Tag Archives: Sustainability

Helping fashion brands make more sustainable decisions

The fashion industry is one of the largest contributors to the global climate and ecological crisis — accounting for up to 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Much of this impact occurs at the raw materials stage of the supply chain, like when cotton is farmed or trees are cut down to create viscose. But when brands source these materials, they often have little to no visibility on the environmental impact of them.

In 2019, we set out to create a tool that would give companies the data they need to make more responsible sourcing decisions. Today we’re announcing the first version of the Global Fibre Impact Explorer (GFIE), and we’re inviting other brands to get involved. The tool, which is built on Google Earth Engine and uses Google Cloud computing, assesses the environmental risk of different fibers across regions as it relates to environmental factors such as air pollution, biodiversity, climate and greenhouse gasses, forestry and water use.

With this tool, brands will easily be able to identify environmental risks across more than 20 fiber types — including natural, cellulosic and synthetics materials.The tool will also provide brands with recommendations for targeted and regionally specific risk reduction activities including opportunities to work with farmers, producers and communities, such as investing in regenerative agriculture practices

The GFIE dashboard where brands can upload their fiber portfolio data and get recommendations to reduce risk across key environmental categories.

The GFIE dashboard where brands can upload their fiber portfolio data and get recommendations to reduce risk across key environmental categories.

Spooling it all together: Working with fashion brands and conservation experts

We worked with Stella McCartney, a luxury fashion brand and leader in sustainability, to understand the industry's needs and to test the platform. Using the tool alongside their existing sustainability efforts, Stella McCartney’s team was able to identify cotton sources in Turkey that were facing increased water and climate risks. This affirms the need for investing in local farming communities that focus on regenerative practices, such as water management and soil regeneration. Other brands and retailers — including Adidas, Allbirds, H&M Group and VF Corporation — have helped test and refine the tool to make sure it can be useful to everyone in the industry. And an external council of global experts have reviewed the GFIE methodology and data.

The GFIE was born out of a partnership between Google and the WWF, and is built to complement existing tools focused on industry impact and risk analysis. With the initial development phase complete, Google and WWF are now transitioning GFIE to Textile Exchange, a global non-profit focused on positively impacting climate through accelerating the use of preferred fibers across the global textile industry. As the official host of the GFIE, Textile Exchange will continue the development of the tool, onboard new brands and work towards an industry launch in 2022.

If you’re a part of a fashion brand or industry group and want access to this tool, please register your interest at globalfibreimpact.com.

What should we do with old electronics?

Cleaning out a drawer or closet can be extremely therapeutic. Old clothes and items go into a donation pile; other things might be great to give away. But then… you pull open that drawer full of your old electronics: phones, speakers, music players and more. What do you do with these?

As electronics get smaller and more ubiquitous, more devices are hibernating in drawers, closets, attics and garages. Recycling electronics isn’t an everyday activity and doesn’t follow the same process as recycling normal household waste. In 2019, only about 17% of electronic waste was recycled globally.

As part of our sustainability commitments, Google has committed to including recycled materials in all our consumer hardware. The future of electronics recycling depends on developing better technologies that extract materials from discarded products, too. But that’s not the only challenge in creating effective recycling systems: Getting useful but unused products to people who need them and unusable ones into recycling centers are both essential to making electronics more sustainable.

Many cities have numerous drop-off options at retail or municipal locations, and major electronics brands also offer mail-in services for old devices. But it’s not enough to have these services available — it’s critical to truly understand what else people need in order to recycle electronics they’re no longer using.

To learn more, Google talked with individual users about their electronics recycling struggles. The lessons — which are outlined in our white paper Electronics Hibernation: Understanding Barriers to Consumer Participation in Electronics Recycling Services — were both surprising and familiar. People have relationships with their electronics that extend beyond their usefulness — the way we think about our devices is completely different from how we think about an empty juice bottle, for example. Our research identified major barriers to consumer electronics recycling, and we hope that by sharing these initial insights, we will encourage others to join the conversation and inspire new ideas.

