Author Archives: Kate Brandt

We support comprehensive climate and clean energy policy

Last year we announced Google’s third decade of climate action and set an ambitious moonshot goal to operate on 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030. This means that every hour of every day, our data centers and campuses will use clean energy that doesn’t emit any carbon.

We’re already hard at work and as of 2020 we are operating at over 67% carbon-free energy across our data centers, up from 61% in 2019. We’re investing in new technologies like advanced geothermal and dragonscale solar to reduce emissions at our data centers and campuses, and are beginning to demonstrate that it’s possible to operate truly carbon free.

Beyond Google, a grid powered by clean energy will reduce a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and unleash sustainable innovation in other parts of our economy, like electrification of the transportation sector. This is good for the planet, good for business, and good for American competitiveness.

Corporate commitments for carbon-free energy are helping scale up clean energy across America, and we're seeing hundreds of companies take action. In fact, we’ve encouraged the U.S. government to adopt a 24/7 carbon-free energy goal for federal facilities and helped launch a 24/7 Carbon-free Energy Compact with SE4ALL and UN Energy.

But for us and other companies to realize this future, we need to galvanize investment and modernization of our energy infrastructure. It’s for this reason that we have supported strong climate policies like clean energy standards and renewable energy tax incentives, which have helped enable clean electricity generation to grow dramatically in dozens of states.

And it’s why we support the clean energy and climate provisions in the bipartisan infrastructure and budget reconciliation packages. These provisions provide the funding and supportive regulatory climate to promote important investments in clean energy that help the U.S. move toward a cleaner and greener energy system, putting the vision of carbon-free operations within reach.

This is a pivotal moment. Strong, comprehensive climate and clean energy policy can help lead the way to 24/7 carbon-free grids and to the transition to a 1.5°C world. The moment is now.

Restor helps anyone be a part of ecological restoration

In the face of a rapidly warming planet, protecting and restoring the world’s ecosystems is critical for safeguarding the biodiversity we all depend on and for helping us adapt to a changing climate. In addition, restoring ecosystems around the world has the potential to draw down about 30% of accumulated global carbon emissions and is key to limiting the worst effects of climate change. But where do we start and how?

How Google technology helps unlock ecological insights

As part of their work to better understand the relationship between ecological systems and climate change, professor Thomas Crowther and scientists at ETH Zurich’s Crowther Lab analyzed 78,000 images of tree cover and applied machine learning (ML) models to predict where trees could naturally grow. The findings revealed a thrilling opportunity: outside of urban and agricultural areas, there are approximately 0.9 billion hectares of degraded lands worldwide that could potentially support an additional trillion trees. The discovery catapulted restoration into the headlines, and Crowther Lab saw a need to support new and existing restoration projects by bringing together practitioners and scientists to form a global network — and to make the movement accessible to the public.

The result is Restor, which launches this week. Founded by Crowther Lab and powered by Google Earth Engine and Google Cloud, Restor allows anyone to analyze the restoration potential of any place on Earth. When you outline a given area on the Restor map, it will show you data on local biodiversity, current and potential soil carbon, and other variables like land cover, soil PH and annual rainfall. With this information, anyone can better understand their local environment and become a restoration practitioner. The platform connects practitioners, facilitates the exchange of information, and makes projects visible to potential funders and the public.

Designers, animators and creative technologists from Google Creative Lab helped design and develop the platform. Additional support, in the form of a $1 million grant from Google.org, is helping the Restor team test new ways to monitor ecosystem restoration progress by collecting data on indicators such as tree size and density, soil moisture, and vegetation structure from various restoration projects currently underway. Insights from this data will help Restor’s machine learning models deliver more accurate ecological insights, monitor project development, enable early intervention in at-risk areas, and help restoration organizations learn from one another.

Working together to expand the global restoration movement

Restor is making essential scientific data and high-resolution satellite imagery openly accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world with an internet connection. As the effort to invest in and support ecosystem restoration grows, we want to make sure that everyone can effectively measure progress. To do that, there needs to be sector-wide standards for tracking restoration metrics, such as the quantity of vegetation and soil carbon, native species abundance and survival rate. To support standardization, Google.org is granting $500,000 to Climate Focus to support the Global Restoration Observatory, which will bring together leading data providers, think tanks and restoration experts to do just that.

To protect and reverse the degradation of billions of hectares of ecosystems, we all need to get involved. Through our support for organizations like Restor and Climate Focus, we hope to empower a global restoration movement and make it possible for groups and individuals everywhere to heal our planet.

