What do a couple of glasses of wine, 3 large bananas, and a medium latte have in common? They all produce about the same amount of carbon dioxide as the average Facebook user does in a year of using the site. That’s if you believe Facebook’s 2011 Carbon Footprint figures, which it released for the first time today.
Reassuring news for environmentally conscious Facebook users. The company itself however, has been under pressure to reduce its environmental footprint – particularly in relation to its use of non-renewable, non-clean energy sources. Data centres – large buildings housing hundreds or thousands of servers – are heavily used by search engines, social networks, and cloud computing providers to store client data. Keeping them cool and running redundant failover systems consumes vast amounts of electricity – so much so that this is Facebook’s largest cost. Unfortunately for the environment, much of this electricity is supplied by fossil fuel powered plants.
The environmental impact of data centres has been in the news before. In 2009 Harvard University researchers claimed two Google searches produced as much CO2 as boiling a kettle – a figure Google’s own numbers disagree with.
The Facebook figures released today make interesting reading, include clear charts and figures for energy use and costs, and explain how Facebook is planning to reduce its environmental impact.