By Sarah Lozanova, Clean Energy Writer
Despite serving a valuable purpose to us all, tech companies have been criticized for years for their exorbitant energy consumption. Data centers are the backbone of the internet and keeping all that information just a click away requires a lot of electricity.
A transition to renewable sources is underway, which cloud users can encourage by choosing their online service providers that source clean energy.
The ‘Dirty Cloud’
Data centers use up to 3 percent of all U.S. electricity and the information technology sector is responsible for 7 percent of global electricity consumption. The term “dirty cloud” was even coined to refer to the coal and other high-emissions fuel sources that power cloud computing. Global internet traffic has tripled in the last four years and it is anticipated to triple again by 2022, according to the International Energy Association.
The IT sector isn’t keeping up with its rapid growth,” says Gary Cook, the senior corporate campaigner on the Climate & Energy for Greenpeace. “More companies are making renewable energy commitments but energy demand growth by the industry is outstripping their renewable energy growth. This is an urgent issue to address the use of fossil fuels given the climate crisis.”
Since 2009, Greenpeace has been putting pressure on some of the more polluting tech companies while praising greener ones. When examining the energy footprint of tech companies, some clearly lead the way in the corporate use of renewable energy deployment, energy transparency, advocacy, and energy efficiency innovations.
Greening the Cloud with Renewable Energy
By Sarah Lozanova
Corporate Sustainability Writer
With nearly 4,900 properties spanning 104 countries and territories, Hilton is one of the largest and fastest-growing hospitality companies in the world. The company has also launched numerous corporate responsibility initiatives that win trust and consumer confidence – benefiting employees, the environment and corporate earnings in the process. The hotelier demonstrates that sustainability improvements can result in both environmental victories and cost savings.
“Hilton has saved an estimated $751 million from water, waste, and energy-efficiency initiatives which have also resulted in a reduction of our carbon emissions by 23 percent in seven years,” said Judy Pines, director of sustainability and responsible sourcing at Hilton. “We use a corporate responsibility performance management platform called LightStay to measure environmental and operational performance metrics.”
The platform tracks ongoing progress, shares best practices among hotels, and highlights areas where properties can reduce their environmental impact through water-, waste- and energy-reduction projects. Hilton cut carbon emissions by 23 percent and decreased waste output by 29 percent in seven years. In 2016, the LightStay platform was recognized as Environment Leader’s 2016 Product of the Year.
By Sarah Lozanova, Corporate Sustainability Writer
Did you know that Americans use 50 billion plastic water bottles each year, with a recycling rate of only 23%? From an environmental standpoint, it brings up numerous concerns. Kicking our bottled water habit can conserve resources, but what are we going to do with the billions of plastic bottles that are recycled? How do we boost stubbornly low plastic bottle recycling rates?
Luckily, Patagonia has been looking at this issue for decades and has made considerable progress in turning plastic trash into polyester fabric for apparel. The company has found a way to actually upcycle plastic bottles, finding a good use for this waste stream by turning it into a higher value goods.
In 1993, Patagonia produced the first polyester fleece jacket from recycled bottles. It had a green tint, from green soda bottles. Now, manufacturing waste, plastic bottles, and worn out clothing is recycled into new apparel, literally closing the recycling loop. Patagonia's product line has expanded from fleece jackets to include 82 products with recycled polyester, including insulated pants, down jackets, and beanies.
Freelance renewable energy writer