Facebook revealed its 2011 carbon footprint on Wednesday — that is, the amount of planet-warming carbon dioxide its offices and data centers’ energy usage is responsible for.
The figure was good enough to earn the social network kudos from Greenpeace — and allowed it to look down its nose at less environmentally-friendly tech rivals, such as Google.
Facebook’s total energy usage last year measured 532 million Kilowatt hours; minus the 36% of its energy the company gets from renewable and nuclear sources, that led to 285,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions.
Compare that with the most recent annual total for Google: 1.5 million tons of CO2 in 2010. The relative difference in size between the companies doesn’t account for that; Facebook has designed its own servers to be as energy efficient as possible.
Does that mean hanging out with friends on the social network is a greener activity than searching? Facebook would certainly like you to think so. In a blog post announcing its carbon footprint report Wednesday, the company broke out the annual carbon dioxide emissions per monthly active user: 269 grams.
“To put this into context,” says the report, “one person’s Facebook use for all of 2011 had roughly the same carbon footprint as one medium latte. Or three large bananas. Or a couple of glasses of wine.”
269 grams doesn’t sound like a big deal, until you consider that Facebook has 955 million active users. That’s a whole lot of lattes.
Still, environmental leaders were pleased. “Today’s detailed disclosure and announcement of a clean energy target shows that the company means business and wants the world to follow its progress,” said Greenpeace International Senior IT Analyst Gary Cook in a statement.
Not that there isn’t a lot of work to do, as Facebook admits in its report. The company would like to get up to 25% renewable energy in the short term, but admits that its carbon emissions are likely to “get worse before they get better” — since the company is growing so fast.
Is carbon footprint something you think about when using social media? Let us know in the comments.