The Awareness Barrier

Illustration of a Google Search bar with the words "recycling services near me" in it.

For starters, one issue is that people don’t know about their options — even though some of them exist in plain sight. Think about it this way: Even if you haven’t heard of a specific movie, you know the name of a popular streaming service where you could watch it. Or maybe you don’t know the name of a book everyone is talking about, but you know the bookstore where you could buy it. Electronics recycling services have nowhere near those levels of awareness, even though they are offered by major brands that people are familiar with. A quick internet search will show plenty of results, but it can create more questions than answers as consumers wade through the complexities of what devices are eligible, varying costs and deciding which services seem reputable enough to consider.

The Value Barrier

Illustration of various generations of a smartphone lined up.

An old laptop that still works seems like it should be worth something. When consumers discover their product is worth much less than they thought, it’s a disappointing moment that discourages trade-in and recycling actions alike. For some, an old smartphone might be useful as a backup if they lose or damage their newer one. Other products still have emotional value even as they sit unused — a laptop may represent cherished college years, or a music player may remind us of a fun activity. These all represent value, and ironically, that can make recycling seem like a waste.

The Data Barrier

Illustration of a laptop open; on its screen is an abstract representation of data.

Many people have electronics they don’t want or need, but that still contain their data. While the hardware might not be valuable, the documents, photos and videos often are. Finding a way to transfer data to a new device or storage solution is a daunting task that becomes more challenging with time. The older the product, the harder it is to find the right cables, set up the network and remember how to even use the software. Professional services exist, but they can be expensive, and if the data isn’t urgently needed, it's easy to put the task off until later, making things even more difficult.

The Security Barrier

Illustration of a paper shredder with documents going through it.

Even if data transfer isn’t needed, many people want to securely erase all information before donating or recycling. It’s a technical task, and the process of doing so can be different across devices and products. Similar to transferring data, figuring out how to erase data and settings can become more challenging as products age. Self-service resources exist, but the time and effort can seem monumental for a low priority task.

The Convenience Barrier

Illustration of a box with old electronics in it.

Few people think of filing tax returns as “convenient,” but it’s something that has to be done, and services exist that make it convenient enough. Handing off electronics for recycling might be objectively more convenient than filing tax returns, but for most, it’s a lower priority task, meaning the bar for convenience is higher.

If you’re trying to recycle an old device, you might only experience one or two barriers, but collectively they’re significant, and overcoming them will require new ideas. Until then, online tech support articles from most product brands are helpful in figuring out data transfer and erasure. Looking for R2, e-Stewards, or WEELABEX certification is a good first step in identifying a reputable recycler. And companies like Google, for example, provide resources on how to recycle your old and unused devices.

There’s a lot of work to be done to make it simple and sustainable to say goodbye to old products. By working together with other companies and consumers, we hope to make the sustainable choice to recycle your electronics an easier one.

Reducing city transport emissions with Maps and AI

City transportation is crucial to connecting residents to education, employment and essential services. At the same time, the transportation sector is where global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are rising the quickest.

In 2018, we launched the Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE) in collaboration with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM). As part of Google's most ambitious decade of climate action, we’ve committed to helping more than 500 cities and local governments reduce an aggregate of 1 gigaton of carbon emissions per year by 2030 and beyond. With EIE, cities have free access to Google’s unique mapping data and insights so they can make sustainable decisions regarding cleaner transport policies and infrastructure programs. Since launching EIE, we’ve seen more cities and governments set ambitious climate targets. This week, 120 world governments will gather in Glasgow at COP26 to report their progress toward these commitments and set a path forward to address climate change. EIE can help cities and governments translate these targets into concrete action.

In pursuit of helping more cities take action against climate change, we will make transportation insights available in EIE for over 20,000 cities and regional governments by the end of the year, making it one of the largest ever collections of high-quality, globally consistent environmental data sources. This expansion will double the number of geographies represented in EIE, accounting for the majority of the world’s transport emissions.

