The company's new data center in North Carolina, scheduled to open this spring, will triple its annual consumption of electricity
Every time that you send a text message, you're damaging the environment. Whenever you take a call or pull up a song from your smartphone's hard drive to play while going for a jog, you're turning a cold shoulder to Mother Earth. That's the message Greenpeace is trying to drive home with its new report, "How Dirty Is Your Data? A Look at the Energy Choices That Power Cloud Computing" (PDF). "Consumers want to know that when they upload a video or change their Facebook status that they are not contributing to global warming or future Fukushimas," said Gary Cook, Greenpeace's IT policy analyst and the lead author of the report.
The report, which relies on data that is publicly accessible, ranks Apple as the least ethical among several tech companies. In a clean cloud power report card, Greenpeace gave Apple a 6.7 percent on its index (compared to 55.9 percent for Yahoo and 26.8 percent for Amazon.com) as well as a C for both transparency and mitigation strategy and an F, the lowest grade possible, for infrastructure siting.
In the report, Greenpeace calls out Yahoo! and Google for understanding "the importance of a renewable energy supple, with Yahoo! siting most of its data centres near sources of renewable energy, and Google ... directly signing power purchasing agreements for renewable energy and investing in solar and wind energy projects in many U.S. states as well as Germany." But it also warns that Facebook, should it continue to grow at its current pace, could soon eclipse Apple as the dirtiest tech company, with more than half of its current facilities relying on coal.
Does it matter? Obviously, relying on dirty coal to power enormous data centers (Apple's new center in North Carolina, scheduled to open this spring, is a $1 billion facility) isn't good for the environment, but do infrastructure siting decisions drive consumers to one tech company over another? For the record, it was only yesterday that Apple executives were busy celebrating soaring profits and sales figures for the second quarter of 2011.
Image: Apple's new data center in North Carolina, Creative Commons.