Our commitment to water stewardship

I grew up in Muir Beach, California, and was fortunate to spend my childhood exploring its beautiful forests and streams. Today, these delicate ecosystems are threatened as the entire west coast of the U.S. is experiencing one of the worst droughts in recorded history. Unfortunately, this problem extends beyond the stretch of coastline I call home. Climate change is exacerbating water scarcity challenges around the world as places suffer from diminished rainfall — from Brazil's semi-arid region to Sub-saharan Africa. At the same time, we’ve seen strong storms bring devastating floods to places like the eastern U.S., central China, and western Germany.

Last September, we announced our third and most ambitious decade of climate action and laid out our plan toward a carbon-free future. Building on this commitment, we are pledging to a water stewardship target to replenish more water than we consume by 2030 and support water security in communities where we operate. This means Google will replenish 120% of the water we consume, on average, across our offices and data centers. We’re focusing on three areas: enhancing our stewardship of water resources across Google office campuses and data centers, replenishing our water use and improving watershed health and ecosystems in water-stressed communities; sharing technology and tools that help everyone predict, prevent and recover from water stress.


Managing the water we use responsibly

We use water to cool the data centers that make products like Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps and Search possible. Over the years, we've taken steps to address and improve our operational water sustainability. For example, we deployed technology that uses reclaimed wastewater to cool our data center in Douglas County, Georgia. At our office campuses in the San Francisco Bay Area, we worked with ecologists and landscape architects to develop an ecological design strategy and habitat guidelines to improve the resiliency of landscapes and nearby watershed health. This included implementing drip irrigation, using watering systems that adjust to local weather conditions, and fostering diverse landscapes on our campuses that can withstand the stresses of climate change. 

Our water stewardship journey will involve continuously enhancing our water use and consumption. At our data centers, we’ll identify opportunities to use freshwater alternatives where possible — whether that's seawater or reclaimed wastewater. When it comes to our office campuses, we’re looking to use more on-site water sources — such as collected stormwater and treated wastewater — to meet our non-potable water needs like landscape irrigation, cooling and toilet flushing.


Investing in community water security and healthy ecosystems

Water security is an issue that goes beyond our operations, and it’s not something we can solve alone. In partnership with others, we’ll invest in community projects that replenish 120% of the water we consume, on average, across all Google offices and data centers, and that improve the health of the local watersheds where our office campuses and data centers are located. 

Typically, the water we all use every day comes from local watersheds — areas of land where local precipitation collects and drains off into a common outlet, such as a river, bay or other receiving body of water. There are several ways to determine whether a watershed is sustainable including measuring water quality and availability and community access to the water. 

We’ll focus on solutions that address local water and watershed challenges. For example, we’re working with the Colorado River Indian Tribes project to reduce the amount of water that is withdrawn from Lake Mead reservoir on the Colorado River in Nevada and Arizona. In Dublin, Ireland, we’re installing rainwater harvesting systems to reduce stormwater flows to improve water quality in the River Liffey and the Dublin Bay. And in Los Angeles, we’re investing in efforts to remove water-thirsty invasive species to help the nearby ecosystem in the San Gabriel mountains.


Using data tools to predict and prevent water stress

Communities, policymakers and planners all need tools to measure and predict water availability and water needs. We’re dedicated to working with partners to make those tools and technologies universally accessible. To that end, we’ve recently worked with others on these water management efforts: 


  • Partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) to create the Freshwater Ecosystems Explorer. This tool tracks surface water changes over time on a national and local scale. 

  • Co-developed the web application OpenET with academic and government researchers to make satellite-based data that shows how and where water moves when it evaporates available to farmers, landowners and water managers.

  • Provided Google.org funding for Global Water Watch and Windward Fund’s BlueConduit. Global Water Watch provides real-time indicators for current and future water management needs, and was built in partnership with Google.org, WRI, WWF and Deltares. BlueConduit quantifies and maps hazardous lead service lines, making it easier to replace water infrastructure in vulnerable communities.

When it comes to protecting the future of our planet and the resources we rely on, there’s a lot to be done. We’ll keep looking for ways we can use our products and expertise to be good water stewards and partner with others to address these critical and shared water challenges. 


How we’re working with governments on climate goals

When it comes to sustainability, we have a responsibility to work together — across governments, businesses and communities — and take action now. As the former Federal Chief Sustainability Officer for the U.S. government, I know firsthand the positive impact of technology companies and governments working together to address climate change. 