As the window continues to narrow on implementing policies and plans to reduce emissions, we’re unifying around a single mission: to foster sustainability at scale. To help, we’re partnering with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a network of megacities committed to addressing climate change. Our work with C40 will help us better support the needs of cities while making data accessible to city projects that are working on climate solutions. Together we can provide higher-quality transportation activity data to measure and track GHG emissions at a global scale, while also giving state and local governments resources to better understand what’s working at a local level.

The need for action is now, and we need to rise to the challenge quickly. Google technology is unlocking our ability to generate climate-related insights and impact at a global scale. Here are a few of the latest ways we're using AI and Google Maps data in EIE.

Taking inventory of yearly progress

More cities, states and regions are committing to comprehensive climate plans to decarbonize transportation by 2040. These next two decades of ambitious action will require regular progress reports to assess what is and isn’t working.

Using AI, our systems analyze transportation trends in a city by mode, helping local governments take stock of their progress in tackling GHG emissions. GHG inventory processes traditionally take months and multiple data sources to compile, and are now streamlined, allowing government staff to reduce the cost and personnel burden of reporting.

Transportation emissions estimates from Google’s Environmental Insights Explorer
Transportation emissions estimates from Google’s Environmental Insights Explorer

Plan eco-friendly mobility interventions

To accelerate data-driven decisions aimed at reducing transportation emissions and boosting infrastructure investments, EIE summarizes critical insights across which modes of transport to tackle. EIE characterizes trips traveled within and across city boundaries and applies city-specific scaling factors based on overall population. EIE’s multimodal insights allow government data practitioners to ask questions that inform transportation decisions, such as the extent to which city investments in different modes of transportation can shift behaviors.

Multimodal transportation emissions insights from Google’s Environmental Insights Explorer

Looking forward

Modeling transportation flows is complex. With EIE, cities, states, regional policymakers, consultants can better understand the impact sustainable changes are making on global greenhouse gas emissions.

To learn more about how cities are using EIE, view our EIE 2021 City Impact report. If you’re part of a local government and interested in what EIE can do for your community, fill out this form to get in touch with our team.

Opening up COP26 to the world with Google Arts & Culture

For nearly three decades, the UN has been bringing together almost every country on Earth for climate summits called COP, which stands for ‘Conference of the Parties.’ Many believe this year’s summit, COP26, is the world’s best chance to get runaway climate change under control. The UK is asking influential world leaders to bring their plans for real world changes to Glasgow, plans that will help swiftly bring down emissions — from coal to cars to cash — and limit global warming to the 1.5 degree maximum.

But while world leaders gather to discuss their commitments, the people and groups who are fighting for climate action are being showcased. Organized by the UK Government, this is the area where the public, civil society, indigenous peoples, youth groups, charities, academics, artists and businesses can have their voices heard at COP26, through an extensive programme of events, workshops, talks and exhibitions that promote dialogue, awareness, education and commitments.

Visit the COP26 Green Zone on Google Arts & Culture

A new virtual exhibition on the Google Arts & Culture platform will be an exciting part of the Green Zone giving people an insight into what’s happening from wherever they are in the world. It will provide a window into climate action, and the Green Zone, with over 60 multimedia stories showcasing some of the organizations and communities that will be present at COP26.

Inspiring stories

By visiting the Green Zone on Google Arts & Culture, people can discover a wide range of exhibitors and stories. This includes Conservation Volunteers in the UK, who connect people to the green spaces that form a vital part of any happy healthy community. Their teams of dedicated, passionate staff and volunteers work with communities across the UK helping preserve nature, build gardens and grow inclusive and diverse communities. By 2025 they pledge to have planted five million trees.

The “India One” Solar Thermal Power Plant illustrates how the Brahma Kumari community came together to build a solar thermal power plant in Rajasthan. People can learn about this and hear how the project was born by a commitment to living in harmony with nature.

And from all sectors, people are considering what climate action means for them. In the arts, Reimagining Museums for Climate Action is an initiative to explore how a fundamental questioning of what a museum is can make them tools to empower the climate vulnerable.

