Google Goes Greener and Launches New Sustainability Features

  • Travel and shop online more sustainably
  • Eco-friendly routing with Google Maps
  • AI to optimise traffic light timings
  • Smarter and more efficient Google data centres

 

CEO of Google and parent company Alphabet, Sundar Pichai, announced that the tech giant would be taking measures to help Internet users make more sustainable choices by 2022.

Sundar Pichai delivered the announcement alongside a raft of new sustainability initiatives to encourage consumers to make greener choices, such as a “portfolio score” on Google Finance to help retailers calculate how eco-friendly their investments are.

There’s no denying that the climate crisis is no longer a distant threat, with wildfires, flooding and other extreme weather becoming more prevalent in the world. In fact, climate change is impacting local and personal lives now more than ever, so we must protect the planet and our future together.

Earth

The UK government has set one of the most ambitious climate targets globally, with plans to reduce carbon emissions by 78% before 2036. The importance of moving to net-zero was evidenced during the COP26 Summit, with parties agreeing to accelerate the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Other countries and companies are also devising meaningful solutions to address the climate crisis. Last year, Google took action against the pressing challenge by committing to run its data centres and campuses on carbon-free energy by 2030.

From October 2021, Google will offer companies a “green badge” for lower emissions choices on:

  • Google Flights
  • Low carbon appliances
  • Hotels that feature their eco-friendly efforts in the “About” tab
  • Data on where to find the nearest bike or e-scooter in more than 300 cities worldwide

Sundar Pichai said that Google would also be introducing a Nest programme to support clean energy from home. The algorithm has also been updated to show authoritative information sources such as the United Nations for search queries about climate change in addition to those currently appearing in the search carousel.

Here are some more updates on the updates announced by Google.

Travel and Shop Online More Sustainably

An update to Google Flights will help online consumers shop more sustainably. From October, Google began displaying carbon emissions estimates for nearly every flight in search engine result pages (SERPs) to encourage people to choose greener options.

Google 'G' Logo

The information is displayed next to the price and the duration of the flight.

Google has also launched a sustainability feature for hotel searches. When searching for hotels, you’ll now see information about their eco-friendly efforts, such as:

  • Waste reduction
  • Water conservation
  • Green Key or EarthCheck certifications (the leading environmental and sustainable certification and benchmarking programs for the travel and tourism industry.)

Sustainable practices include encouraging hotel guests to reuse towels, providing vegetarian meal options and installing low-pressure water systems.

The tech giant has also introduced initiatives to help people make more sustainable shopping decisions, starting with home appliances. Searches for energy-intensive products, including boilers, dishwashers or water heaters, will now return environmentally-friendly suggestions in the Shopping tab on SERPs.

Going Green From Home

Did you know that your thermostat controls approximately half of your home’s energy bill? It’s not just for the heating but appliances, lighting, TVs, computers and media equipment.

In the past decade, thousands of homeowners have invested in Nest thermostats to reduce their energy consumption and save money. Google has now gone a step further and launched a new feature dubbed “Energy Shift”, which is compatible with Nest thermostats to help users automatically shift their electricity usage when energy is cleaner or less expensive.

The new service, called Nest Renew, can be accessed as a subscription by Those who want to do more to reduce their carbon emissions and protect the planet will be offered the service – called Nest Renew – as a subscription option. Google said it would match your fossil fuel electricity usage with high-quality renewable energy credits generated by related sustainable energy projects.

Eco-friendly Routing With Google

Although carbon dioxide emissions have drastically decreased since governments imposed coronavirus lockdowns, action still needs to be taken to tackle climate change, even more so as we transition out of COVID restrictions.

Human activities are responsible for creating nearly all of the increase in CO2 emissions, with research showing that transportation generated the largest share of carbon emissions in 2019.

Cars are one of the most carbon-intensive choices that people make regularly, and the growing popularity of SUVs is not helping the climate crisis. So to help reduce the global carbon footprint, Google Maps launched a feature that will allow users to choose the most fuel-efficient route.

According to Google estimates, this could save one million tons of CO2 emissions every year! That would be the same as removing 200,000 cars from the road, which also helps drivers save money by reducing fuel consumption.

The new Google Maps feature is only available in the United States but will be launched in Europe sometime in 2022.

Google Maps

To encourage more eco-friendly cars to remain on the road, Google is also rolling out a feature to make it easier for users to find hybrid and electric vehicle options versus fuel-powered models. The new feature will also allow users to find rebates to ascertain costs before they commit to purchasing.

However, as the most conservationist approach would be not to drive at all, Sundar Pichai announced a lite navigation for cyclists on Google Maps. According to Mr Pichai, the new Google Map feature will make it easier for users to locate bikes and scooters in more than 300 cities worldwide.

Artificial Intelligence to Optimise Traffic Lights

Google has been using artificial intelligence to gather data about traffic conditions and make routes more efficient by improving the time for which traffic lights change.

AI has been hailed as the future of technology, and we can see why. Recent research has shown that machine learning can help traffic lights learn from their environment and adapt to optimise their operations.

Google has piloted research in Israel to predict traffic conditions and identify patterns to reduce traffic and increase road safety. Their findings saw a 10-20% reduction in fuel consumption and delay time at intersections.

While it may be some time before this feature operates in Europe, Google said they are excited to expand the pilot, starting with Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Cloud Sustainability

Although Google is already carbon neutral, it continues to aim higher by becoming the “cleanest cloud in the industry.”

By 2030, it hopes to run all of its data centres on carbon-free energy and are also helping business customers such as Whirlpool, Etsy, HSBC, Unilever, and Salesforce develop new solutions to combat climate change challenges.

To help these businesses transition to clean energy, Google launched tools to help firms choose cleaner regions to locate their Google Cloud resources and track their progress towards ensuring a healthier planet.

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