Tag Archives: Sustainability

Doing our part for California’s monarch butterflies

We’re always looking for ways to use our technology and resources to protect the planet and support our communities. This means setting moonshot goals — like operating entirely on carbon-free energy, every hour of every day by 2030, and it also means working together with governments and nonprofits, to address urgent and local sustainability issues in creative ways. 


Since 2014, we’ve been using our campuses to support wildlife and our communities. Our Ecology Program has created over 13 acres of new site-appropriate habitat on our campuses, with dozens more in the works.


As part of this work, we’re taking steps to help address the threat facing California’s monarch butterflies. Last year, California only saw 2,000 monarch butterflies during the winter: a 99.9% decline from the millions of monarchsthat visited the state in the 1980s and over a 90% decline just from 2019, when 29,000 monarchs were identified. Unfortunately, increased development, climate change and pesticides are all contributing to the rapid decline of the once-plentiful monarchs.  This threatens the species as well as the crops we eat and the entire ecosystems that the monarchs call home. 


We’re building on the state of California’s conservation efforts with $1 million to help restore and enhance an additional 600 acres of habitat for monarchs and other pollinators across California, including creating more habitat on our own campuses. Monarchs need more habitat to support their repopulation and migration, which means protecting and restoring key sites on the coast and adding more native milkweed and nectar plants in priority areas across the state.

Image of a monarch butterfly, flying over a green plant with a blue sky in the background.

 A monarch butterfly flies over a narrowleaf milkweed plant in California.

Google will spend $500,000 to create new monarch and other pollinator habitat on our Bay Area and Southern California campuses. And Google.org is granting $500,000 across the Xerces Society and Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), to help protect and restore hundreds of acres of important monarch habitat where it matters most across California, including habitat restoration south of San José in coordination with the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority


We’ll also be sponsoring research to understand the science behind why the monarch population is crashing and will be monitoring monarchs on our Bay Area campuses to observe their habitat use, sharing our findings with local organizations and agency scientists to help identify other potential efforts that can reverse the trend.  


This week, not coincidentally, is National Pollinator Week. We hope today’s news raises awareness of the plight of the monarch butterfly, and encourages others to contribute to save this critical and beautiful fixture in the backyards, parks, farms and wildlands of our home state.

Photos courtesy Xerces Society

A marine biologist uses Maps to explore under the sea

Just under the water lies one of the biggest mysteries of the Great Barrier Reef: blue holes. These underwater sinkholes give researchers a rare look at ocean life and how we can protect it. Until a few years ago, only two blue holes were documented in the entirety of the Great Barrier Reef — they are hard to find and even harder to get to. 

With the help of Google Maps, marine biologist Johnny Gaskell and a team of researchers are finding previously unknown blue holes. In 2017, after witnessing Cyclone Debbie destroy many of the reefs in its path, he set out to find more blue holes. Home to hundreds of species of coral and serving as a protective waters for larger marine life, these formations give scientists a view of history buried in undisturbed sediment layers and clues about  how to better protect coral reefs. 

Using Google Maps’ satellite view, Johnny followed the cyclone’s path to pinpoint areas along the reef that might have been spared from damage. That’s when he spotted perfect circles along the reef, indicating a potential blue hole. The formation he identified was south of the Whitsundays in the Hard Line Reefs, a difficult-to-reach area of the Great Barrier Reef that’s dangerous to navigate. Despite this, Johnny and a team of divers headed out into the unknown, unsure of what — if anything — awaited them.

There’s still so many spots out in the Great Barrier Reef that are unexplored. Johnny Gaskell
Marine Biologist

With the satellite view of Google Maps on their phones, they navigated their boats through narrow channels in unsurveyed waters until the blue dot on their map was directly over the blue hole. Johnny dove in and found healthy coral formations that have sat undisturbed, possibly for centuries. Along the edges were delicate birdsnest corals, vibrant giant clams and huge branching staghorn corals. In the stillness of the blue hole’s center, there were green sea turtles, giant trevally and sharks that all called the dark, cool water home. 