COP26 has four goals, one of which is adaptation, helping communities to adjust to actual or expected future climates. We know that the most vulnerable are at the greatest risk from climate change, and that they have done the least to cause it. Action to address this and build resilience is needed now, before more people lose their lives or livelihoods. The international community must unite and support people who are most vulnerable to the impacts of the changing climate.

In October 2013, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck the province of Bohol, Philippines, causing land subsidence in some of its small island communities. Now, the islands of Batasan, Pangapasan, Ubay and Bilangbilangan in the municipality of Tubigon experience partial or complete flooding even during normal spring tides.

Coming face-to-face with a hundred years’ worth of sea level rise, the island communities have demonstrated great resilience. In 2017, the Racing the King Tide research team filmed a series of micro documentaries which were played to the Local Government Unit in Tubigon in 2018.

These and dozens more stories are available in the COP26 Green Zone on Google Arts & Culture and we are delighted to be sharing them with the world. Climate change affects us all. By opening up the Green Zone to the world with Google, we can all learn more about it, be inspired and moved by stories from around the globe, and gain a greater understanding of the challenges and opportunities for our planet.

Bringing COP26 to people everywhere

This November at COP26, global leaders will meet in Glasgow to discuss how to jointly address the challenge of climate change. Recent research has found that more than 70% of the global population is concerned or fearful about climate change. So we’re focused on making this year’s conference accessible to everyone. In partnership with the COP26 Presidency, we’ll livestream the activities through YouTube and Google Arts and Culture, helping COP26 expand the reach of its digital channels. YouTube creators at the conference will create content to share with their global audiences, and we’ll publish video, imagery and artworks from “the green zone” — the center of COP26 activity — via a new page on Google Arts and Culture, inviting people everywhere to learn about the discussions and activities taking place.

"I'm delighted COP26 is partnering with Google to help bring the Green Zone of COP26 to the world in a few days’ time,” COP President-Designate Alok Sharma said. “With more than 200 captivating and diverse events on offer we want everyone to have the opportunity to learn more about climate action and help protect our planet."

Our work at COP26 is part of our larger third decade of climate action strategy. We’re not only committed to be more sustainable in how Google operates as a business, but we’re also focused on building new technologies to make sure that partners, enterprise customers and the billions of people who use Google products every day can be more sustainable as well.

How we’re leading at Google

At Google, our goal is to achieve net zero emissions across all of our operations and value chain by 2030. We aim to reduce the majority of our emissions (versus our 2019 baseline) before 2030, and plan to invest in nature-based and technology-based carbon removal solutions to neutralize our remaining emissions.

We were the first major company to operate as carbon neutral in 2007, and have matched our energy use with 100 percent renewable energy for four years in a row. Last year we set a moonshot goal to operate on 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030 for all of our data centers and campuses. That means that by the end of the decade, we aim to deliver every search, every email, and every YouTube video without emitting carbon. We’re making strong progress — in 2020 we achieved 67% carbon-free energy on an hourly basis across our data centers, up from 61% in 2019. Five of our data centers, including those in Denmark and Finland, are at or near 90% carbon-free energy.

On our campuses we’re investing in sustainable energy innovations, like dragonscale solar and geothermal pilings, to get us closer to our goal to be carbon-free by 2030. We hope these new technologies will inspire similar projects from others that advance sustainability without compromising design and aesthetics.

How we’re enabling our partners

Urban areas are currently responsible for 70% of the world’s carbon emissions. Last year we pledged to help more than 500 cities reduce one gigaton of carbon emissions per year by 2030 via Google’s Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE). EIE is helping major cities, including Amsterdam, Birmingham UK and Copenhagen, map their emissions data, solar potential, and air quality for their remediation plans.

Technology can also help cities decarbonize in more direct ways. We recently shared an early research project that is deploying AI to help cities make their traffic lights more efficient, and we have a pilot program in Israel accomplishing this. So far, we have seen a 10-20% reduction in fuel consumption and delay time at intersections. We’re excited to expand this pilot to Rio de Janeiro and beyond.

