Facebook Excels At Going Green

By Justin Lafferty 

Facebook’s trademark color may be blue, but it’s also known for being green. New figures released Wednesday by the social network show that 23 percent of the company’s energy is renewable. Facebook is also continuing to seek ways to cut back its carbon emissions and increase the percentage of energy coming from clean, renewable sources.

Within the data, Facebook pointed out that the average monthly user has a carbon footprint of roughly 269 grams. That means for one year, a Facebook user’s carbon output was roughly the same as three bananas, a medium latte, or two glasses of wine.

Altogether, Facebook’s carbon emissions in 2011 measured out to 285,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. That may seem like a lot, but check out Google’s carbon footprint in 2010: 1,457,982 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Facebook explained how the company has shown a top-to-bottom commitment to sustainability. Here are some ways Facebook is making strides:

  • More than 100,000 people like Facebook’s Green page, where the company shares success stories and best practices.
  • In 2010, Facebook joined The Green Grid, a leading global consortium of data center users, policy makers, technology providers, facility architects, and utility companies that helps push the boundaries of energy efficiency in the data center.
  • The company has opened Earth-friendly data centers in Prineville, Ore., and Lulea, Sweden. The Oregon data center was given an LEED Gold Certification, while the Swedish center is almost entirely powered with water. Facebook is also seeking LEED Gold Certification for its Menlo Park, Calif., campus.
  • Facebook developed HipHop for PHP, which is a source code transformer – converting PHP code to C++. With HipHop, Facebook reduced the CPU usage on Facebook Web servers by an average of about 50 percent. Less CPU usage means fewer servers, which means less energy use.
  • 47 percent of Facebook employees rely on shuttles, public transportation, and carpools to get them to work. The company has recently partnered with Zimride to arrange carpools.
  • In early 2011, Facebook employees created the Green Team – an internal group of Facebookers helping to drive sustainability forward on campus.

Facebook posted to its newsroom blog that sustainability is one of the company’s biggest priorities:

In the short-term, reducing our impact and significantly altering our energy mix will be challenging. The reality is that as a fast-growing company, our carbon footprint and energy mix may get worse before they get better. When we bring our Lulea, Sweden, data center online in 2014, we expect to see a steady increase in the clean and renewable sources powering our data center operations. And we’ve set a company goal to derive at least 25 percent of our energy mix from clean and renewable sources by 2015. We know this is going to be a stretch for us, and we’re still figuring out exactly what it will take to get there.

Greenpeace International Senior IT Analyst Gary Cook commented about Facebook’s statistics, applauding the company for its transparency and willingness to cut back its dependence on coal:

Facebook has committed to being fully renewably powered, and today’s detailed disclosure and announcement of a clean energy target shows that the company means business and wants the world to follow its progress. Unfortunately, the transparency Facebook exhibited today is still rare among companies who are racing to build our online world, where some of the largest companies behind the cloud, such as Amazon, still refuse to disclose any information about their energy use and mix.

Readers: Were you impressed to see Facebook’s commitment to sustainability?

Images courtesy of Facebook.