Tag Archives: Sustainability

Our hardware sustainability commitments

Most of us can’t get through the day without a phone, tablet, computer or smart speaker. My team at Google understands this well—we’ve been making consumer hardware (like Pixel phones and Google Home Minis) for just over three years now. But building these devices and getting them into the hands of our customers takes a lot of resources, and disposing of our old electronics can create significant waste. 


My job is to integrate sustainability into our products, operations and communities—making it not just an aspect of how we do business, but the centerpiece of it. It’s an ongoing endeavor that involves designing in sustainability from the start and embedding it into the entire product development process and across our operations, all while creating the products our customers want. This is how we will achieve our ambition to leave people, the planet, and our communities better than we found them. 


To help us get a step closer to reaching our goals, we’re sharing a set of hardware and services sustainability commitments

  • By 2020, 100 percent of all shipments going to or from customers will be carbon neutral 
  • Starting in 2022, 100 percent of Made by Google products will include recycled materials with a drive to maximize recycled content wherever possible.
  • And we will make technology that puts people first and expands access to the benefits of technology. 

These commitments will build on the foundation and progress we’ve already made. In 2018, we began publishing our product environmental reports, which help everyone understand exactly what our products are made of, how they’re built and how they get shipped to you. And from 2017 to 2018, our carbon emissions for product shipments decreased by 40 percent. we’ve also launched our Power Project, which will bring one million energy- and money-saving Nest thermostats to families in need by 2023, and built much of our Nest product portfolio with post-consumer recycled plastic.  


We’re always working to do more, faster. But today we’re laying the foundation for what we believe will be a way of doing business that commits to building better products better. 

A circular Google in a sustainable world

A circular Google and how we plan to get there


People love stuff. During the 20th Century, the use of raw materials rose globally at twice the rate as the population. All of this consumption puts a strain on resources. In fact, just last year, humanity’s consumption of resources--such as metals, timber and even land--required 1.7 planet Earths to sustain. So, is all this demand for ‘stuff’ inherently unsustainable, or is the problem with how we take, make and waste it?

The sheer scale of our resource economy is almost unimaginable: Billions of tons of materials, from plastic straws and  blocks of concrete to bales of wheat and sheets of metal, all of these things are constantly being taken, made, moved around, built with, used up, and disposed of, all across the world. For too long, the damaging environmental consequences of these linear systems remained relatively invisible. Today, however, the impact cannot be ignored. One garbage truck of plastic is dumped into our oceans every minute, landfills are overflowing, and our climate crisis is fueled by energy used to sustain  this take-make-waste model.

The ‘circular economy’ concept challenges this disconnect between consumption and consequences. In a circular economy abundance become possible, livelihoods raised and progress fueled, all by keeping stuff, circular.  

Our vision is simple: we want a circular Google within a sustainable world.

The challenges to making this vision a reality are as daunting as they are exciting. It demands that we redefine how systems work—from what we value and the choices we make, to the assumptions and industrial processes that have been standard practice across our economy for decades. Our new circular Google strategy is part of our wider effort to build sustainability into everything we do.

As we built out this strategy, an intriguing insight emerged. An element of reaching a fully circular economy requires identifying, tracking and managing the overwhelming and globe-spanning swirl of materials. Thankfully, technological developments in the 21st century suggest a way to do so: to view all this stuff as information.

Considering the circular economy as an information challenge is inspiring for us at Google. It suggests that we can leverage our scale, resources and technological expertise to help the world meet resource needs.

It’s been estimated that transitioning to a circular economy could generate $4.5 trillion in new economic output by 2030. That fact illustrates the potential to achieve abundance and make progress, while also significantly improving human and environmental systems.

So we are excited to announce a new goal: Maximize the reuse of finite resources across our operations, products and supply chains and enable others to do the same.But we can’t do it alone. A truly systemic shift to a circular economy goes way beyond Google. We’ll need to create new, and even unlikely, partnerships across industries. The scale of the change required to reach circularity will touch every part of society and span the entire global economy.

If you are a Google team member, partner, supplier or one of the billions of people who use Google every day, we hope you will come on this exciting journey with us.


