With new website, Google comes clean on environmental impact

The new "Google Green" website reveals top-line statistics about the company's energy mix and total electricity use.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor on

Internet giant Google is taking steps toward transparency about its environmental impact.

The company's newly-launched "Google Green" website touts several top-line statistics about the company's energy mix and electricity use, serving both as a quiet chest thump and olive branch to environmentalists who have criticized the Silicon Valley star's practices.

Among the interesting statistics:

  • Before offsets, Google's carbon footprint in 2010 was 1.46 million metric tons of CO2.
  • Google's 2010 electricity consumption was 2,259,998 MWh. At roughly 1 billion users, that's about 188 watt-hours per month per user, the equivalent of keeping a 60-watt incandescent lightbulb on for three hours each month.
  • Google uses less than 1 percent of the world's electricity.
  • 25 percent of Google's energy use came from renewable sources in 2010; the goal is 30 percent in 2011 and 35 percent in 2012.
  • 4.5 million square feet of Google office space will be submitted for LEED certification.

If you're familiar with the company, you know that it's generally at the forefront when it comes to energy efficiency. On the back-end, efficiencies in datacenters result in real cash savings; on the front-end, the company's shuttle program and solar panels both save money at scale and help attract young engineers to work for a forward-thinking company.

The big reveal of this data -- the total electricity consumption figure in particular -- puts pressure on the industry to open up and show its cards. As Google and others have insisted in the past, public availability of data helps the world go 'round more smoothly; it was only a matter of time before the folks in Mountain View walked the walk after talking the talk.

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