With the help of Google Maps, a discovery that would have taken years of underwater exploration on the seafloor is now allowing researchers to expand our understanding of the world’s largest ecosystem. Today, Johnny is still working to build a snapshot of coral reef conditions. Working with Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Reef Census project, they are using geotagged images to give everyone — from scientists to students — a better idea of what’s going in depths of the water whether they dive in or not. 

In 2021 the Great Reef Census is expanding to reach more reefs, collect more data, and broaden its research goals. To join the efforts, sign up as a Citizen or contribute directly via the project’s fundraising page

Street by street: How we’re mapping air quality in Europe

Since 2015, dozens of Street View cars outfitted with pollution sensors have been cruising the roads to track air quality in cities all over the world — from Oakland to Sydney. Over the past six years, these cars have collected more than 100 million street-by-street air quality measurements, all for Project Air View — our effort to bring detailed air quality maps to scientists, policymakers and everyday people. These hyperlocal air quality measurements are helping governments and communities make more informed choices about changes that can help city residents breathe cleaner air.


In celebration of EU Green Week next week,we are sharing a new air quality map for Copenhagen and recently started working with the City of Dublin to collect air quality measurements with Aclima technology in our first-ever, all-electric Street View car. This is all part of Google’s Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE), our free tool that provides thousands of cities with actionable data and insights to reduce their emissions.


Capturing air quality in Copenhagen

In 2018, we started mapping hyperlocal air quality in Copenhagen, working closely with the City of Copenhagen and Utrecht University, in collaboration with Aarhus University. The map — which is already being put to use —  includes measurements of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), black carbon, and ultrafine particles. Through mapping street-by-street air quality we found that Copenhagen’s major access roads have nearly three times more ultrafine particles and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and five times higher black carbon levels when compared to less trafficked residential areas.
This air quality map shows the street-by-street average of nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Utrecht University & Google, 2021.

This air quality map shows the street-by-street average of nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Utrecht University & Google, 2021.

Armed with these air quality insights, the City of Copenhagen and urban planners are working to design future neighborhoods that include “Thrive Zones.” These zones aim to build places, like schools and playgrounds, away from high-pollution zones to provide young children with access to cleaner air. The city also plans to use the air quality data to encourage more sustainable transportation and create healthier bicycle and walking routes away from car traffic.


An all-electric Street View car hits the road in Dublin

We’ve also partnered with the City of Dublin to gather hyperlocal air quality measurements in Ireland’s capital, where our first all-electric Street View vehicle, a Jaguar I-PACE, has hit the roads. This is the first time an all-electric Google Street View car is being used to capture air pollution and greenhouse gas measurements and Google Street View imagery — a feat made possible due to Jaguar Land Rover engineers integrating Google's Street View technology and specialized Aclima sensors into the vehicle.

Our Jaguar I-PACE is able to measure nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitric oxide (NO), carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), fine particulate matter (PM2.5), and ozone (O3). Aclima’s platform analyzes and quality assures pollution measurements to develop these maps.


The road ahead

Project Air View’s air quality insights will be integrated into the European Commission-funded  European Expanse project, which is exploring how pollution is impacting the health of Europeans and how hyperlocal air quality measurement efforts can inform policy development.


We also plan to equip more Street View cars with air quality mapping capabilities so that we can continue sharing hyperlocal air quality insights. By mapping air quality in more cities, we can equip people with the information they need to create more sustainable cities that protect the health of everyone.


Source: Google LatLong


We now do more computing where there’s cleaner energy

At Google, we care about the energy use of our data centers. In fact, we were the first major company to be carbon-neutral way back in 2007, and we’ve been matching 100% of our annual electricity use with renewable energy purchases since 2017. But we want to go even further. By 2030, we plan to completely decarbonize our electricity use for every hour of every day. One way we can do this is by adjusting our operations in real time so that we get the most out of the clean energy that’s already available. 

And that’s exactly what our newest milestone in carbon-intelligent computing does: Google can now shift moveable compute tasks between different data centers, based on regional hourly carbon-free energy availability. This includes both variable sources of energy such as solar and wind, as well as “always-on” carbon-free energy such as our recently announced geothermal project. This moves us closer to our goal of operating on carbon-free energy everywhere, at all times, by 2030.  

Animated GIF illustrating how Google shifts compute tasks between data centers to better use carbon-free energy, and hence minimize the fleet’s carbon footprint.