Whale songs and AI, for everyone to explore

Back in the 1960s, scientists first discovered that humpback whales actually sing songs, which evolve over time. But there’s still so much we don’t understand. Why do humpbacks sing? What is the meaning of the patterns within their songs?

Scientists sift through an ocean of sound to find answers to these questions. But what if anyone could help make discoveries?

For the past year, Google AI has been partnering with NOAA’s Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center to train an artificial intelligence model on their vast collection of underwater recordings. This project is helping scientists better understand whales’ behavioral and migratory patterns, so scientists can better protect whales. The effort fits into Google’s AI for Social Good program, applying the latest in machine learning to the world’s biggest humanitarian and environmental challenges.

NOAA research oceanographer Ann Allen and Google software engineer Matt Harvey work together to field test the algorithm aboard a research vessel.

NOAA research oceanographer Ann Allen (left) works onboard a research vessel and Google software engineer Matt Harvey (right) field tests the algorithm.

Now, everyone can play a role in this project using a website called Pattern Radio: Whale Songs. It’s a new tool that visualizes audio at a vast scale and uses AI to make it easy to explore. The site hosts more than 8,000 hours of NOAA’s recordings, which means scientists aren’t the only ones who can explore this data and make discoveries. Everyone can.

Zooming in on the spectrogram shows you individual sounds.

Zooming in on the spectrogram shows you individual sounds. 

On the site, you can zoom all the way in to see individual sounds on a spectrogram (in addition to humpback songs, you can see the sounds of ships, fish and all kinds of mysterious and even unknown noises). You can also zoom all the way out to see months of sound at a time. An AI heat map helps you find whale calls, and visualizations help you see repetitions and patterns of the sounds within the songs.

Highlights help visualize patterns and repetitions of individual sounds within the songs.

Highlights help visualize patterns and repetitions of individual sounds within the songs.


The idea is to get everyone listening—and maybe even make a totally new discovery. If you find something you think others should hear, you can share a link that goes directly to that sound. And if you need a bit more context around what you’re hearing, guided tours from whale song experts—like NOAA research oceanographer Ann Allen, bioacoustic scientist Christopher Clark, Cornell music professor Annie Lewandowski and more—point out especially interesting parts of the data.


You can start exploring at g.co/patternradio. And to dive even deeper, learn more about the project at our about page and check out Ann Allen’s article on how this whole project got started on her NOAA Fisheries blog. Jump on in!

100 percent renewable energy, for the second year in a row

In 2017, we first reached our longstanding goal of buying enough renewable energy to match 100 percent of Google’s global annual electricity use. And we’re on a roll: during 2018, our purchases of energy from sources like solar and wind once again matched our entire annual electricity consumption.


We’re the first organization of our size to achieve 100 percent renewable energy two years running, but just as important as reaching our goal is how we did it. Addressing climate change will require adding renewable energy wherever possible and, for us as a company, making decisions that have an impact beyond our walls. We’ve asked ourselves: how can we use our purchasing to do the most good in the broader energy system?


Our first priority is to use as little energy as possible, operating our offices and facilities sustainably, with a strong focus on our data centers. Thanks toadvances in artificial intelligence and chip design, our data centers are seven times more energy efficient today than they were five years ago. Our latest Environmental Report shows that computing using centralized cloud services is up to 85 percent more efficient than using on-premises servers, which is good news for our users and the planet.

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As our energy consumption has increased, so have our purchases of renewable energy, allowing us to achieve our 100 percent renewable energy goal two years in a row.

Still, keeping the internet humming is a big job, and it means finding ways to add new renewable energy to grids around the world. Our main strategy involves entering into long-term contracts, called Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), to buy electricity from wind or solar farms built near our facilities. PPAs have more impact than other purchasing methods, such as buying unbundled Renewable Energy Credits, because PPAs spur the construction of new renewable energy projects. In 2018, our energy purchasing kept pace with our demand thanks to several PPA-driven projects—including three wind farms in Scandinavia, dozens of massive wind turbines in Oklahoma, andmore than 120,000 solar panels in the Netherlands.

