire prevention" is code for "didn't want the grass to look unsightly?"

Well in that case they still failed. The grass left behind in the photo is dead which is more of a fire hazard than a professional crew coming in and simply trimming things back.


By Mojo the Monkey on 5/5/2009 4:30:56 PM , Rating: 2
nah, I am somewhat familiar with the area and I wouldnt imagine the nearest goat operation being very far away.


By mindless1 on 5/6/2009 5:25:04 PM , Rating: 2
You don't have to transport it more than once. Put up a shed and put a mower they own inside. Done.

We don't necessarily know they could not choose a mower that pollutes less than enough trucks, and distance, to move hundreds of goats around (and these are not small cars or trucks doing it, IIRC the emissions standards are different for big farm trucks). What if google used an electric mower charged by solar panels? I mean tractor sized not a little push mower, or actually, what if they did get more exercise by using electric push mowers, or shudder the thought, old fashion push mechanical reel mowers?


By Storkme on 5/5/2009 12:23:49 PM , Rating: 4
Well then if we're gonna be pedantic we should also examine..

1) the carbon footprint of raising the goats (and of course, the dog) compared to the carbon footprint of building the lawnmowers,
2) the carbon footprint of the food that the goats didn't need to eat since instead they got Google-grass compared with the carbon footprint of the fuel required for the lawnmowers,
.. etc.

In conclusion, who cares? It was a publicity stunt, seems like it worked.


By ggordonliddy on 5/5/2009 12:45:55 PM , Rating: 3
> Google-grass

Is that the "brand" that Obama smokes?


By FaaR on 5/5/2009 3:06:13 PM , Rating: 2
Possibly yes.

Now we just gotta find out the brand of the coke Bush Jr. snorted.


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