The company’s carbon footprint is about 1.5 million tonnes per year, equal to that of the United Nations’ operational energy use, although Google says its data centres produce 50% less than the industry average and that the company is “carbon neutral”.
Google has been offsetting its greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing renewable energy from wind farms, using environmentally friendly building materials, running shuttle buses to transport its Silicon Valley staff and by buying carbon credits that help finance other green power projects.
In 2010, 25% of Google’s electricity was from renewable sources and it aims to increase this to 35% in 2012.
Google’s senior vice president of technical infrastructure, Urs Hoelzle, says: “We’ve worked hard to reduce the amount of energy our services use. In fact, to provide you with Google products for a month our servers use less energy per user than a light left on for three hours.”
Until now, Google has declined to state how much energy it emits, but a Google spokesman says they have decided that it is important to share information about energy consumption to “encourage best practices”.
Separately, Google has struck a deal to buy high-end restaurant guide publisher Zagat as it looks to build its local search content.