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We recently began buying electricity from this new solar project in the Netherlands, as seen on Google Earth

As much as we like PPAs, they’re complicated to arrange, which is why we’ve also begun to partner with utility companies. In four U.S. states, we’ve helped design programs that enable businesses to buy renewable energy through their power provider. We’re a customer for these programs, but we also see our work as opening pathways for other organizations. By making it simple to choose renewable energy through utilities, we can enable more companies to play a role in fighting climate change.


Two final approaches can help expand renewable energy by making it more economical. In the Netherlands, we joined several companies to buy energy as a consortium. We hope our approach to cross-company energy purchasing will serve as a useful model for smaller companies interested in banding together to realize the cost savings that come with large renewable energy deals. We’ve also started using machine learning to make wind production in the central U.S. more predictable and valuable, improving the business case for deploying more of it.

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We source electricity from wind and solar projects on four continents, with a combined capacity of nearly 3.5 gigawatts

So what comes next?


We want to make it simple for any business—be it a flower shop, retailer, or startup—to buy cheap renewable energy. Though clean energy now makes economic sense across much of the globe, it remains difficult for many companies to access. We’ve joined other major energy purchasers to launch the Renewable Energy Buyer’s Alliance, with the goal of catalyzing 60 gigawatts of new renewable purchases by 2025.

Closer to home, last year we announced our intention to power our operations entirely with carbon-free energy—24x7, 365 days a year. To bridge the gap between intermittent renewable resources and the constant demands of the digital economy, we’ll have to test new business models, deploy new technologies, and advocate for new policies. Yet aiming for 24x7 carbon-free energy reflects reality—ultimately, it’s where the world must go. We’re excited to work with our partners to invent the way forward.


Working to map the air everywhere and help #BeatAirPollution

Whenever I go for a bike ride, I use Google Maps to find bike lanes and avoid busy streets. When I take my kids to the park, I check the weather forecast so I know what to expect. Imagine if we could also see maps of air quality in our neighborhoods, and route ourselves around the pollution for cleaner, healthier bike rides or park visits. What if every city in the world had “hyperlocal” air pollution information so that urban planners could pinpoint hotspots on maps and work to fix air quality problems?


This goal is a good one to reflect on today for World Environment Day. This year’s theme raises awareness for air pollution, encouraging people everywhere to take action to #BeatAirPollution. Doing so will require a lot of effort from businesses, utilities, governments, scientists and everyday citizens.


Project Air View is our commitment toward this goal: It’s Google’s effort to help map air pollution in every city in the world and give people and organizations accurate and reliable high-resolution maps of air quality. After our partners at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) first proposed the idea in 2012, we equipped Google Street View cars with air pollution sensors—starting with measuring greenhouse gas methane (with EDF), and expanding to measure particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and more (with Aclima and EDF).
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Street View cars equipped with Aclima air quality sensors

Today scientists are starting to merge street-level air quality data with contextual data like satellite imagery, weather data, and government monitoring station data. New satellite sensors, like TROPOMI on the European Space Agency’s Sentinel 5p, are delivering daily pictures of air pollution for the entire globe. You can find this air quality satellite data in Google Earth Engine, along with weather data, atmospheric data and a lot of other Earth observation data (30 petabytes worth!).

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Animation showing nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in California and Nevada
for the time period August 27 to September 6, 2018.


Fusing this satellite data with ground-level air quality is made easier by putting environmental data in the cloud. Air quality data collected with Street View cars is served up to researchers via Google Cloud BigQuery, where they can query the tens of millions of records in a matter of seconds. You can also find government monitoring station data published by EPA and OpenAQ in BigQuery through the Google Cloud Public Datasets program.

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How Project Air View can help us understand more about ground-level air quality

Air quality is an important issue and can be difficult to map on hyperlocal level, which is why we’ve taken time to make sure we get it right. We’ve made a lot of progress. After launching air quality maps for Oakland, CA with Aclima and EDF, we expanded to other regions of the state. More recently, we have worked with our research partners to add other U.S. cities like Houston and Salt Lake City, as well as Copenhagen, London, and Amsterdam in Europe.