Finally, we’re helping business customers like Whirlpool, Etsy, HSBC, Unilever and Salesforce develop solutions for the specific climate change challenges they face. Unilever is working with the power of Google Cloud and satellite imagery through Google Earth Engine to help avoid deforestation in their supply chain. At Cloud Next, we launched Carbon Footprint, a tool that helps large and small businesses understand their gross carbon emissions associated with the electricity of their Google Cloud Platform usage. This new information will help companies track progress toward their own climate targets.

How we’re aiming to empower everyone

In addition to businesses, increasingly individuals are focused on what more they can do to help the planet. That’s why we committed to help 1 billion people make more sustainable choices by 2022 through Google’s products and services. Recently, we shared several new ways people can use Google’s products to make sustainable choices — from choosing eco-friendly routes and searching for greener flights, hotels, and appliances to supporting clean energy from home with Nest and surfacing authoritative information on climate change from sources like the United Nations.

Google’s goal is to make the sustainable choice an easier choice — for governments, businesses, and individuals. We look forward to a carbon-free future and are excited to continue the conversation at COP26.

Dragonscale: a beautiful approach to solar

Earlier this year, we shared our plans for ‘dragonscale’ solar skin — a first-of-its kind design made up of 90,000 silver solar panels with the capacity to generate nearly 7 megawatts of energy.

To hit our goal to operate on entirely carbon-free energy by 2030, we need to prioritize alternate sources of energy, like solar, and maximize the amount of solar energy our buildings can capture. So when the designs for our newest additions to our Silicon Valley campus evolved into a large, canopy structure, we knew we’d have to think beyond traditional rectangular solar panels to create something that balanced form and function. Today, the two main buildings that have this solar roof, Bay View and Charleston East, are nearly complete.

Enter the ‘dragonscale’ solar roof

As the person responsible for looking at sustainable systems design for our real estate developments, I helped lead the efforts to engineer this new solar panel design for Charleston East and Bay View. Over the course of this project, I’ve watched these designs turn from an idea into reality.

The dragonscale solar roof that will adorn both these buildings is the result of years of product development, collaboration with a handful of partners, and examining prototypes from manufacturers all over Europe. It wasn’t easy. At one point my 7-year-old son even jumped in to help with his own design concept.

Two diagrams show Asim Tahir’s son’s take on how to solve the solar panel challenge.

Design suggestion from Asim Tahir’s son.

Eventually, our partners at SunStyle came to us with a highly textured prismatic glass shingle with a unique coating technology. The prismatic nature of the glass ‘trapped’ light that would normally escape from traditional flat solar panels and reduced reflective glare that can be a problem for drivers and pilots. That same texture that provides all that function, also gives the overlapping panels a unique sparkle that earned it its name ‘dragonscale’.

These panels coupled with the pavilion-like rooflines let us capture the power of the sun from multiple angles. Unlike a flat roof, which generates peak power at the same time of the day, our dragonscale solar skin will generate power during an extended amount of daylight hours. This will limit our contribution to California’s notorious duck curve — which tracks the difference between energy demand and the available solar energy throughout the day. When up-and-running, Charleston East and Bay View will have about 7 megawatts of installed renewable power—generating roughly 40% of their energy needs.

Shortly after construction began, we couldn’t help but think about how we might make this form-and-function approach to building design more scalable. After all, we can’t custom design and develop a new solar solution for every project.

Four construction team members install BIPV at Google’s Bay View office development.

The construction team installs BIPV at Google’s Bay View office development. Photo by Christopher Mcanneny, Heatherwick Studio.

Going mainstream with learnings from dragonscale

Solar panels that are integrated into the design of the building, rather than added later, are known as building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). Integrating solar panels into a roof, like we did with dragonscale, is one approach to using BIPV. Another is incorporating them into the skin of the building. But again, the challenge is to do it in a way that looks good.

