Dell's virtual Earth Day promotion backfires

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Dell's virtual Earth Day promotion backfires

Tree give-away deemed a 'ridiculous attempt to gain credibility'.

Dell has come under fire for a promotion of its "Plant a tree for me" environmental program in the Second Life virtual world.

As's Silicon Valley Sleuth blog reportedlast week, the computer maker is giving away free virtual trees inside the virtual community. User can plant the trees on private land and determine the pace at which they grow.

In a posting on a comapny blog, the computer maker marketed the event as an "expansion of Dell's Plant a Tree for Me program in Second Life".

Dell's real world Plant a Tree for Me programme solicits donations from computer buyers to plant trees. Such carbon neutrality plans are aim to have the tree's oxygen production offset some of the carbon dioxide emissions that are caused during the manufacturing and use of the system.

Contrary to what Dell advocated on its blog, the virtual tree planting however doesn't help reduce carbon emissions. The tree is essentially a software application that requires compute power to grow and show up in the virtual world, thereby increasing Second Life's carbon emissions.

IT author Nicholas Carr has previously said that active Second Life players consume as much as 1,752kWh on a yearly basis, ranking the game only slightly below the average power consumption of residents of Brazil. 

Dell's attempt to advertise the virtual tree giveaway as environmentally safe didn't sit well with several people in the blogosphere.

It's "an indication that environmentalism's divorce from reality is now nearly complete," flamed the Moonbattery blog

"We've seen companies make some pretty ridiculous attempts to gain credibility by doing something in Second Life, but this one has to take the cake," analyst firm TechDirt commented on its blog

In a comment left on the Silicon Valley Sleuth blog, a Dell staffer by the name of Laura Thomas said that the company didn't intend for the promotion to be deceptive.

"The intention of the virtual trees and the party was to increase awareness of the real life Plant a Tree for Me program - not to increase Linden Lab's energy consumption."
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