And today, we’re publishing a new batch of air quality data—the measurements we've made with Aclima between 2017 and 2018. Scientists can request access to the data via this form. This new mapping data supplements our previously released hyperlocal air quality data, which includes measurements in the San Francisco Bay Area and the northern San Joaquin Valley. The combined datasets now contain 140,000 miles and 7,000 hours of driving from 2016 through 2018. The data captures over three years of air quality moments and insights, big and small.


What’s next?

By the end of this year, we’ll equip 50 more Street View cars with the mobile-friendly Aclima Mobile Sensor Node, and hit the road in cities in Asia, Africa and South America. We’ll continue using tools like BigQuery and platforms like the Air Quality Data Commons to share this data with researchers whose work helps policymakers, businesses, and utilities make better decisions around air quality in their cities.


In the future, we hope existing fleets of vehicles can be used in cities around the world for air quality measurement. We’re already seeing this happen. EDF and Houston’s Public Health Department worked together to equip a few vehicles in their city fleet with air sensors. EDF and the connected vehicle company, GeoTab, published a report showing how cities can determine if they can do the same. And recently, Aclima and Google Cloud have partnered to make this a reality in partnership with cities and counties across the U.S. and around the world. They’re launching in the County of San Mateo, and aim are bringing continuous hyperlocal air quality mapping to more than 100 municipalities and 10 million people in California by early next year.


Research like this can spread awareness about air pollution, drive new science, and help people take action. If cities around the world join in the effort to measure air pollution, it will be one giant step toward achieving the lofty goal to #BeatAirPollution.


Street View cars measure Amsterdam’s air quality

The quality of the air we breathe has a major impact on our health. Even in Amsterdam, a city where bikes make up 36 percent of the traffic, the average life span is cut short by a year as a result of polluted air. Information about air quality at the street level can help pinpoint areas where the quality is poor, which is useful for all types of people—whether you’re a bicyclist on your daily commute, a parent taking your children to a local park, or an urban planner designing new communities.

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A Street View car in Amsterdam.

Project Air View

Building on efforts in London and Copenhagen, Google and the municipality of Amsterdam are now working together to gain insight into the city’s air quality at the street level. Amsterdam already measures air quality at several points around the city. Information from two of our Street View cars in Project Air View will augment the measurements from these fixed locations, to yield a more detailed street-by-street picture of the city’s air quality.

To take the measurements, the Street View cars will be equipped with air sensors to measure nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, ultra-fine dust and soot (extremely small particles that are hardly ever measured). Scientists from Utrecht University are equipping the air sensors into the vehicles, and working with the municipality and Google to plan the routes for driving and lead the data validation and analysis. Once the data validation and analysis is complete, we’ll share helpful insights with the public, so that everyone—citizens, scientists, authorities and organizations—can make more informed decisions.

This research can spread awareness about air pollution and help people take action. For example, if the research shows differences in air quality between certain areas in the city, people could adjust their bike route or choose another time to exercise. Our hope is that small changes like this can help improve overall quality of life. For more information about Project Air View, visit g.co/earth/airquality.

After school, this teen tracks climate change with NASA

Editor's Note: Liza Goldberg is a 17-year-old scientist interning at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Biospheric Sciences Lab. Today, she shares how Google Earth Engine helps her monitor mangroves, which are ecosystems vital to the sustainability of coastal communities around the world.  

I first heard the words “climate change” when I was 9. As a fourth-grade student in Maryland, my class studied the local Chesapeake Bay; we raised horseshoe crabs and observed the effects of extreme weather and sea level rise on the ecosystem. After studying the human-environment interactions in my community and the broader region, I decided I wanted to dedicate my life to curbing climate change.

Two years later, I began a science fair project to study the impacts of simulated warming on the carbon dioxide exchange of red maple saplings. Every weekend for three years, I used a gas analyzer to test eight trees I planted in my backyard, and submitted the project to a local fair. I explained my research to a judge, who connected me with scientists in NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Biospheric Sciences Lab. Thanks to that connection, I went from testing saplings in my backyard to working with a world-renowned team of forest change scientists at age 14.

Liza Goldberg, teen scientist

Building the artificial warming chambers for my science project in my backyard.