Shifting compute tasks across location is a logical progression of our first step in carbon-aware computing, which was to shift compute across time. By enabling our data centers to shift flexible tasks to different times of the day, we were able to use more electricity when carbon-free energy sources like solar and wind are plentiful. Now, with our newest update, we’re also able to shift more electricity use to where carbon-free energy is available.

The amount of computing going on at any given data center varies across the world, increasing or decreasing throughout the day. Our carbon-intelligent platform uses day-ahead predictions of how heavily a given grid will be relying on carbon-intensive energy in order to shift computing across the globe, favoring regions where there’s more carbon-free electricity. The new platform does all this while still getting everything that needs to get done, done — meaning you can keep on streaming YouTube videos, uploading Photos, finding directions or whatever else.

We’re applying this first to our media processing efforts, which encodes, analyzes and processes millions of multimedia files like videos uploaded to YouTube, Photos and Drive. Like many computing jobs at Google, these can technically run in many places (of course, limitations like privacy laws apply). Now, Google's global carbon-intelligent computing platform will increasingly reserve and use hourly compute capacity on the most clean grids available worldwide for these compute jobs — meaning it moves as much energy consumption as possible to times and places where energy is cleaner, minimizing carbon-intensive energy consumption.

Google Cloud’s developers and customers can also prioritize cleaner grids, and maximize the proportion of carbon-free energy that powers their apps by choosing regions with better carbon-free energy (CFE) scores.

To learn more, tune in to the livestream of our carbon-aware computing workshop on June 17 at 8:00 a.m PT. And for more information on our journey towards 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030, read CEO Sundar Pichai’s latest blog post.

We now do more computing where there’s cleaner energy

At Google, we care about the energy use of our data centers. In fact, we were the first major company to be carbon-neutral way back in 2007, and we’ve been matching 100% of our annual electricity use with renewable energy purchases since 2017. But we want to go even further. By 2030, we plan to completely decarbonize our electricity use for every hour of every day. One way we can do this is by adjusting our operations in real time so that we get the most out of the clean energy that’s already available. 

And that’s exactly what our newest milestone in carbon-intelligent computing does: Google can now shift moveable compute tasks between different data centers, based on regional hourly carbon-free energy availability. This includes both variable sources of energy such as solar and wind, as well as “always-on” carbon-free energy such as our recently announced geothermal project. This moves us closer to our goal of operating on carbon-free energy everywhere, at all times, by 2030.  

Animated GIF illustrating how Google shifts compute tasks between data centers to better use carbon-free energy, and hence minimize the fleet’s carbon footprint.

Shifting compute tasks across location is a logical progression of our first step in carbon-aware computing, which was to shift compute across time. By enabling our data centers to shift flexible tasks to different times of the day, we were able to use more electricity when carbon-free energy sources like solar and wind are plentiful. Now, with our newest update, we’re also able to shift more electricity use to where carbon-free energy is available.

The amount of computing going on at any given data center varies across the world, increasing or decreasing throughout the day. Our carbon-intelligent platform uses day-ahead predictions of how heavily a given grid will be relying on carbon-intensive energy in order to shift computing across the globe, favoring regions where there’s more carbon-free electricity. The new platform does all this while still getting everything that needs to get done, done — meaning you can keep on streaming YouTube videos, uploading Photos, finding directions or whatever else.

We’re applying this first to our media processing efforts, which encodes, analyzes and processes millions of multimedia files like videos uploaded to YouTube, Photos and Drive. Like many computing jobs at Google, these can technically run in many places (of course, limitations like privacy laws apply). Now, Google's global carbon-intelligent computing platform will increasingly reserve and use hourly compute capacity on the most clean grids available worldwide for these compute jobs — meaning it moves as much energy consumption as possible to times and places where energy is cleaner, minimizing carbon-intensive energy consumption.

Google Cloud’s developers and customers can also prioritize cleaner grids, and maximize the proportion of carbon-free energy that powers their apps by choosing regions with better carbon-free energy (CFE) scores.

To learn more, tune in to the livestream of our carbon-aware computing workshop on June 17 at 8:00 a.m PT. And for more information on our journey towards 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030, read CEO Sundar Pichai’s latest blog post.

