Green giant: 5 ways Facebook is embracing digital sustainability

The tech giants of Silicon Valley were slow out of the gate with sustainability, frequently coming under fire at the start of the decade for their energy and water-hungry ways.

Facebook has set itself a long term goal of sourcing 100% renewable energy

Facebook has set itself a long term goal of sourcing 100% renewable energy


However, tech companies are nothing if not fast-moving, and the about-turn on sustainability issues has been executed with military crispness.

Greenpeace’s most recent 'Clicking Clean' report was effusive in its praise for Apple, Google and Facebook, with only Amazon drawing any real criticism.

Google and Apple have already been profiled on edie in recent months and a recent flurry of announcements from Facebook has thrust the social network into the sustainability spotlight.

To that end, edie has taken a closer look, bringing you five ways in which Facebook is becoming a green giant:

1) It's using solar-powered drones to deliver internet to the masses


Late in July, Facebook unveiled Aquila – a solar-powered drone that will be able to circle the planet at 60,000 feet, beaming an internet connection to earth.

The top of the 40-metre wide drone will be covered in solar panels, enabling Aquila to stay in the sky for up to three months at a time at a minimal cost.

The prototype plan will also be launched sustainably, with helium balloons lifting it up to its cruising height.

While the plane will be a technological marvel from a renewables standpoint, ultimately Facebook aims to have a fleet of drones circling the earth beaming internt access to the 4 billion people who don’t have it.

I'm excited to announce we’ve completed construction of our first full scale aircraft, Aquila, as part of our...

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, 30 July 2015


2) Its new headquarters has a park on the roof


Facebook moved into its ground-breaking Menlo Park facility in March of this year. Like planned headquarters from Google and Apple, the facility is an environmental standout.

The striking feature is the sprawling green roof, that will top the 430,000-square-foot building, featuring 350 trees and various other flora and fauna.

“From the outside, it will appear as if you’re looking at a hill”, says Mark Zuckerberg.

As well as the obvious biodiversity and health benefits for Facebook employees, the dense foliage is a great insulator, helping the building beat California’s already strict energy code by at least 25%. 

Today we moved into our new Facebook building in Menlo Park, California.Our goal was to create the perfect engineering...

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Monday, 30 March 2015


3) It’s a major renewables advocate


Facebook has set itself a long-term goal of sourcing 100% renewable energy. To get there, it has smaller targets along the way, including a recently-set goal of 50% powered by renewables by 2018.

The social network has one data centre in Iowa already fully-powered by wind, and has announced plans for a second to be built in Texas.

Another data centre in Sweden also runs fully on local hydropower, while Facebook has launched the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers' Principles, together with WRI, WWF, and 11 other companies, to make it easier for companies to buy clean energy.

We just announced that our fifth data center will be built in Fort Worth, Texas. Our data centers power Facebook and...

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday, 7 July 2015


4) Its bringing other companies along for the ride


Facebook was a founding member of Collectively, a digital sustainability platform intended to drive conversation and action on sustainability.

The site’s mission statement reads: “Imagine if cities were built for people, not cars. We worked to live, not lived to work. Our food made us both happy and healthy, and the stuff we bought looked good and did good at the same time. We believe in a world where this kind of life is normal — the “new normal.”

Facebook has also partnered with Unilever to connect those who donate to charirty and those who ebenfit from the donations. The app, called Waterworks, is designed to encorugae generosity be showing the real life results.

5) It lets its data-centres get hot...


While Facebook is transitioning its giant data centres to renewable energy, its also focused on increasing efficiency.

Uniquely, Facebook says it uses "100% outside air" to cool all of its data centres, claiming that rivals are typically "over-cooling" their facilities.

The technique avoids power-thirsty air conditioning, with seemingly no ill effect.

Facebook's vice president of hardware design and supply chain operations, Frank Frankovsky,  said modern server hardware is sturdier than firms think, and can operate comfortably in temperatures up to 35 degrees.

Brad Allen




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