When we think about the cloud—that place all of our data is increasingly being stored—it’s easy to imagine that moving everything online should be good for the environment, but that’s not always the case. A new report from Greenpeace reveals that while a number of leading companies are doing their best not to create a sustainable environment others, namely Twitter and Amazon, are actively harming the environment every day.
Greenpeace slapped both Twitter and Amazon with failing grades for relying on fossil fuels for the majority of their energy needs in an industry report card. Despite all the good Twitter’s done by opening up a new form of global communication, the company’s also done its best to keep its energy footprint a secret. Twitter still rents data centers rather than building its own, and relies mostly on coal and natural glass to power its service as well some nuclear power and clean energy. Meanwhile, Amazon Web Services, which supports many of the most popular Internet companies including Neflix and Spotify, draws only 15 percent of its power from clean energy sources and is even less transparent than Twitter, Greenpeace reports.
Microsoft earned straight Cs from Greenpeace thanks to its commitment to staying carbon neutral. However, the report notes that it accomplished this goal mostly though buying carbon offsets, meaning it’s still mostly using polluting energy sources. Meanwhile, Yahoo received mostly Bs in the report. The company was an early leader in clean energy, which still accounts for over half of its power, but recently began to lose momentum compared to its competitors.
At the top of the pack, according to Greenpeace, are Apple, Facebook and Google. Apple’s earned the highest score for powering iCloud with 100 percent renewable energy and maintaining the world’s largest private solar farm near its data center in North Carolina. Facebook only uses about 50 percent clean energy to power its services, but has become increasingly transparent about its energy use and continues to search for new renewable power sources. Finally, Google manages to use 34 percent clean energy to power its massive ecosystem of online services while pushing state-owned utilities to go green as well.
It’s refreshing to see companies like Facebook, Google and Apple leading the way with more than just innovative technology. As more and more information moves to the cloud, it’s important to make sure we don’t inadvertently increase pollution in the process.