Greenpeace: Apple, Facebook, and Twitter fail at "green" energy

Let's be fair to some of the Internet's most recognizable brands - Apple, Facebook, and Twitter have hundreds of millions of users utilizing their services daily. A large userbase does come with a massive footprint. Some of these companies have attempted to show environmental stewardship - Facebook has their own fan page documenting their "green" initiatives, and Apple documents their work towards using recyclable materials and less packaging material in their products, amongst other initiatives, on their site. But what about their energy consumption practices? According to the pro-environment activist group Greenpeace, these companies fail in that regard due to their reliance on "dirty" energy sources for their data centres. In particular, Apple is the worst offender of the lot. This criticism of Apple comes as they plan to open a new data centre in Maiden, North Carolina, within the next month or two.

As The Guardian reports, the top offenders are those that have a heavy reliance on coal energy to power their data centres. Apple's data centres are powered by 54.5% coal, with Facebook close behind at 53.2% and Twitter at 42.5%. The Greenpeace report gave all three companies a failing "F." Other notable companies such as IBM and HP are not better off, coming at 51.6% and 49.4% respectively. 

However, as Reuters reports, Greenpeace's report gave IBM a "B" for the company's work to reduce their carbon footprint and not purchase carbon offsets in the process. Other notable tech companies, such as Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft, fared decently. Yahoo was given a "B" for purchasing power from clean energy sources and also avoiding carbon offsets like IBM, and Microsoft receiving a "C" for modest efforts in addressing key clean power issues. Google was also awarded a "B" for its Google Energy subsidary, of which Google plans to purchase wind power from.

The lead author of the report, Greenpeace's Gary Cook, stated that customers want to be assured they're "not contributing to global warming or future Fukushimas" when using services provided by Apple, Facebook, and Twitter. Although data centres make up roughly 2% of global energy consumption, that figure is set to quadruple in a decade given the high growth of cloud-enabled services.

Image Credit: Stock image from sxc.hu

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19 Comments

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Meph said,
Are these companies really able to control where the power for their data centres come from?

It is worked out in percentages as the power grid takes in power from multiple services and then distributes. Most power companies allow you to pay them more money to claim you are using more "green" energy. Its kind of the same as buy carbon certificates to offset your carbon output. Seems more like a scheme than an attempt to bring clean energy.

"not contributing to global warming or future Fukushimas"

What an idiot.

Firstly; It's still up for debate whether or not global warming is definitely happening or if it's even humanity's doing (it's often been claimed to be a natural process). Even if global warming is real and is OMG catastrophic, nobody even really knows what affect it will have on weather systems. Something it will likely not affect, however, is tectonic plate movement in a country that has seen hundreds of earthquakes a year for millennia. It's pretty safe to say that global warming did not cause the problems in Fukushima. The ironic thing is, if Japan had a coal power station at Fukushima instead of a nuclear one, less environmental damage would have been caused in the tsunami disaster. Maybe Greenpeace should stick that in their pipe and...well, not, smoke it

Secondly; This daft report is about various company's coal usage. Maaaybe it isn't the companies that are plugged into the mains that Greenpeace should be trying to shame, maybe they should be going after Big Energy Corps who make the decisions about where to source their energy from instead. If Big Energy Corps provided enough renewable energy and used that to power the mains, Facebook and the like would therefore be using renewable and green energy by extension.

But I guess Greenpeace needs to use big names everyone's heard of to grab international headlines.

Mouldy Punk said,

What an idiot.

Firstly; It's still up for debate whether or not global warming is definitely happening or if it's even humanity's doing (it's often been claimed to be a natural process). Even if global warming is real and is OMG catastrophic, nobody even really knows what affect it will have on weather systems. Something it will likely not affect, however, is tectonic plate movement in a country that has seen hundreds of earthquakes a year for millennia. It's pretty safe to say that global warming did not cause the problems in Fukushima. The ironic thing is, if Japan had a coal power station at Fukushima instead of a nuclear one, less environmental damage would have been caused in the tsunami disaster. Maybe Greenpeace should stick that in their pipe and...well, not, smoke it

Secondly; This daft report is about various company's coal usage. Maaaybe it isn't the companies that are plugged into the mains that Greenpeace should be trying to shame, maybe they should be going after Big Energy Corps who make the decisions about where to source their energy from instead. If Big Energy Corps provided enough renewable energy and used that to power the mains, Facebook and the like would therefore be using renewable and green energy by extension.

But I guess Greenpeace needs to use big names everyone's heard of to grab international headlines.

Only a debate amongst politicians. It is rather clear that carbon and other gas emissions cause the earth to have fluctuation in it's temperature. Whether that is warming or colder, this slight difference might not effect the earth that much, but the life on it definitely. 0.1 degree can be the difference of surviving and dying, and it has changed much more than just 0.1. This is amplified within marine environments.

I don't think that they said it causes earthquakes. I am sure GreenPeace is against Nuclear Energy.

Big Energy Corps (tm) does not have incentive to switch to renewable resources. Non-renewable's are too cheap, and renewables are awfully expensive.

Mouldy Punk said,

It's pretty safe to say that global warming did not cause the problems in Fukushima. The ironic thing is, if Japan had a coal power station at Fukushima instead of a nuclear one, less environmental damage would have been caused in the tsunami disaster. Maybe Greenpeace should stick that in their pipe and...well, not, smoke it

You missed the point.

I think what he was trying to say was that if it had been green energy rather than nuclear energy, then we wouldn't have had radiation enter the atmosphere... you'd just have had a big windmill collapse

^ Slightly exaggerated but you get my point.

The only way to get an A with Greenpeace is to teach a parrot to say what you going to send then let it fly to its destination.


Is not A+ because it requires capture of one parrot.

ZeroSkyX said,
Who cares about green energy? We need some Blue Energy!

Or red sky! Anyhow I dunno about everyone else but my website choice isn't affected by that company's green efforts. Unless they start burning new born kittens I would be very unlikely to change.

chAos972 said,
Facebook just designed and built the world's most efficient data centre too. I suppose that means nothing...

Apparently.