The constraints of traditional manufacturing processes also make BIPV projects more difficult. Currently, buildings featuring integrated solar panels require custom designed and manufactured panels, which only niche producers using flexible manufacturing processes with limited output can produce. For our newer buildings, we chose to use a standard solar panel size (3 feet by 5 feet) with standard panel mounts in our designs. This allowed us to use more prevalent, high-volume manufacturing processes so that production and installation could ramp up quickly and at scale.

In a relatively short amount of time, we were able to work with different manufacturers, experiment with a range of facade aesthetics, land on a few designs and share them with our construction teams. Today, two of our newer projects in the Bay Area are implementing these facade photovoltaic panels.

Two examples at our R+D Lab  of exploring how to add photovoltaics on facades: rearranging standard solar panels into more visually interesting mosaics (left) and integrating solar into standard window framing (right).

Two examples at our R+D Lab of exploring how to add photovoltaics on facades: rearranging standard solar panels into more visually interesting mosaics (left) and integrating solar into standard window framing (right).

Investing in sustainable energy innovations will not only get us closer to our goal to be carbon free by 2030, but it will also help our partners and others get there. We hope that sharing our approach to blending design, aesthetics and manufacturing will inspire more projects like it.

Climate change is humanity’s next big moonshot

Editor’s note: Today, Google GEO Sundar Pichai spoke at YouTube’s Dear Earthevent, sharing ways Google is working to solve climate change — and why he’s optimistic we can make meaningful progress. Below is a transcript of his remarks.

Hello fellow dear earthlings. Thanks for tuning in. I can’t think of another issue that would bring together former President Obama, Pope Francis and BLACKPINK. It’s more proof that climate change is the biggest challenge we face…and it’s one that will affect all of us in deeply personal ways.

You know, there was water scarcity when I was growing up and droughts were frequent events. Over time, the water table became really low and many homes didn’t have access to fresh water. We would have to wait for rationed water to be brought in on trucks, and then wait in long lines to carry water back home.

There were times when the trucks didn’t come at all — and it was all just part of normal life.

Fast forward to 2015, I woke up to the news that Chennai had a 1-in-100 year flood and saw pictures where the whole city was submerged in water. Over two million people were displaced. It really drove home for me, in a personal way, how climate change can impact communities, especially those already facing challenges.

A couple of years after that, I woke up to orange skies and smoke from nearby wildfires in California. It was another reminder how climate change is impacting so many of our communities.

Despite these challenges, I’m still optimistic about our future.

That’s because I believe in people. Throughout history, people have made the impossible, possible. We’ve developed life-saving vaccines, expanded opportunity through the internet and landed on the moon.

Solving climate change is humanity’s next big moonshot.

But unlike the moon landing — there is a clear deadline for action, and severe consequences if we fail.

Yet there’s good news, too: There are more people focused on solving climate change than ever before. From governments and academic researchers, to companies like ours, to people like you.

And your generation is rightfully demanding solutions and holding us to account.

The other bright spot is technology. A lot can change in ten years. Ten years ago most of Google’s energy consumption was from traditional sources. Today, we match 100 percent of our energy with renewable sources.

That shows you what is possible in a decade. And now, we’re focused on the next ten years.

Rather than tell you what we’re doing — let me show you. This is what it looks like inside one of Google’s data centers.

Data centers are what make the internet run. They power the games you stream and the YouTube videos you watch. And they run on about 1% of the world’s electricity, and so changing how that electricity is generated can make a big impact on the other 99%.

That’s why we want to run our data centers on carbon-free energy, 24/7. So, in the future, every search you do, every YouTube video you watch, every Gmail you send will be powered by clean energy — sources like wind, solar, and geothermal. And our goal is to do all this by 2030.

Right now, I’m standing inside our newest building at our headquarters in California. As you can see, it’s still under construction. It will take workspace design and sustainability to a new level. The lumber is all responsibly sourced. And when it rains, we collect the water, treat it and keep it in tanks for future use.

Maybe my favorite thing about this building is the roof. The outside is covered in solar panels that remind me of a dragon’s scales. And it will generate about 40% of the energy the building uses.