I’m thrilled to see the 24/7 carbon-free energy commitment for Federal buildings in President Biden’s proposed infrastructure plan, and am heartened by localized efforts, like Des Moines City Council’s similar commitment to a 24/7 carbon-free goal. At Google, we know the hard work it takes to get there. We were the first major company to become carbon neutral in 2007, and in 2017 we became the first company of our size to match 100% of our annual electricity use with renewable energy, something we’ve achieved three years in a row. We also recently set our most ambitious goal yet: operating our data centers and campuses on carbon-free energy 24/7 by 2030. 

Meeting these ambitious goals can seem daunting — especially as the urgency to act intensifies. Still, I’m confident that together we can make progress. That optimism is informed by areas where we’ve already seen significant positive impact through technology. 


Creating the cleanest cloud 

We have the cleanest cloud in the industry, serving governments at the federal, state and local level —  a feat I’m proud of because of the impact that can have, not only on our customers here in the U.S. but around the world. In fact, International Data Corporation estimates cloud computing could save a billion metric tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2024. 

We spent years making our cloud regions and data centers more efficient to reduce our carbon footprint and our customers’ carbon footprint. Today, Google data centers are twice as energy efficient as typical enterprise data centers and deliver around seven times more computing power than five years ago using the same amount of electrical power. As part of this journey, we used machine learning to reduce energy consumption for data center cooling by 30%. Now, Google Cloud and DeepMind aredeveloping an Industrial Adaptive Controls platform to deliver Machine Learning-enabled energy savings on a global scale by autonomously controlling Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems in commercial buildings, data centers, and industrial facilities.

We recently became the first cloud service to share datathat helps customers to fully decarbonize apps and infrastructure, through insights on how often each Google Cloud region was supplied by carbon-free energy on an hourly basis. And already, Google Cloud helps government agencies across the U.S. lower IT costs and reduce their carbon footprints — from the Navy and the Department of Energy, to states and cities like Rhode Island, West Virginia and Pittsburgh.


Working with local governments 

Half of Earth’s population lives in cities, which is also where 70% of the world’s emissions originate. Local governments need access to technology that will help them build and act on climate action plans.

To help, in 2018, we partnered with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy to launch the Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE). EIE is a free tool that helps cities estimate emissions from buildings and transportation, understand their rooftop solar potential, and measure air quality and tree canopy coverage.

In 2020 alone, we helped 285 cities leverage EIE in their climate action planning efforts. Houston set an ambitious rooftop solar target and the City of Los Angeles used insights to inform their strategy to plant 90,000 trees. We’ve made EIE data available to more than 3,000 cities, helping them measure, plan and track progress toward climate action plans. Our goal is to help over 500 cities eliminate 1 gigaton of carbon emissions annually by 2030 and beyond, the equivalent to the annual emissions of Japan. We plan to expand EIE to thousands more cities and we’ll continue to work with local governments and share our own learnings in support of our collective decarbonization goals.  


Advocating for a sustainable future

One of the areas where government agencies can lead by example is through sustainable federal procurement — something President Biden has emphasized as a critical step in tackling climate change. This will require government agencies to consider more efficient uses of energy and water in federal contracts for goods, works or services. We’re actively working with governments to help them understand how they can benefit from our clean cloud to achieve their sustainability goals and serve their citizens with the lowest environmental impact possible. 

There’s also an opportunity to incorporate sustainability criteria into Congress’ oversight of government agencies through the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) Scorecard. This would allow agencies to learn best practices from each other, while also promoting partnerships with companies that focus on innovation and sustainability.

We’re committed to partnering with governments around the world to provide our technology and insights to drive progress in the government's sustainability efforts. You can learn more about our sustainability efforts and join us on this mission

Sustainable living tips for life at home

At Google, sustainability starts at home. We strive to build sustainability into everything we do. Today, we shared that we matched 100% of our energy use with renewable energy purchases for the third year in a row. On Earth Day and every day, we are committed to helping everyone build a more sustainable world, and part of that means making it easier for everyone to make environmentally friendly choices. According to Google Trends, over the past 90 days search interest in “How to live a sustainable lifestyle” has increased by more than 4,550%. To celebrate Earth Day while many of us are finding our new normal while sheltering in place, I wanted to share some of my favorite simple sustainability tips.

