Environmental sustainability is not just a buzzword to be taken lightly. The earth is changing like never before. Arctic ice caps are diminishing, seawater levels are rising, and air quality is decreasing in major cities. There are several causes of this, and carbon emissions are the main ones. By carbon emissions, we are specifically talking about carbon dioxide or CO2.
Carbon dioxide can come from many sources, and a lot of these sources are natural. The largest source of carbon emissions actually comes from an exchange between the ocean and air. Animals and plants also emit CO2 through breathing. Nature is a pretty powerful thing, for lack of a better word. Nature can balance out these emissions for the most part and has done so successfully for longer than we’ve existed.
Things begin to get more complicated when humans start to emit carbon dioxide into the air, which every industry and person does. When this happens, nature struggles to balance the excess carbon emissions.
In short, companies, especially those that are publicly traded, want to look good. On top of this, they want to comply with regulations, so they don’t have to pay a financial penalty.
According to the European Commission, 51% of EU citizens think the responsibility for tackling climate change lies with business and industry. This means all businesses and industries, not just the top contributors. On top of this, 61% say their reputational risk is a top three motivator for their sustainability efforts. Regarding regulation, the EU has set a target to be the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Also, 26% of companies are motivated to become sustainable to meet regulatory requirements.
So individuals say the solutions to climate change should start with companies and these individual’s opinions motivate the companies themselves. The regulations and goals of the EU are set, and it appears that companies are motivated to meet those targets.
But how does technology play a part in this?
The role of technology
While the energy sector is the primary emitter of carbon dioxide, the technology sector is not without blame. According to Google and datacenterknowledge.com, data centers worldwide consume an estimated 1% of all electricity. That number might not seem high, but when you think about all the electricity in the world, the actual number is staggering.
If you are unaware, these data centers get extremely hot. So hot that they sometimes even warp the walls of the buildings that they're located in. If the electricity used to fuel these data centers comes from coal, it creates considerable carbon emissions.
Data Centers are the main contributor of CO2 coming from technology companies, but there are other methods of contribution. For tech companies that produce hardware, they need to consider the environmental repercussions of their factories. Another contributor to their carbon footprint could lie with the employees themselves. How much waste is produced because of their work? Typically this is quite low, but in big offices, it could be meaningful.
What can we do?
The environmental impact from technology companies seems like it’s beginning to become substantial and external factors have motivated them to take action. So what are the next steps for tech companies?
On the micro-level, we can proactively encourage employees of these companies to live environmentally friendly lives, or at least while they are at the office. Providing sustainable office supplies and fueling our offices with renewable energy would be two strong first steps.
On a larger scale, we should ensure electricity comes from renewable energy. Large technology organizations should apply electricity from renewable sources to their factories and data centers. Enter Google.
Google suggests that if you leverage their smart and efficient data centers, which are up to seven times as powerful while consuming the same amount of electricity, you can reduce your carbon footprint. They also have been carbon neutral since 2007. This means when looking for cloud services, choosing Google will help to immediately reduce your environmental footprint.
Lastly, we must talk about data. Google Analytics can help drive your business to make smarter, more environmentally friendly decisions. The analytics that Google provides also allows businesses to hit their environmental sustainability targets and business goals.
Google has really made a push in the last five years to demonstrate the sustainability of its practices. We highlight a few examples of these benefits below:
- National Geographic reduced its emissions by 16,992 tons by moving its photo library to Google Cloud.
- Carrefour uses Google BigQuery to analyze large data sets to help forecast demand and reduce inventory waste.
- E.ON uses Google Cloud Data Analytics to show real-time energy consumption data to managers, which helps them make decisions related to costs and carbon footprints.
As individuals, we owe it to the environment to take the necessary steps to reduce our carbon footprint. Businesses, on the other hand, have a much larger opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint. By leveraging Google’s cloud services, most businesses can take that initial step to ensure a better future for everyone.
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