AT&T covers more than 300 million people on its data network, has 125,000 Wi-Fi access points in 80 countries. Needless to say, the communications company uses a lot of energy, but AT&T is committed to managing its energy use and minimizing its environmental footprint

In 2009, AT&T pledged to reduce the energy intensity  of its network by 15 percent, but it actually delivered a nearly 24  percent reduction. This year the company has committed to a 16 percent reduction in energy intensity.

AT&T’s efforts to begin exploring renewable energy options can be seen in its use of wind and solar power. Ten percent of the energy used at the company’s facilities in Austin, Texas, comes from a wind farm, which saves enough energy to power 600 homes in the city each year. A plant in San Ramon, Calif., is home to 3,700 solar panels that generate approximately 1.6 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, and another solar-panel system was recently installed at an AT&T facility in Secaucus, N.J.

“You’ll definitely see AT&T become more creative in terms of integrating renewable sources of energy,” says John Schinter, executive director of Energy at AT&T.

The company is also reducing its carbon footprint by making eco-friendly changes to its fleet of cars, trucks and vans. AT&T has made a commitment to invest up to $565 million over the  10 year period ending in 2018 to add hybrid-electric and alternative-fuel vehicles to their fleet. By deploying  approximately 15,000 fuel effecient vehicles by 2019, the telecommunications giant will save an estimated 49 million gallons of gas and reduce emissions by 211,000 metric tons.

“The way that we balance the stewardship and the services that we provide worldwide from AT&T is really to make sure that we’re properly evaluating and optimizing all of the systems that we have available to us in such a way that we’re using the lease amount of equipment with the highest efficiencies and he highest reliabilities in the marketplace,” Schinter says.

AT&T’s commitment to the environment can be seen its recycling and efficiency efforts as well. Its 173 million phonebooks are recyclable, 4.1 million of its customers opted for paperless billing in 2009, and it also reused and recycled more than 4.2 million cell phones for reuse or recycling. Through the company’s Reuse and Recycle program, consumers can bring in unwanted cell phones, accessories and batteries for recycling. In fact, AT&T has partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency as the first wireless carrier to participate in its Plug-In to eCycling campaign, and the company hopes to recycle at least 14 million cell phones and other wireless devices by the end of 2011 — keeping an estimated 920 tons of e-waste out of landfills.

AT&T is also establishing new environmental standards for the wireless devices it sells. By the end of 2011, 75 percent of new devices must be at least 65 percent recyclable, most of its phones will be designed to use energy-efficient chargers, and its suppliers must reduce their packaging.

For more information on AT&T’s eco-friendly business practices and how the company is working to reduce its carbon footprint, see the AT&T website.