Save the planet, save some money

If I told you that putting your groceries away in the right place, freezing your leftovers, using the dishwasher (instead of washing dishes by hand) and turning down your water heater just a few degrees could help protect the environment, you might think that sounds too simple. But our greatest impact on the planet comes from just three things: food, water and energy usage. If we each make a few small changes, we can all make a big difference (and save money while we’re at it). Our Your Plan, Your Planet tool has more simple tips you can use in your home.

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Advice from Nest and Assistant


Nest Thermostat owners have saved over 50 billion kilowatt hours of energy since we first introduced the device, which comes to $3 billion in energy bill savings. In honor of Earth Day, the Google Assistant can help you save even more. Just say “Hey Google, give me an Earth Day tip” for simple ways you can save energy, like changing the temperature on your Nest Thermostat by just a few degrees until the leaf symbol pops up, so you know you’re saving energy.


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Get the buzz on bees from today’s Doodle

See what all the buzz is about in today’s interactive Earth Day Doodle, made in collaboration with The Honeybee Conservancy. Guide your bee to pollinate flowers while learning fun facts about bees and how they help the planet. Even while social distancing, there are several things you can do to help, like supporting your local beekeeper, planting a pollinator garden or creating a bee bath.


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A little “how to” help 

Recently, we’ve seen a spike in “how to” sustainability queries related to food, recycling and composting. If you’re in the U.S. or Canada, you can ask your Google Assistant how to recycle specific items and you’ll get local city and town specific answers. You can also check out our curated YouTube Earth Day playlist where you can learn how to compost, fix old clothing or turn those leftovers into a new meal. 

“How to freeze” has been a particular popular question. Here are a few of the answers I found particularly helpful:

  1. How to freeze milk? Place the milk in your freezer in its original plastic container or glass freezer-safe container. Make sure to leave room to allow the milk to expand, so remove some milk if needed. When you're ready to use the frozen milk, allow it to thaw in the fridge.

  2. How to freeze eggs? To freeze whole eggs, you simply mix the eggs together and pour the mixture into either an ice cube tray, or a freezer-safe container or bag. If you will need to use individual eggs, it would make more sense to make sure each ice cube tray holds only one egg so that you can easily separate them.

  3. How to freeze broccoli? Broccoli—florets and stems—must be blanched for effective freezing. If you freeze it raw, you'll wind up with bitter, drab green, shriveled stems. Blanching or steaming preserves the bright green color and tasty flavor. You can either blanch in boiling water for three minutes or steam for five minutes.

Enjoying planet Earth from wherever you are 

With travel plans paused, national parks temporarily closed and a collective effort to stay socially distant, the world feels a bit out of reach right now. While there’s no substitute for the real thing, virtual vacations are a great way to experience our planet from wherever you are sheltering in place using Google Earth. 

If you’re seeking natural beauty, explore the most enchanting forests, striking waterfalls, or unusual lakes around the globe. For those interested in the other creatures that share our planet, learn about the kākāpō, sea turtles or humpback whales. For anyone interested in a more scientific journey, learn about the ecosystems of the world, understand the impact of keystone species on their habitats, or learn how to be a scientist in your backyard—all you need is your smartphone.

I hope these tips are an easy way to get started. At Google, we know that individual actions collectively can make a big difference, and we’re happy to support everyone on their journey to a more sustainable life.

11 startups addressing global problems—here’s how we’re helping


When we announced our Google for Startups Accelerator on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in November, we did not foresee how dramatically day-to-day life would soon change. The COVID-19 pandemic and its widespread health, social and economic consequences have made the goal of the program—to help founders build technology to  solve serious issues facing our world—even more pressing. 

We received almost 1,200 applications from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa and—together with an external jury—we carefully evaluated each of these ideas. Today, we’re announcing the 11 startups selected to participate in our inaugural Google for Startups Accelerator on the SDGs. These startups address a wide range of social and environmental challenges, and are working toward at least one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals outlined by the U.N. 

Apic.ai (Germany) uses honeybees as biosensors in the fight to protect biodiversity. 

Cervest.earth (UK) provides personalized insights on the impact of climatic and extreme events, predicting the risks and effects of climate volatility in real-time, for any location on the planet. 

Ellipsis.earth (UK) uses drone imagery and machine learning to identify and track plastic pollution, aiming to provide a global database of the types of plastic waste found in our oceans, beaches and rivers.

Everimpact (France) combines satellite imagery and ground sensing to monitor air quality and carbon emissions in cities.  