My research group studies mangrove forests, which are vital coastal ecosystems that buffer infrastructure during extreme weather and support local fisheries. When I first began my internship at NASA in 2016, I had never heard of mangroves or learned about the scope of global forest losses, but I began reading news articles about a series of widespread mangrove losses occurring in the Gulf of Carpentaria in Australia. Thousands of hectares of forests died that year, and scientists didn’t gain a complete understanding of what caused the devastation until much later. I decided to build a program that could use satellite imagery to monitor the location and drivers of mangrove loss, potentially helping to prevent another large-scale dieback in the future.

Google Earth Engine provided me with the scope of datasets and computing power necessary to analyze forest change on a global scale. I began my project at NASA with no knowledge of satellites or image processing, but guidance from my mentors, Dr. David Lagomasino and Dr. Lola Fatoyinbo, and my intensive studying of the Earth Engine developer resources helped me move from endless notes and plans to actual working code.

In mapping past global mangrove losses and drivers, we used long-term Landsat satellite imagery to identify regions of disturbance. Machine learning algorithms helped to identify where mangroves were converted to urban regions, agriculture, aquaculture or mudflats. Using the Earth Engine Apps interface, we’re working towards making our data both openly accessible and widely understandable for users of any background. Communicating our results at a comprehensible level is arguably as important as the science itself, as the ultimate goal of the project is to deliver our data to mangrove-reliant communities on the ground.

The beginning stages of EcoMap, a global mangrove loss and vulnerability system

The beginning stages of EcoMap, a global mangrove loss and vulnerability system

We’re currently working with conservationists and researchers at The Everglades Foundation to use our mangrove loss driver data to understand the impacts of sea level rise and hurricanes in Everglades National Park. In the future, we also aim to provide coastal communities in East Africa with the real-time loss and loss driver data necessary to sustainably manage and conserve local forests.

My story is just one example of the impact of mentorship and resources on research development, regardless of age. I entered my NASA project with a set of seemingly unattainable goals, and the combination of my mentors’ guidance and Earth Engine’s power helped to make them reality. As this field progresses, I am excited to continue using Earth Engine as a means of monitoring a changing planet and balancing its needs with those of society.  

Why “healthy” materials are key to Google’s new buildings

As a New Yorker, I’m struck by California’s  natural beauty. When I visit Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, I walk along the sidewalk and exclaim things like, “Is that wild sage?” (My coworkers find it amusing.)The tree-lined scenery of the San Francisco Bay Area gives some much-needed refreshment to my senses, which tend to be dulled by subway cars and honking car horns.

When I’m in the Bay Area, I often wonder how two completely different worlds—one of computer chips and algorithms and another of sprawling shoreline and wildlife—can coexist peacefully in one place. When I spoke with Robin Bass, Sustainability Lead for Google’s Real Estate and Workplace Services team, for our latest She Word interview, she shed light on how Google approaches this question every day, and what we’re doing to make sure we give back to the land we build on.

How would you describe your job at a dinner party?

I usually refer to myself as a recovering architect. I’ve worked in architecture for 20 years and sustainability has always been my focus. At Google, my responsibility is to ensure that our buildings provide healthy spaces for the people in them and that we leave the spaces between the buildings better than we found them.

How did you initially become interested in sustainability?

When I was an architecture student, it was the only direction that made sense to me. In school, the culture was to critique. If you don’t have a strong point of view about why you’re doing things it can come across as “because it’s pretty,” and that’s architecture at its worst. Instead, leading with “this is the way the sun moves across the site,” or “this is the way water moves in and out of the site” is an irrefutable argument. There’s no stronger footing than orienting your buildings for people and nature, so sustainability was my go-to design aesthetic.

Have you found strong female influences or mentors in your career?

Architecture is very male dominated—and I would even go so far as to say it’s white male dominated—but sustainability is different. I was able to find so many female mentors in the industry who shared the same alignment toward the future about the world we wanted to create. It was life-changing for me. Now I’m at a point in my career where I can buoy the next generation, and diversity and inclusion in particular is a huge priority for me. In the same way that landscapes have greater resilience when they are diverse, the community of designers and builders creating those landscapes should be inclusive and diverse as well.

