Skip to main content

Facebook embraces "transparency" by releasing carbon footprint details

Facebook has released its 2011 carbon footprint, energy mix, and energy use for all its data centres and global offices.

Citing "the spirit of Facebook's openness and transparency," the social network reported 2011's total energy use at 523 million kilowatt hours (kWh), split between its data centres (509 million kWh) and office spaces and other facilities (23 million kWh).

"As Facebook expands, we need more data centres to power our platform, more office facilities for our employees, and more energy for both," the company said.

Obviously, that growth will impact Facebook's carbon footprint, but the social network said it remains focused on maximising efficiency while making positive business decisions regarding the environment.

Facebook's Oregon and North Carolina data centres use the Open Computer Project specs, operating with significant energy efficiency gains and cost savings, the company said. Beginning this year, Facebook included a preference for renewable energy while scouting new locations.

The company reported a steady mixture of energy sources, including 23 per cent clean and renewable, 27 per cent coal, 17 per cent natural gas, 13 per cent nuclear, and 20 per cent uncategorised, or those utilities that don't specify into which category it fits.

"We recognise that this data is just one slice of our overall environmental footprint, but we think it's an important starting point," Facebook said in a press release.

Social network users should feel responsible for some of the company's total carbon footprint, since each user contributes .000269 metric tons, or 269 grams, of carbon dioxide equivalent (MT CO2e), as measured by Facebook. That's the equivalent of one medium latte, or three large bananas, or a couple of glasses of wine, Facebook said.

Meanwhile, four data centres equate to a total 207,000 MT CO2e, while other business activity, including various forms of commuting, makes up 65,000 MT CO2e of Facebook's total 285,000 MT CO2e.

"In the short-term, reducing our impact and significantly altering our energy mix will be challenging," the company said. But in the meantime, Facebook continues its investment in energy saving, through and partnerships aimed at driving environmental awareness, education, and action.

Greenpeace, which has tangled with Facebook in the past, said in a blog that Facebook's move shows that it's "serious about its push to unfriend coal."

"The transparency the social network exhibited "is still rare among companies who are racing to build our online world, where some of the largest companies behind the cloud, such as Amazon, still refuse to disclose any information about their energy use and mix."

Computer giant Apple has been struggling with its own environmentally friendly actions lately, flip flopping with the EPEAT registry. After dropping out, customer pressure prompted Apple to rejoin EPEAT, keeping its products in the running to receive classification based on their recyclability, energy consumption, and environmental impact standards.