Google Data Centers: Safe For Your Back Yard

Auditors find that Google's U.S. data centers meet environmental and workplace safety standards.
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Google says its U.S. data centers are the first among those operated by major Internet service companies to be certified to meet specific environmental and occupational safety standards, an achievement that demonstrates the company's continued commitment to responsible business practices.

"Google strives to be the gold standard in terms of data center efficiency, environmental protection, and the health and safety of our employees that are operating these data centers," said Joe Kava, senior director of data center construction and operations at Google, in an online video.

In so doing, Google might be able to avoid the fate of Facebook, which was targeted by environmental organization Greenpeace in 2010 because more than half of the energy for its data centers comes from coal. Facebook agreed to clean up its act by committing to renewable power and by moving away from coal.

[ For more background, read Facebook Makes Peace With Greenpeace. ]

Google didn't escape condemnation completely: According to Greenpeace, about one-third of the company's power still comes from coal. A Google spokesperson didn't immediately respond to a request for information about where it is currently getting its power.

But the certifications awarded to Google's data centers--ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001--focus on data center operational practices rather than power sourcing. They indicate that Google operates is data centers with an eye toward sound environmental practices and workplace safety. The goal of such standards is to minimize the environmental and health impact of businesses rather than to establish an unrealistic standard of perfection.

Google cites the way it operates emergency backup generators at its data centers as an example of its practices. In an effort to reduce the environmental impact of its oil-burning generators, the company strives to minimize generator operation, which limits oil usage and maintenance. It also has worked with generator manufacturers to reduce the need for oil changes, resulting in a 67% reduction in oil consumption. The company's program to recycle server batteries represents another example.

The certification covers Google's facilities in The Dalles, Ore., Council Bluffs, Iowa, Mayes County, Okla., Lenoir, N.C., Berkeley County, S.C., and Douglas County, Ga. Google says it is currently planning to pursue certification for its European data centers.

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