Facebook Makes Peace With Greenpeace

The social network promises to "unfriend" coal.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

December 15, 2011

2 Min Read

15 Green Tech Innovations

15 Green Tech Innovations

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Slideshow: 15 Green Tech Innovations

Facebook on Thursday announced a partnership with Greenpeace to promote and prefer the use of clean, renewable energy in its data centers, an arrangement brought about by a 20-month campaign by the environmental organization to encourage Facebook to "unfriend coal."

Greenpeace considers coal and nuclear power to be "largely responsible for our catastrophic levels of global pollution."

Greenpeace in April rated Facebook's data the second dirtiest in a group of IT companies that also included Akamai, Amazon.com, Apple, Google, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo. Apple's energy usage was deemed to be the most reliant on coal (the source of 54.5% company energy usage) and Facebook followed, with 53.2% of its energy coming from coal. Yahoo fared best in the report, with only 18.3% of its energy usage supported by coal.

Faced with the objections of some 700,000 Facebook users, not to mention petitions, videos, and even an airship above its headquarters promoting renewable energy sources, Facebook has agreed to collaborate with Greenpeace. The social utility, as Facebook refers to itself, will be giving serious thought to how it uses electric utilities.

[ Find out more about the Open Compute Project. Read Facebook-Led Open Compute Project Scales Up. ]

"If all the Internet giants would unfriend coal, it would send a message to utilities and investors that couldn't be ignored," Greenpeace said in a statement. "Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has shown today what other IT leaders should be doing."

"Facebook is committed to supporting the development of clean and renewable sources of energy, and our goal is to power all of our operations with clean and renewable energy," Facebook said in a statement.

The company isn't quite abandoning coal: Its data centers in Oregon and North Carolina were built in locations where cheap energy--largely generated at coal-fired power plants--was readily available. Instead, Facebook is formalizing a preference for clean energy at data center sites.

The company already has taken steps to put this policy into practice: The data center it is building in Lulea, Sweden, is expected to be powered mainly by renewable hydroelectric power.

Facebook also has committed to ongoing research into energy efficiency and to sharing that research through the Open Compute Project. It has committed to discussing renewable power with its utility providers and to promoting renewable energy usage more broadly.

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About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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