Sustainable operations and design can make a big difference. So can people.

Our goal is to find new ways that our products can help one billion people make more sustainable choices in their daily lives. Like choosing the most eco-friendly route home. Or finding the nearest bike share.

These small changes can add up to a big impact — and our planet and your future deserve nothing less.

There will be moments when it feels like progress isn’t fast enough. Or that action isn’t bold enough. So be impatient. That’s what will drive progress. It’s the only thing that ever does.

If you do that, together, we can make sure our planet’s best days are still ahead.

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.

Using cloud technology for the good of the planet

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on our Google Cloud blog.

Climate change is a global issue that is getting more urgent by the year, with the past decade recorded as the hottest since records began 140 years ago. The global IT infrastructure contributes to the global carbon footprint, with an estimated 1% of the global electricity consumption attributed to data centers alone.

The good news is that companies are capable of changing course and taking action for the environment. To create the world’s cleanest cloud, here’s a look at what Google Cloud has been focusing on over the past two decades.


Renewable energy and climate neutrality

Computer centers, offices, and infrastructure will continue to require a lot of electricity in the years to come. And sourcing clean energy will become all the more important for companies to pave the way for a renewable future. As the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy, Google’s mission isn’t just to use carbon-free energy internally, but to make it available to consumers everywhere.

Regular milestones reinforce this mission. In 2007, Google became the first climate-neutral company. In 2017, it became the first company compensating 100% of its energy consumption with renewable energy. Not to mention the years prior: by now, Google has invested enough in high-quality climate compensations to compensate for all its emissions since the company was founded in 1998.

Looking ahead to the future, Google recently announced its commitment to become the first major company to operate fully carbon-free by 2030. That means: 100% carbon-free energy, 24/7.


Smart and efficient data centers

Data centers play an important role in this sustainability strategy. The more efficiently they operate, the more sustainably customers can use Google Cloud solutions. Energy-saving servers, highly efficient computer chips, and innovative water supply solutions for cooling systems are just a few examples of efficiency-enhancing measures in Google’s data centers.

Google Cloud is committed to using these technologies as part of a comprehensive sustainability strategy. But it’s not enough to be efficient on paper, it must be measurable too. That’s why Google calculates a so-called Power Usage Effectiveness value. The result: on average, a Google data center is twice as energy efficient as a typical enterprise data center.


Waste prevention with a circular economy

In a circular economy, materials, components, and products are manufactured in such a way that they can be reused, repaired, or recycled. It’s based on three core principles, which Google follows: designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and promoting healthy materials and safe chemistry. In 2019, Google found a new purpose for 90% of the waste products from its global data center operations and 19% of the components used for server upgrades were refurbished inventory.


Using AI to reduce food waste

Because companies can reduce their ecological footprint with advanced technologies, Google Cloud seeks to make our tools as user-friendly as possible. Many of our solutions put a strong emphasis on sustainability.

Sustainability was a top of mind for French retail group Carrefour, for example, when it established a partnership with Google Cloud in 2018. The problem? Every year, European supermarkets throw away more than four million tons of food. That’s ten kilograms per EU citizen. To reduce food waste, Carrefour and Google Cloud started a joint project for an AI solution that enables precise forecasts for the demands for fresh products in each store. This minimizes waste, as well as costs because employees get the right information they need to fill shelves depending on the existing demand.


Working toward a sustainable future, together

Another partnership, which uses technology to drive sustainability, exists between Google Cloud, WWF Sweden and the British fashion label Stella McCartney. The fashion industry is responsible for about 20% of global water waste and 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. The result of this collaboration: a tool that gives fashion labels a better overview of their supply chains and delivers actionable insights on how to reduce emissions and waste when procuring raw materials.

Sustainable actions have a real impact on our environment, and they also require teamwork. That’s why Google Cloud develops tools and technologies that help other companies and organizations worldwide to become active and create a more sustainable future for our planet.

Find out more on our sustainability page.

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.