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August 06, 2012
Facebook Publishes Carbon Footprint
    by Robert Kropp

For the first time, the social networking company has disclosed its greenhouse gas emissions, and announces a goal of using renewable energy sources for 25% of its power.

The decline in Facebook's stock price since its initial public offering (IPO) three months ago may be disappointing for many investors, but the company's recent actions on sustainability suggest that as a publicly owned company it is taking its responsibilities seriously.

In December, Greenpeace ended its two-year Unfriend Coal campaign when Facebook established a siting policy that prioritizes access to renewable energy sources. The company's data center in Lulea, Sweden, scheduled to go online in 2014, will be powered by hydroelectric sources.

In January, former Google Green Czar Bill Weihl became head of Facebook's sustainability program. In 2009, Weihl was named a hero of the environment by Time Magazine for his role in Google's efforts to reduce server energy use and adopt renewable energy sources for its locations.

Last week, Facebook made public for the first time the carbon footprint, energy mix, and energy use for its data centers and offices. In 2011, the company's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions totaled approximately 285,000 metric tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent). Its data centers alone were responsible for 207,000 metric tons. And while coal still accounts for 27% of the company's energy use, renewable sources now provide 23%.

Facebook also announced a target of 25% of all its power from renewable sources by 2015. With the data center in Sweden operating by then, the goal "appears modest at first," according to Greenpeace, "And reflects the challenge Facebook faces in finding a clean supply of electricity from local utilities" for its two data centers located in Oregon and North Carolina.

Greenpeace contrasted Facebook's transparency with the policies of Amazon, which sources coal and nuclear power for 64% of its energy use, and displays little interest in engaging with stakeholders on the issue.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, which collaborated with Facebook and Opower on a social energy application that allows homeowners to measure their own carbon footprints, also commended the company on its disclosure, stating, "It is one more step the company is taking to engage its nearly one billion users on their own energy consumption."


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