How did these sustainability elements play out in some of your recent projects at Google’s offices, like Charleston East, Bay View and Spruce Goose?

The most sustainable building is the one you don’t build, so at Spruce Goose in the Los Angeles area, using an old airplane hangar rather than building a new office is capitalizing on the carbon that has already been invested there, and anyone who walks in is struck by the magical and unusual space.

At Charleston East and Bay View in Mountain View, our team is pursuing the Living Building Challenge, which stipulates that a building should exist on its site like a flower in a field. It’s all about net positive energy, waste and water, which is radical, aspirational and really hard to accomplish. These two buildings have a common design—both roof structures are unique, which makes the interior spaces remarkable—but they have different sustainability goals because of where they’re located, even though they are just a few miles apart.

Charleston East’s goal is about healthy materials. We’re vetting every product that comes onto the site against a red list of chemicals, and we’re working toward net positive waste, which means integrating waste back into the production of new materials instead of sending it to a landfill after one use. Bay View backs up close to the San Francisco Bay, so we’re pursuing net positive water. The goal is to have no connection to a central plumbing utility or a sewer; all of the water on that site will come from a closed loop.

What is one habit that makes you successful?

I am genuinely curious about people. When I’m sitting across a table from someone who doesn’t share my worldview, I find it’s important to be really curious about who they are, what motivates them and what’s hard for them so we can find common ground. You can turn someone who is not an advocate into your biggest supporter by authentically wanting to know them.

What advice do you have for women starting out in their careers?

Explore! Don’t be afraid of trying something that you ultimately don’t like. Failure is a really great feedback mechanism, and it’s not about how many times you fail, it’s about getting back up and sharpening all the tools you’re bringing to the table because the world needs you, and it’s never needed you more.

Get lost in the new Earth Timelapse, now on mobile

Today we’re introducing several updates to Google Earth Timelapse, a global, zoomable time-lapse video that lets anyone explore the last 35 years of our changing planet’s surface—from the global scale to the local scale. This update adds two additional years of imagery to the time-series visualization, now spanning from 1984 to 2018, along with mobile support and visual upgrades to make exploring more accessible and intuitive.

Desktop and Mobile

Timelapse provides a comprehensive picture of our changing Earth—including stunning phenomena like the sprouting of Dubai’s Palm Islands, the retreat of Alaska’s Columbia Glacier and the impressive urban expansion of Las Vegas, Nevada (seen below).

Scientists, documentarians and journalists have used this dataset to help us better understand the complex dynamics at work on our planet. News outlets have brought their reporting to life with Timelapse imagery, from coverage of the floods in Houston, Texas to population monitoring. Recently, a team of scientists at the University of Ottawa published an article Nature based on the Timelapse dataset which revealed a 6,000 percent increase in landslides on a Canadian Arctic island since 1984. Starting this week, if you’re in the U.K., you can see Timelapse imagery featured in Earth From Space, a new BBC series about the incredible discoveries and perspectives captured from above. 

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Zeit Online uses Timelapse to show the extent to which jungles are cleared for soy production in Brazil.

Using Google Earth Engine, Google's cloud platform for petabyte-scale geospatial analysis, we combined more than 15 million satellite images (roughly 10 quadrillion pixels) to create the 35 global cloud-free images that make up Timelapse. These images come from the U.S. Geological Survey/NASA Landsat and European Sentinel programs. Once again, we joined forces with our friends at Carnegie Mellon’s CREATE Lab, whose Time Machine video technology makes Timelapse interactively explorable.

Today's update also adds mobile and tablet support, making it a little easier for you to explore, research or get lost in the imagery—from wherever you are. Up until recently, mobile browsers disabled the ability to autoplay videos, which is critical for Timelapse (since it’s made up of tens of millions of multi-resolution, overlapping videos). Chrome and Firefox reinstated support for autoplay (with sound muted), so we’ve added mobile support with this latest update.

Timelapse Phone

Earth Timelapse, now available on phones and tablets, includes a handy new "Maps Mode" toggle to let you navigate the map using Google Maps.