A Matter of Impact: April updates from Google.org

Last week we celebrated Earth Day — the second one that’s taken place during the pandemic. It’s becoming clear that these two challenges aren’t mutually exclusive. We know, for example, that climate change impacts the same determinants of health that worsen the effects of COVID-19. And, as reports have noted, we can’t afford to relax when it comes to the uneven progress we’re making toward a greener future. 


At Google, we’re taking stock of where we’ve been and how we can continue building a more sustainable future. We’ve been deeply committed to sustainability ever since our founding two decades ago: we were the first major company to become carbon neutral and the first to match our electricity use with 100 percent renewable energy. 


While we lead with our own actions, we can only fully realize the potential of a green and sustainable world through strong partnerships with businesses, governments, and nonprofits. At Google.org, we’re particularly excited about the potential for technology-based solutions from nonprofits and social innovators. Time and again we hear from social entrepreneurs who have game-changing ideas but need a little boost to bring them to life. 


Through programs like our AI for Social Good Initiative and our most recent Google.org Impact Challenge on Climate, we are helping find, fund, and build these ideas. Already they’re having significant impact on critical issues from air quality to emissions analysis. In this month’s digest, you can read more about some of these ideas and the mark they’re making on the world. 


In case you missed it 

Earlier this month, Google sharedour latest series of commitments to support vaccine equity efforts across the globe. As part of this, Google.org is supporting Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, in their latest fundraising push with initial funding to help fully vaccinate 250,000 people in low and middle income countries, technical assistance to improve their vaccine delivery systems and accelerate global distribution and Ad Grants to amplify fundraising efforts. We’ve since kicked off an internal giving campaign to increase our impact, bringing the total vaccinations funded to 880,000 to date, which includes matching funds from Gavi. And in the U.S., we’ve provided $2.5 million in overall grants to Partners in Health, Stop the Spread and Team Rubicon who are working directly with 500 community-based organizations to boost vaccine confidence and increase access to vaccines in Black, Latino and rural communities.


Gavin McCormick, Executive Director of WattTime

Gavin McCormick, Executive Director of WattTime

Hear from one of our grantees: WattTime  

Gavin McCormick is the Executive Director of WattTime, a nonprofit that offers technology solutions that make it easy for anyone to achieve emissions reductions. WattTime is an AI Impact Challenge grantee and received both funding and a cohort of Google.org Fellows to help support their work, particularly a project that helps individuals and corporations understand how to use energy when it’s most sustainable and allows regulators to understand the state of global emissions. 


“Data insights powered by AI help drive innovative solutions — from streaming services’ content suggestions to navigation on maps. But they’re still not often applied to some of the biggest challenges of our time like the climate crisis. My organization harnesses AI to empower people and companies alike to choose cleaner energy and slash emissions. Like enabling smart devices such as thermostats and electric vehicles to use electricity when power is clean and avoid using electricity when it’s dirty. Now with support from Google.org, we’re working with members of Climate TRACE — a global coalition we co-founded in 2019 of nonprofits, tech companies and climate leaders — to apply satellite imagery and other remote sensing technology to estimate nearly all types of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions in close to real time. We can’t solve the climate crisis if we don’t have an up-to-date understanding of where the emissions are coming from.” 

Alok Talekar, a Google.org Fellow with WattTime

Alok Talekar, a Google.org Fellow with WattTime

A few words with a Google.org Fellow: Alok Talekar

Alok Talekar is a software engineer at Google who participated in a Google.org Fellowship with WattTime. 


“I am a software engineer at Google and work on AI for social good with a focus on the agricultural sector in India. The Climate TRACE Google.org Fellowship with WattTime gave me the opportunity to change my career trajectory and work on climate crisis solutions full time. The mission that Gavin McCormick and team are pursuing is ambitious, and technology can help make it a reality. Over the course of the Fellowship, the team was able to use machine learning to process satellite imagery data of power plants around the world and determine when a particular plant was operational based on the imagery provided. I then helped the team to model and validate the bounds of accuracy of this approach in order to predict the cumulative annual emissions of a given power plant. I was proud to be able to contribute to the project in its early days and to be part of the core team that helped build this massive coalition for monitoring global emissions.”