Flare (Kenya) offers software infrastructure and operational support for medical emergency response services in Sub-Saharan Africa.

mDoc (Nigeria) uses a digital platform and in-person hubs to support people living with chronic diseases. 

OKO (Israel) is crop insurance designed for emerging markets, using new technologies in satellite imagery and weather forecasting to simplify and automate claim management. 

Ororatech (Germany) is the first commercial supplier of infrared satellite data for early detection and real-time monitoring of wildfires across the globe. 

Skilllab (Netherlands) uses AI to empower job seekers, such as refugees, to integrate their skill sets into local labor markets.

Solar Freeze (Kenya) is pioneering mobile cold storage units powered by renewable energy for smallholder farmers, to help them reduce post-harvest loss in the developing world.

Wondertree (Pakistan) accelerates cognitive and motor development in children with special needs through movement-based therapeutic and educational AR games. 

Each startup founder will work closely with engineers from over 20 Google teams and other subject matter experts to address product, engineering, business development, and funding challenges. Since this accelerator is focused on sustainability, founders will learn these skills through the lens of the Sustainable Development Goals and relevant partners.

In order to keep the program safe and accessible in light of COVID-19, the first two on-site events will now be digital. Virtual training will cover topics such as creating Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), UX Research & Behavioral Economics, ML Data Pipelines and Data Visualization, SDG innovation for sustainable impact, and Strategies for Social Impact Fundraising. The five-month program kicks off on April 21st, and a second cohort will be selected later in the year.

Google for Startups was created to support those who want to build something better—and that’s exactly what we’ll continue to do, whether online or IRL. These are just a few of the many startups working locally on global solutions, and we’ll continue to bring Google’s resources to this entrepreneurial community.

11 startups addressing global problems—here’s how we’re helping


When we announced our Google for Startups Accelerator on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in November, we did not foresee how dramatically day-to-day life would soon change. The COVID-19 pandemic and its widespread health, social and economic consequences have made the goal of the program—to help founders build technology to  solve serious issues facing our world—even more pressing. 

We received almost 1,200 applications from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa and—together with an external jury—we carefully evaluated each of these ideas. Today, we’re announcing the 11 startups selected to participate in our inaugural Google for Startups Accelerator on the SDGs. These startups address a wide range of social and environmental challenges, and are working toward at least one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals outlined by the U.N. 

Apic.ai (Germany) uses honeybees as biosensors in the fight to protect biodiversity. 

Cervest.earth (UK) provides personalized insights on the impact of climatic and extreme events, predicting the risks and effects of climate volatility in real-time, for any location on the planet. 

Ellipsis.earth (UK) uses drone imagery and machine learning to identify and track plastic pollution, aiming to provide a global database of the types of plastic waste found in our oceans, beaches and rivers.

Everimpact (France) combines satellite imagery and ground sensing to monitor air quality and carbon emissions in cities.  

Flare (Kenya) offers software infrastructure and operational support for medical emergency response services in Sub-Saharan Africa.

mDoc (Nigeria) uses a digital platform and in-person hubs to support people living with chronic diseases. 

OKO (Israel) is crop insurance designed for emerging markets, using new technologies in satellite imagery and weather forecasting to simplify and automate claim management. 

Ororatech (Germany) is the first commercial supplier of infrared satellite data for early detection and real-time monitoring of wildfires across the globe. 

Skilllab (Netherlands) uses AI to empower job seekers, such as refugees, to integrate their skill sets into local labor markets.

Solar Freeze (Kenya) is pioneering mobile cold storage units powered by renewable energy for smallholder farmers, to help them reduce post-harvest loss in the developing world.

Wondertree (Pakistan) accelerates cognitive and motor development in children with special needs through movement-based therapeutic and educational AR games. 

Each startup founder will work closely with engineers from over 20 Google teams and other subject matter experts to address product, engineering, business development, and funding challenges. Since this accelerator is focused on sustainability, founders will learn these skills through the lens of the Sustainable Development Goals and relevant partners.

In order to keep the program safe and accessible in light of COVID-19, the first two on-site events will now be digital. Virtual training will cover topics such as creating Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), UX Research & Behavioral Economics, ML Data Pipelines and Data Visualization, SDG innovation for sustainable impact, and Strategies for Social Impact Fundraising. The five-month program kicks off on April 21st, and a second cohort will be selected later in the year.