The design of the new Timelapse interface leverages Material Design with simple, clean lines and clear focal areas, so you can easily navigate the immense dataset. We contributed this new user interface to the open-source Time Machine project, used by Carnegie Mellon and others. Read more about our design approach at Google Design.

We’re committed to creating products like Timelapse with the planet in mind, and hope that making this data easily accessible will ground debates, encourage discovery, and inform the global community’s thinking about how we live on our planet. Get started with Timelapse on the Earth Engine website, or take a mesmerizing tour of the world through YouTube.


From food waste to tasty treats in Google’s kitchens

For Kristen Rainey, a carrot is more than a vegetable. It’s the opportunity to cook “from root to stem” and make anything from salads and juice to ice cream and candy. Cooking this way helps combat food waste, an issue that affects everyone—particularly the 800 million people who suffer from hunger each year.

One third of all food produced for human consumption, or about 1.3 billion pounds of food, is wasted every year. Plus,  wasted food emits potent greenhouse gases when it decomposes. “The situation is a lose-lose-lose,” Kristen says. “When you consider all of the resources that went into making the food that’s ultimately wasted, it becomes clear that we have a problem.”

Kristen, a Procurement & Resource Utilization Manager based in Google’s Portland office, leads strategy to reduce food waste, water and energy in company kitchens and cafes. When it comes to food, they take a “circular economy” approach, meaning that they prioritize reusing ingredients and raw materials rather than buying new ones and tossing leftovers in the trash.

Using these strategies, Google has prevented six million pounds of food waste since 2014. Here are four strategies that made that happen.

1. Use technology to cut back on waste.

A LeanPath setup in a Google kitchen.

A LeanPath setup in a Google kitchen.

Google’s offices partner with LeanPath in 189 cafes in 26 different countries. The system features a camera that takes pictures of the food waste items, a scale that weighs it and a tablet for a team member to enter additional information about the item.

This info then gets uploaded to the cloud, and those numbers allow Google to track and gain insights about food waste. Using this data, chefs are able to make adjustments in the kitchen, such as scaling back the purchasing of ingredients or teaching team members how to trim vegetables in order to utilize a greater percentage of the product.

2. Consider the ingredients.

"Imperfect" produce

So-called “imperfect” produce is often used in Google’s kitchens.

When thinking of ingredients, Google’s chefs make sustainability a priority. For example, many dishes can be made with imperfect-looking produce, meaning fruits and vegetables that might look misshapen or have slight discolorations, but are still just as delicious. They are also focused on finding innovative suppliers like CoffeeCherry, which creates flour from coffee bean byproduct, or Toast, beer brewed with leftover bread.

Chefs at Google also consider using the entire vegetable, from root to stem, and an entire animal when cooking meat. Whether it’s using the skin of a sweet potato or carrot tops in a vegetable dish or using turkey neck and giblets for a stock or gravy, it’s easy to utilize food that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill.

3. Get creative in the kitchen.

Chefs prepare vegetables in a Google kitchen

Inevitably, some food is going to be left over, but that doesn’t mean it’s hitting the trash. Scott Giambastiani, Google’s food program manager based in Sunnyvale, California, says chefs in Google kitchens have come up with inventive solutions to repurpose food. They've used trimmings from leafy greens to make smoothies and the stems from those greens and root vegetables to make sauces like pesto and chimichurri. “All of these practices not only reduce food waste but they also enhance the nutritional value of the final dish,” Scott says.

Google chefs also cook in small batches as they go, looking at crowd sizes and estimating how much to cook rather than preparing a large quantity at once. This practice, combined with careful planning of how many ingredients to purchase, prevents a good deal of food waste.

4. Don’t just toss waste in the garbage.

Ingredients in a Google kitchen

If leftovers can’t be repurposed into new dishes, that doesn’t mean they always end up in a landfill. Google cafes make it a point to donate leftovers to local shelters and food banks, and compost whenever possible. They’re also focused on ways to stop food waste before it starts, by encouraging Googlers to be mindful of how much food they put on their plates—and reminding them they can always go back for seconds.