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Using cloud technology for the good of the planet

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on our Google Cloud blog.Climate change is a global issue that is getting more urgent by the year, with the past decade recorded as the hottest since records began 140 years ago. The global IT infrastructure contributes to the global carbon footprint, with an estimated 1% of the…

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on our Google Cloud blog.

Climate change is a global issue that is getting more urgent by the year, with the past decade recorded as the hottest since records began 140 years ago. The global IT infrastructure contributes to the global carbon footprint, with an estimated 1% of the global electricity consumption attributed to data centers alone.

The good news is that companies are capable of changing course and taking action for the environment. To create the world’s cleanest cloud, here’s a look at what Google Cloud has been focusing on over the past two decades.

Renewable energy and climate neutrality

Computer centers, offices, and infrastructure will continue to require a lot of electricity in the years to come. And sourcing clean energy will become all the more important for companies to pave the way for a renewable future. As the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy, Google’s mission isn’t just to use carbon-free energy internally, but to make it available to consumers everywhere.

Regular milestones reinforce this mission. In 2007, Google became the first climate-neutral company. In 2017, it became the first company compensating 100% of its energy consumption with renewable energy. Not to mention the years prior: by now, Google has invested enough in high-quality climate compensations to compensate for all its emissions since the company was founded in 1998.

Looking ahead to the future, Google recently announced its commitment to become the first major company to operate fully carbon-free by 2030. That means: 100% carbon-free energy, 24/7.

Smart and efficient data centers

Data centers play an important role in this sustainability strategy. The more efficiently they operate, the more sustainably customers can use Google Cloud solutions. Energy-saving servers, highly efficient computer chips, and innovative water supply solutions for cooling systems are just a few examples of efficiency-enhancing measures in Google’s data centers.

Google Cloud is committed to using these technologies as part of a comprehensive sustainability strategy. But it’s not enough to be efficient on paper, it must be measurable too. That’s why Google calculates a so-called Power Usage Effectiveness value. The result: on average, a Google data center is twice as energy efficient as a typical enterprise data center.

Waste prevention with a circular economy

In a circular economy, materials, components, and products are manufactured in such a way that they can be reused, repaired, or recycled. It’s based on three core principles, which Google follows: designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and promoting healthy materials and safe chemistry. In 2019, Google found a new purpose for 90% of the waste products from its global data center operations and 19% of the components used for server upgrades were refurbished inventory.

Using AI to reduce food waste

Because companies can reduce their ecological footprint with advanced technologies, Google Cloud seeks to make our tools as user-friendly as possible. Many of our solutions put a strong emphasis on sustainability.

Sustainability was a top of mind for French retail group Carrefour, for example, when it established a partnership with Google Cloud in 2018. The problem? Every year, European supermarkets throw away more than four million tons of food. That’s ten kilograms per EU citizen. To reduce food waste, Carrefour and Google Cloud started a joint project for an AI solution that enables precise forecasts for the demands for fresh products in each store. This minimizes waste, as well as costs because employees get the right information they need to fill shelves depending on the existing demand.

Working toward a sustainable future, together

Another partnership, which uses technology to drive sustainability, exists between Google Cloud, WWF Sweden and the British fashion label Stella McCartney. The fashion industry is responsible for about 20% of global water waste and 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. The result of this collaboration: a tool that gives fashion labels a better overview of their supply chains and delivers actionable insights on how to reduce emissions and waste when procuring raw materials.

Sustainable actions have a real impact on our environment, and they also require teamwork. That’s why Google Cloud develops tools and technologies that help other companies and organizations worldwide to become active and create a more sustainable future for our planet.

Find out more on our sustainability page.

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Step into the Meroë pyramids with Google

When you think of pyramids does your mind wander to the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt or the Mayan Temples of Guatemala? Great civilizations built each of these pyramids and inscribed their stories onto the walls of them, offering glimpses into their daily life.The Pyramids of Meroë in Sudan, while lesser known, are no different.…

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When you think of pyramids does your mind wander to the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt or the Mayan Temples of Guatemala? Great civilizations built each of these pyramids and inscribed their stories onto the walls of them, offering glimpses into their daily life.