Trash to treasure: How Google thinks about deconstruction

For Lauren Sparandara, stepping onto a construction site transports her to the scrappy dollhouses of her childhood.

"I would scavenge styrofoam from the household trash and use it to build these elaborate cityscapes for my dolls," she laughs. "I see a similar opportunity when I look at buildings that are about to be demolished: What could we make with those?"

At Google, Lauren looks for ways to reuse materials in Google's design and construction process — like salvaging perfectly good doors and hardware, cabinets, furniture, and lockers from existing buildings to reuse them in Google’s spaces or donate to local organizations in need. 

I sat down with Lauren to talk about what she envisions for future Google construction projects, and how it relates to the circular economy.

First things first: What is deconstruction?

Typically, heavy machinery demolishes existing structures on a construction site, which means usable materials are often sent to the landfill.

The alternative is deconstruction, where a building is systematically dismantled from the outside in. To the greatest extent possible, building components — like interior doors or wood components — are kept intact and salvaged for reuse, creating a more circular system. Deconstruction also increases the recyclability of materials that can’t be reused.

Existing buildings should be viewed as resources rather than something to be disposed of. Lauren Sparandara
Bay Area Sustainability Partner

Why does deconstruction interest you?

Existing buildings should be viewed as resources rather than something to be disposed of. Construction and demolition activities account for nearly two-thirds of all waste generated annually in the U.S. 

While traditional demolition is certainly time and cost-efficient, there's a huge missed opportunity when salvageable materials are landfilled. Deconstruction can shrink the environmental impact of construction and expand green job opportunities — within both the construction industry and salvaged and refurbished materials market. 


Can you give us an example of deconstruction put into practice at Google?

We've salvaged materials from small-scale interior refreshes since 2012 and have diverted over 1,000 tons of materials from landfills in the Bay Area in the process — that's roughly the weight of five Boeing 747s. When designing new office spaces, we look for opportunities to repurpose existing buildings. Our Spruce Goose office in the Los Angeles area is a converted airplane hangar, and our Fulton Market office in Chicago was a cold-storage warehouse. In Munich, we’ve started converting the Arnulfpost — a 1930s modernist-style postal distribution facility — into an inspiring workplace with public spaces for the community.

In addition to all of that, we want to spread awareness and advance research on circularity in buildings. In 2019, we partnered with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Building Product Ecosystems, and Ackerstein Sustainability to publish a whitepaper on commercial deconstruction and reuse, with the hopes of driving the wider building industry toward more circular practices.

Where do you see this work going in the future?

There’s the potential to think big about what we can do with our existing building stock, and reframe our thinking to view existing buildings as amazing resources rather than waste. Unfortunately, most deconstruction examples are historic residential properties, so we’re asking: “How can we create circular material flows from a suburban office building built in the 1980s? How do we prevent any usable materials from going to the landfill?’ 

We're starting to answer these questions as we work on new development projects. At the Caribbean office development in Sunnyvale, California, we salvaged 35 tons of material to donate to California charities and nonprofits. And at the Charleston East development project in Mountain View, California we’re incorporating over 30 types of salvaged materials.

A fork lift loads stacks of wood doors onto the back of a truck to get ready for donation.

A fork lift loads stacks of wood doors onto the back of a truck to get ready for donation.

Circularity is simple in concept but can be complex in practice — especially in industries that have long operated on a "take-make-waste" model. What challenges do you face?

First and foremost: existing office parks were not designed for deconstruction. Most of today's existing commercial buildings were built between 1960-2000, an era that relied on adhesives and composite materials, which make these structures challenging to dismantle. Furthermore, buildings can contain hazardous materials that shouldn’t be reintroduced into new construction.

In our white paper, we identified three additional barriers to deconstruction: regulatory hurdles, a limited deconstruction workforce, and an under-developed reuse marketplace. Luckily, there’s progress already being made in these spaces. 


Given these challenges, what are you doing to build circularity into Google's future workplaces?

We need to approach all elements of design with circular economy practices in mind. Our goal is to create workplaces that are resilient to change and don’t need to be demolished every twenty years. This requires thoughtful design — from adaptive reuse of existing buildings and avoiding building new structures in the first place to using healthy materials and small details like designing joints that can be mechanically dismantled. 


