Google user’s carbon footprint equal to ‘one mile drive in car’

Users account for the vast majority of its CO2 footprint, but R&D efforts for self-driving cars are also taking their toll

Google currently uses renewable energy to power over 34% of its operations. (Source: mjmonty)


Google’s carbon footprint per user is equal to a person driving a car for one mile, the company has announced.

In 2012 it says it was responsible for emitting 1.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, a 32% drop in carbon intensity on 2011 figures.

To put these numbers in perspective, Google has assumed that a user completes 25 searches and watches 60 minutes of YouTube a day, has a Gmail account and uses their other services. To serve that user, Google emits about eight grams of carbon per day.

Google says it has been carbon neutral for six years through the purchasing of carbon offsets. Without taking this into account its carbon footprint has still fallen by 9% since 2011.

“Over the past year we’ve continued to use more renewable energy, squeezed even more efficiency out of our operations and helped our customers reduce their own IT footprint,” said Google’s ‘Carbon Czarina’ Jolanka Nickerman, in a blog post.

“For the fourth year in a row, we’re emitting less carbon per million dollars of revenue. This means that our footprint is growing more slowly than our business because we’re able to get more done with each gram of carbon we emit.

“We’re also helping others reduce their carbon footprint. Research indicates that cloud computing is more energy efficient than traditional IT. This means that the five million businesses using Google Apps are reducing their IT energy consumption.”

Google serves 100 billion search queries and 6 billion hours of YouTube videos a month, supporting 750 million Chrome users and delivering Google Maps in 194 countries.

Its latest figures also include its development of self-driving cars and launch of wi-fi-enabled balloons into the atmosphere.

To date the company has contracted over 330MW of wind power in the US and Europe. Earlier this year Google was also involved in the financing for one of Africa’s largest solar projects.

However, Google was absent from the Green Power Partnership quarterly rankings of organisations in the US, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency which puts companies in order of how much electricity consumed by each can be termed as ‘green power’.

Also absent from this list was social media giant Facebook that said each user’s annual carbon footprint for 2012 equalled about three bananas, a few glasses of wine or a latte, growing by 18% since last year.

Facebook’s electricity mix last year included 19% from clean and renewable energy, but the largest proportion still came from coal at 34% coal. Its goal is to source 25% of energy from clean and renewable sources by 2015.

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