Facebook Releases Carbon Footprint Data – Emissions 1/5th the Size of Google’s

by | Aug 2, 2012

Facebook generated 285,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and used 532 million kWh of energy last year, according to the company’s 2011 carbon footprint report, the first such data shared by the company.

The carbon footprint report released Wednesday includes emissions, energy mix and energy use information for all of Facebook’s data centers, global offices as well as employee travel and server transportation.

Nearly a quarter of the energy that Facebook’s facilities consumed in 2011 came from renewables, including solar and wind power. The remainder of Facebook’s energy mix was 27 percent coal, 17 percent natural gas, 13 percent nuclear, and 20 percent uncategorized.

Facebook says it has set a goal to get at least 25 percent of its energy for data centers from clean and renewable sources by 2015.

Nearly three quarters of Facebook’s emissions – or about 207,000 mt CO2e – were generated by its data centers last year. The company’s offices and other facilities generated 13,000 mt CO2e and its other business activities, such as employee commuting, emitted 64,ooo mt CO2e.

Facebook estimated that each active user on its service is responsible for about 269 grams of emissions a year, the equivalent carbon footprint of a medium latte.

Google, which shared its carbon footprint data for the first time last September, generated 1.46 million mt of carbon in 2010, some five times more than Facebook. Google said at the time that by purchasing and generating renewable energy as well as buying carbon offsets, it has brought its carbon output to zero.

The search giant had been repeatedly criticized for refusing to reveal its carbon footprint, receiving an F for transparency, along with Twitter and Amazon, in Greenpeace’s April 2011 rankings on cloud computing companies. In the same report Facebook received a D for transparency, an F for infrastructure siting and a D for its mitigation strategy.

But Google’s disclosures appear to have gained the non-profit’s trust, and this February the company earned kudos from Greenpeace for its transparency and efforts to fight climate change.

Meanwhile, Facebook relented last December after a months-long campaign by Greenpeace that criticized the firm for using coal to power its data centers. Facebook announced it planned to run on clean, renewable energy and committed to develop programs with Greenpeace so that users can save energy and engage their communities in clean energy decisions.

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