Back to your childhood dollhouses, what was a deconstruction or reuse example of your own that makes you proud?

My family recently remodeled our home, which happens to be the home I grew up in. Whenever possible, we have attempted to donate or reuse materials. We’ve found ways to reuse wood to replace our backyard fence, and we've donated our older appliances. My 5-year-old son even decided to repurpose old packaging material to make his last Halloween costume. I guess as they say, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”!

Lauren Sparandara’s son, Jack, in his Halloween costume made of old packaging materials.

Lauren Sparandara’s son, Jack, in his Halloween costume made of old packaging materials.

Trash to treasure: How Google thinks about deconstruction

For Lauren Sparandara, stepping onto a construction site transports her to the scrappy dollhouses of her childhood.

"I would scavenge styrofoam from the household trash and use it to build these elaborate cityscapes for my dolls," she laughs. "I see a similar opportunity when I look at buildings that are about to be demolished: What could we make with those?"

At Google, Lauren looks for ways to reuse materials in Google's design and construction process — like salvaging perfectly good doors and hardware, cabinets, furniture, and lockers from existing buildings to reuse them in Google’s spaces or donate to local organizations in need. 

I sat down with Lauren to talk about what she envisions for future Google construction projects, and how it relates to the circular economy.

First things first: What is deconstruction?

Typically, heavy machinery demolishes existing structures on a construction site, which means usable materials are often sent to the landfill.

The alternative is deconstruction, where a building is systematically dismantled from the outside in. To the greatest extent possible, building components — like interior doors or wood components — are kept intact and salvaged for reuse, creating a more circular system. Deconstruction also increases the recyclability of materials that can’t be reused.

Existing buildings should be viewed as resources rather than something to be disposed of. Lauren Sparandara
Bay Area Sustainability Partner

Why does deconstruction interest you?

Existing buildings should be viewed as resources rather than something to be disposed of. Construction and demolition activities account for nearly two-thirds of all waste generated annually in the U.S. 

While traditional demolition is certainly time and cost-efficient, there's a huge missed opportunity when salvageable materials are landfilled. Deconstruction can shrink the environmental impact of construction and expand green job opportunities — within both the construction industry and salvaged and refurbished materials market. 


Can you give us an example of deconstruction put into practice at Google?

We've salvaged materials from small-scale interior refreshes since 2012 and have diverted over 1,000 tons of materials from landfills in the Bay Area in the process — that's roughly the weight of five Boeing 747s. When designing new office spaces, we look for opportunities to repurpose existing buildings. Our Spruce Goose office in the Los Angeles area is a converted airplane hangar, and our Fulton Market office in Chicago was a cold-storage warehouse. In Munich, we’ve started converting the Arnulfpost — a 1930s modernist-style postal distribution facility — into an inspiring workplace with public spaces for the community.

In addition to all of that, we want to spread awareness and advance research on circularity in buildings. In 2019, we partnered with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Building Product Ecosystems, and Ackerstein Sustainability to publish a whitepaper on commercial deconstruction and reuse, with the hopes of driving the wider building industry toward more circular practices.

Where do you see this work going in the future?

There’s the potential to think big about what we can do with our existing building stock, and reframe our thinking to view existing buildings as amazing resources rather than waste. Unfortunately, most deconstruction examples are historic residential properties, so we’re asking: “How can we create circular material flows from a suburban office building built in the 1980s? How do we prevent any usable materials from going to the landfill?’ 

We're starting to answer these questions as we work on new development projects. At the Caribbean office development in Sunnyvale, California, we salvaged 35 tons of material to donate to California charities and nonprofits. And at the Charleston East development project in Mountain View, California we’re incorporating over 30 types of salvaged materials.

A fork lift loads stacks of wood doors onto the back of a truck to get ready for donation.

A fork lift loads stacks of wood doors onto the back of a truck to get ready for donation.

Circularity is simple in concept but can be complex in practice — especially in industries that have long operated on a "take-make-waste" model. What challenges do you face?

First and foremost: existing office parks were not designed for deconstruction. Most of today's existing commercial buildings were built between 1960-2000, an era that relied on adhesives and composite materials, which make these structures challenging to dismantle. Furthermore, buildings can contain hazardous materials that shouldn’t be reintroduced into new construction.