Google for Startups was created to support those who want to build something better—and that’s exactly what we’ll continue to do, whether online or IRL. These are just a few of the many startups working locally on global solutions, and we’ll continue to bring Google’s resources to this entrepreneurial community.

Supporting social impact startups

Around the world, there are more startups addressing the world’s most pressing social challenges. There’s Asaduru, a South Africa-based green building business; Skilllab BV in the Netherlands, which helps refugees better integrate into labor markets; and Limbic in the UK, which uses AI to better understand mental health data.

Technology can help address some of the world’s biggest challenges, from empowering others to use AI to address social challenges, to setting ambitious and long-term environmental sustainability goals. When businesses and investors work together with government, nonprofits, communities and individuals, we can make real progress.

Today we’re launching the Google for Startups Accelerator focused on sustainable development goals. Geared toward social impact startups working to create a healthier and more sustainable future, the accelerator provides access to training, products and technical support. Startup founders will work with Google engineers and receive mentoring from over 20 teams at Google, as well as outside experts and local mentors. 

Startups will be selected based on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals including poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. Applications will open for startups from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa in the next few weeks and eight to ten startups will take part in a six-month accelerator program in early 2020. A second cohort will be selected later in the year. 

The program is designed to address the unique challenges founders face when building a social impact company: 

Product and engineering expertise

People with social impact expertise don’t always have experience building tech products. So our program seeks to bring startups together with the best technology products, data and people to help them build expertise. 

Business development

Monetization for social impact startups is complex and can involve multiple parties: The people who pay for it may not be the people who use it, or the people who benefit from it. Our accelerator will help founders connect with the audiences they need to, such as potential users, investors and advertisers. 

Access to funding

While investors are increasingly seeing the value in social impact startups, there are unique challenges in attracting the right investors, and competing with traditional startups who are focused primarily on growth or acquisition. This accelerator will help participants connect and work with a wider base of potential investors.   

The new accelerator is part of Google for Startups which help startups build and scale great products by matching them with the best of Google—our people, network and advanced technologies. 

I’m Feeling Earthy: Earth Day trends and more

It’s Earth Day—take a walk with us.

First, let’s dig into issues taking root in Search. Ahead of Earth Day, “solar energy,” “drought” and “endangered species” climbed in popularity this week. Meanwhile, people are looking for ways their own actions can make a positive impact. The top “how to recycle” searches were for plastic, paper, batteries, plastic bags, and styrofoam. And around the world, trending queries about Earth Day were “how many trees will be saved by recycling?” and “which type of plastic is more friendly to the environment?”  

To explore some of the other searches that are blooming for Earth Day, take a look at our trends page.

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In our corner of the world, Earth Day celebrations started on Google Earth’s first birthday (tweet at @googleearth with #ImFeelingEarthy and see where it takes you!). The party continues today with a special tribute to Jane Goodall in today’s Doodle, and kids inspired by the Doodle can create their own Google logo, thanks to our partnership with World Wildlife Fund. And while we’re feeling extra Earthy this week, the environment is important to our work all year long—here’s what we’re doing for our operations, our surroundings, our customers, and our community.

Why we should develop “circular cities” and how Google technology can help

The process of digging up materials, turning those materials into a product, and shipping it to an “end user” (who eventually tosses it in the trash) is called the “linear” economy, and it’s depleting our world of resources faster than they can be replenished. We need to ditch this old model and move to a “circular” economy. Instead of using raw resources (think timber and ore) to create new products, the circular economy keeps materials in circulation for multiple uses, whether they are maintained, reused, refurbished, or recycled.

Today, 54 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas accounting for 75 percent of natural resource consumption, 50 percent of global waste production, and 60-80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. So, the concept of the circular economy is especially relevant in cities.

Digital technology helps city leaders and citizens gather, refine, and analyze data to create cities that are circular by design. Today we published a white paper with our partners at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that explores how digital technology and a few of Google’s existing efforts can enable more circular cities. Google has captured insights across cities, from the quality of the air people breathe to the amount of solar power people could put on their roof at home. Google Cloud Platform allows for global-scale data sharing and provides the foundation for collaborative projects between public and private organizations, such as the Waze Connected Citizens Program.

Along with Arup and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, we’re also exploring how to build circular cities through a joint project called the Circularity Lab. Located in both the Bay Area and New York City, the Lab will raise awareness about circularity in the built environment and create a space where people can see how it could positively impact their lives and communities.

The circular economy model, enriched with technology, is a powerful and potentially highly productive combination. We’re excited to continue exploring these opportunities.