The Pyramids of Meroë in Sudan, while lesser known, are no different. Today, you can explore these stunning pyramids, which are a UNESCO World Heritage site, on Google Arts & Culture.

Over 200 pyramids were constructed in Meroë, the third and final capital of the Kushite Kingdom, an ancient African civilization that ruled the lands of Nubia for over 3000 years. Now you can take a virtual walk through the Pyramids of Meroë and explore the inscriptions using Street View’s panoramic imagery. You can also learn more about the Kushite Kingdom, their royalty and the architecture behind the pyramids in an immersive web experience that’s available in a range of languages including Arabic, English, French, German and Spanish.

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Bay View is open — the first campus built by Google

Taking green building to a new scaleTo deliver on our commitment to operate every hour of every day on carbon-free energy by 2030, we prioritized renewable energy and maximized the solar potential of our buildings. Bay View’s first-of-its-kind dragonscale solar skin and nearby wind farms will power it on carbon-free energy 90% of the time.The…

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Taking green building to a new scale

To deliver on our commitment to operate every hour of every day on carbon-free energy by 2030, we prioritized renewable energy and maximized the solar potential of our buildings. Bay View’s first-of-its-kind dragonscale solar skin and nearby wind farms will power it on carbon-free energy 90% of the time.

The campus is also on track to be the largest project certified by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) under any of their programs, at any certification level. As part of ILFI’s Living Building Challenge, we’re targeting a Water Petal certification, meaning the site is net-positive with all non-potable water demands being met using the recycled water generated on site. Above-ground ponds that gather rainwater year round and a building wastewater treatment system serve as water sources for cooling towers, flushing toilets and irrigating the landscape. This is a big step toward delivering on our commitment to replenish 120% of the water we consume by 2030.

It doesn’t stop there. Bay View is an example of an all-electric campus and shows what’s possible in regenerative building. Here’s how:

  • The two kitchens that serve seven cafes are equipped with electric equipment rather than gas — a template for fully carbon-free cafes and kitchens.
  • There are 17.3 acres of high-value natural areas — including wet meadows, woodlands and a marsh — that are designed to reestablish native landscapes and rehabilitate Bay Area wetlands. Something that’s especially important as Bay View sits close to the San Francisco Bay.
  • The water retention ponds not only collect water for reuse, but also provide nature restoration, sea level rise protection, and access to the beauty of natural wetlands. New willow groves along the stormwater ponds provide resources for wildlife.
  • The integrated geothermal pile system will help heat and cool the campus. The massive geoexchange field is integrated into the structural system, reducing the amount of water typically used for cooling by 90% — that’s equal to five million gallons of water annually.

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Seniors search what they see, using a new Lens

“Often, when I go for a walk, I stumble upon an unknown flower or a tree. Now I can just take a picture to discover what kind of plant I am standing before,” Verner Madsen, one of the participants, remarked. “I don’t need to bring my encyclopedia. It is really smart and helpful.”Seniors in a…

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“Often, when I go for a walk, I stumble upon an unknown flower or a tree. Now I can just take a picture to discover what kind of plant I am standing before,” Verner Madsen, one of the participants, remarked. “I don’t need to bring my encyclopedia. It is really smart and helpful.”

Seniors in a country like Denmark are generally very tech savvy, but with digitization constantly advancing — accelerating even faster during two years of COVID-19 — some seniors risk being left behind, creating gaps between generations. During worldwide lockdowns, technological tools have helped seniors stay connected with their family and friends, and smartphone features have helped improve everyday life. One key element of that is delivering accurate and useful information when needed. And for that, typed words on a smartphone keyboard can often be substituted with a visual search, using a single tap on the screen.

Being able to “search what you see” in this way was an eye-opener to many. As the day ended, another avid participant, Henrik Rasmussen, declared he was heading straight home to continue his practice.

“I thought I was up to speed on digital developments, but after today I realize that I still have a lot to learn and discover,” he said.

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