In our white paper, we identified three additional barriers to deconstruction: regulatory hurdles, a limited deconstruction workforce, and an under-developed reuse marketplace. Luckily, there’s progress already being made in these spaces. 


Given these challenges, what are you doing to build circularity into Google's future workplaces?

We need to approach all elements of design with circular economy practices in mind. Our goal is to create workplaces that are resilient to change and don’t need to be demolished every twenty years. This requires thoughtful design — from adaptive reuse of existing buildings and avoiding building new structures in the first place to using healthy materials and small details like designing joints that can be mechanically dismantled. 


Back to your childhood dollhouses, what was a deconstruction or reuse example of your own that makes you proud?

My family recently remodeled our home, which happens to be the home I grew up in. Whenever possible, we have attempted to donate or reuse materials. We’ve found ways to reuse wood to replace our backyard fence, and we've donated our older appliances. My 5-year-old son even decided to repurpose old packaging material to make his last Halloween costume. I guess as they say, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”!

Lauren Sparandara’s son, Jack, in his Halloween costume made of old packaging materials.

Lauren Sparandara’s son, Jack, in his Halloween costume made of old packaging materials.

Mountaineering to Maps: Rebecca Moore’s fight for the planet

Rebecca Moore lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains, a series of peaks in Northern California where the ocean and redwoods collide. Living there, amongst the trees, she turned to mapping as a way to protect the planet.

When a logging project was proposed in her community, she used Google Earth to show everyone how the plans would affect their daily lives and, more importantly, endanger the precious ecosystem surrounding them.  The logging plan was denied and that redwood forest is now being considered for permanent protection as public open space.

“In a way, technology and digital mapping can give nature a voice — it puts it on the map and helps it defend itself,” Rebecca says. “Seeing facts on a map quickly squashes debate and dispels misconceptions.”

For the past 15 years, Rebecca has led the Google Earth, Earth Engine and Outreach team. Their goal is to create a digital replica of the planet and put it into hands everywhere. They’ve mapped everything from endangered animal populations and fisheries to CO2 emissions and wildfires. We talked with Rebecca about why she thinks maps are so powerful and how she finds it in herself to tackle hard problems, like climate change. 


What does your team at Google do? 

Our goal is to organize all of the planet’s information and make it accessible, understandable and actionable. For example, Google Earth Engine helps us take the flood of environmental information from things like satellite imagery and weather data, and turn it into something that anyone can understand and take action on. And our Google Earth Outreach program helps nonprofits, communities and indigenous peoples around the world use our mapping tools to solve whatever problems they’re tackling. 


What makes maps so powerful when it comes to protecting the planet? 

The world is changing, but it’s hard to visualize it. If we can create a dynamic, digital replica of the real world and extract meaningful insights from it, then we can put it into the hands of people who can help protect and conserve the planet for generations to come. 

For example, we’ve seen how putting this information into the hands of indigenous communities can help protect land that’s under threat. We worked with the Suruí, a tribe in the Amazon, to use Google Earth‘s mapping tools to stop illegal logging in their region. 

Now, with Timelapse in Google Earth, anybody can fly over any region in the world and see decades of planetary change. When you see these changes with your own eyes, there’s what I call the digital overview effect — you become more emotional and more engaged. 


How do you identify areas where Google can have the biggest impact?

I look for the hard problems that Google can make a dent in. Climate change is at the top of that list. It’s an existential threat, and we’re all experiencing the effects of rising temperatures: from droughts to wildfires to islands disappearing. There’s a sense of urgency that we have to act now. 

Then I look for patterns. I've read voraciously over the past few years to understand what the world's best thinkers have identified as potential pathways to solving climate change. I look at how Google can uniquely contribute to those solutions. 


When taking on big challenges, how do you stay motivated? 

I was a rock climber and mountaineer for years — I even climbed in the Himalayas. When you climb a mountain, you don't actually see the summit from where you start. But you know if you head in a positive direction, eventually you’ll see it, and get there. And along the way, the little breakthroughs will motivate you. Same goes for making meaningful change to protect the planet. 

Sometimes the best thing is to make a choice, commit and go forward. Stay attentive and mindful to what's happening along the way, and be prepared to make mid-course corrections. And stay patient, taking on big challenges — whether it’s climbing or climate change — is hard work and it takes time. Even when the summit (or your goal) feels far away, don’t forget to turn around and look back to appreciate how far you have come. That can be super-motivating, and applies to my work today.

You didn’t always work at the intersection of environment and technology. What put you on this path? 

I studied computer science, and after school I just wanted a job that was intellectually challenging. It didn’t matter so much what it was for and what I worked on. That changed after my father, who was an attorney and argued a landmark civil rights case, and my brother, who was an artist and an activist, died within five months of each other. It hit me that we don’t live forever. It seems cliche, but I didn’t want to look back and think I frittered away with stuff that didn’t matter.  

I needed that sense of urgency to stop what I was doing, leave my job and reinvent myself. I didn’t know what my next move was, and it took me three years to figure it out, but I was determined to find a way to bring my own talents to bear and work on things I cared about. I started small, helping protect the nature that surrounds my community in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and went from there.

3 ways to find and support eco-friendly places on Maps

In an effort to be more eco-friendly, we all know that it’s best to reduce, reuse and recycle — and to support businesses and places that do the same. But it’s not always easy to know which restaurants compost or where you can recycle items, like electronics or clothing. Thankfully, Google Maps and its community of contributors are making it easier for everyone to make choices that are better for the planet. 


As an active member of the Local Guides program, a global community of people who share their local knowledge and recommendations on Google Maps, Karol helps people find environmentally-friendly spots in her hometown of Posadas, Argentina.


“Posadas is truly a blessed place surrounded by nature, but it breaks my heart that it’s just taking its first steps on the path to being environmentally-friendly,” says Karol, who used the list featureon Maps to curate and share hard-to-find recycling centers in her city. “Anything that can be done to promote sustainable consumption is priceless.”


A photo of Karol at Connect Live in 2019.

 A photo of Karol at Connect Live in 2019.

Karol is no stranger to connecting people who care about the planet to the local places that do too. Here are three tips she has for finding and supporting places on Google Maps that are focused on reducing waste, reusing items and recycling materials. 

Look for new recycling information on Maps and Search 👀

Now you can find out where you can recycle or properly dispose of specific items by looking at Business Profiles on Google Maps and Search. Starting today, merchants who have verified Business Profiles on Google can easily add information about what items they recycle using Google My Business. You’ll be able to see what places accept materials — like clothing, electronics, batteries, household hazardous waste, light bulbs and glass bottles — so you know you’re keeping these items out of the landfill. Soon people who visit certain locations will be prompted to answer questions in Maps after their visit so they can let others know what types of materials can be recycled. 

Four mobile phone screens showing how to access recyclable materials information on Maps.

Now businesses can let people know the types of materials they accept for recycling.

Put sustainable businesses on the map 📍

Just like Karol created a list for recycling drop-off locations in her city, she suggests building and sharing lists for all types of places and businesses that make it easier to consume responsibly. Create a list of nearby electric vehicle charging stations, local recycling centers or second-hand stores. Learn how to create and share lists of places here. 


Karol is also working on creating a list of local craftspeople who upcycle. “I would like everyone in my city to be able to find skilled craftspeople who give a second life to discarded objects like toys, furniture or clothing,” she says. “It’s another baby step people can take toward a greener style of living.”

A screenshot showing the city of Posadas with pins indicating where the recycling centers that Karol mapped are.

A map of Posadas showing Karol’s list of recycling centers.

Give eco-friendly businesses a boost ♻️

Finally, Karol stresses the importance of giving extra support and encouragement to businesses that are taking sustainability seriously. Contribute photos and reviews that highlight businesses that are composting and recycling — like your favorite take out spot that has minimal and compostable packaging or an image of a sign that lists what items a local recycling center accepts. If you recycle materials at a local business, you can alsosuggest an edit to their Business Profile to help let others know. 


“This is our only home and as such, we owe it nothing but respect and care,” Karol says.  “With all the technological breakthroughs over the last decades, with everything we know about what human development has caused to nature, we should be doing much more not only for ourselves, but the future generations and for all the other living things here.”