Greenpeace puts Apple, Twitter, Facebook, and others on trial

Facebook Prineville data centerGreenpeace has released a 35-page report detailing the environmental impacts of various data centers around the country, including those of Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Apple. The report, titled How Dirty is Your Data?, takes a look at the footprint that companies are leaving due to the massive amounts of energy they need to power their products and respond to the ever-increasing data demands from their customers.

“We expect these companies to play a pivotal role in ensuring we move to clean, safe renewable energy system and void future disasters like Fukishima,” the organizations IT policy analyst Gary Cook said.

Greenpeace’s investigation rated cloud companies on how open they were about their data centers, the infrastructure of the data centers themselves, and mitigation strategies. So, how did some of the more notable companies do?


  • Greenpeace reasons that Facebook chose North Carolina for its $450 million data center because “cheap and dirty coal-powered electricity is abundant” there, as well as in the Midwest.
  • Like most major companies, Facebook is privy to some generous tax breaks on its North Carolina facility. Over 10 years, the company will receive $17 million in local subsidies and tax breaks.
  • The Forest City, North Carolina plant is powered by nuclear energy, of which there are a variety of concerns: How to deal with radioactive waste in the long-term, carbon emissions, expense, etc.
  • Facebook “is reported to be” using a San Jose, California data center that is trying to eliminate the reliance on coal power and promotes using renewable energy sources. Despite this, the organization says it “appears to lack vision to become a company powered by clean energy.”
  • Grades: Transparency – D, “Facebook has yet to provide any data on its energy consumption or related GHG emissions at either a corporate or facility level…”;  Infrastructure siting – F, “Facebook’s first two siting decisions have led it to locations and utilities (Oregon and North Carolina) that rely on coal as the primary source of electricity, with nuclear a close second in North Carolina”; Mitigation – D, “…beyond efforts to improve electrical efficiency, Facebook has not provided any additional mitigation strategies.”


  • Google is also guilty of building data centers in areas where cheap, coal-powered electricity is easy to come by.
  • Google’s North Carolina data center is estimated to consume somewhere between 60 and 100MW. This facility will benefit from $212 million in tax breaks over 30 years.
  • The company is in the process of purchasing a wind energy company in Iowa, and will retire the renewable energy credits it will earn from the deal.
  • Google attempts to give incentives for clean energy choices and discourages against coal when possible; example: Data centers that rely on hydroelectricity, and a focus on creating more energy-efficient web servers.
  • Grades: Transparency – F, “Google fails to disclose information on its energy use or GHG emissions”; Infrastructure siting – C, “While Google has built sizable data centres [sic] attached to clean energy sources…its recent investments in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Oklahoma indicate that tax incentives and access to inexpensive dirty energy make sense to Google”; Mitigation – B, “Google has played a useful role in advancing discussion within the sector by highlighting the energy efficiency measures of its data centres [sic].”


  • The company aims to reduce carbon emissions from its data centers by 40-percent by 2014, with facilities based on renewable energy and improved design; like Google, Yahoo has a facility using hydroelectricity .
  • Grades: Transparency – D, “Yahoo and the sector would be well served by its sharing of the metrics it is using to track its carbon reduction goals”; Infrastructure siting – B, “Yahoo’s recent data centre [sic] siting decisions have put [it] on a cleaner energy path”; Mitigation – C, “Yahoo should shift [its goal of 40-percent carbon reduction] to an absolute reduction target.”


  • Apple is also guilty of using the cheap coal-powered electricity of the Midwest and North Carolina. Its new North Carolina facility is estimated to use 100MW of power.
  • North Carolina will give Apple $46 million in tax breaks, plus it also will benefit from a 50-percent break in real estate taxes and 85-percent break in person property taxes.
  • Grades: Transparency – C, “Although Apple has become increasingly transparent about the environmental footprint and operational performance of its products…it has not been as forthcoming on the current or expected impacts of its online products”; Infrastructure siting – F, “[Its iDataCenter in North Carolina] indicates a lack of a corporate commitment to clean energy supply for its cloud operations”; Mitigation – C, “Apple has not declared a renewable energy or greenhouse gas target to shape this commitment [to renewable energy and green power].”


  • Twitter generates over 8 terabytes of data a day, and is only getting bigger
  • Grades: Transparency – F, “Twitter does not participate in the Carbon Disclosure Project”; Infrastructure siting – F, “[Moving] from San Jose to Utah, which has an electric utility mix that is 97 percent fossil fuel-based as compared with 27 percent renewable, is a huge step backwards”; Mitigation – F, “A move to Utah’s coal intensive electricity grid means that Twitter has its work cut out for it to mitigate the footprint of its new facility.”
Health & Fitness

JLABS injects some tech into the medical industry

Innovating health care is expensive, risky, and complicated legally. One company is trying to remove these barriers with clever and altruistic approach.
Emerging Tech

Michigan’s former transportation chief has some advice for wannabe smart cities

After 31 years as Michigan’s transportation director, Kirk Steudle has seen it all, particularly with smart city projects. He spoke with Digital Trends recently about what makes smart cities work, and offers advice along the way.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.

Get your Sagan on with 60 awe-inspiring photos of the final frontier

Few things instill a sense of wonder quite like the final frontier. The best space photos show off the beauty of Earth, our solar system, and the far corners of the universe. Here are our current favorites.

The best iPhone deals for November 2018

Apple devices can get expensive, but if you just can't live without iOS, don't despair: We've curated an up-to-date list of all of the absolute best iPhone deals available for November 2018.

Apple to boost its Amazon presence with listings for iPhones, iPads, and more

Apple is about to start offering more of its kit on Amazon. The tech giant currently only has very limited listings on the shopping site, but the deal will see the arrival of the latest iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and more.
Product Review

The MacBook Air plays the oldies we love, but the band is getting old

We’ve waited for a long time for an update to the MacBook Air, and Apple finally delivered one. With a lot of features ported over from the MacBook Pro, is this new laptop what Apple fans have always wanted?

Google’s Gboard now uses A.I. to recommend GIFs based on your conversation

Google is bringing a new feature to Gboard that should make it better for those that regularly use GIFs and stickers. The feature essentially uses A.I. to recommend GIFs and stickers based on your conversation.

These 100 best iPhone apps will turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades

The iPhone is the most popular smartphone in the world, and we want to bring out the best in yours. Behold our comprehensive list of the best iPhone apps, from time-saving productivity tools to fun apps you won’t be able to put down.

The Mac mini's price has crept into iMac territory. So how do they compare?

Apple announced a long-awaited update to the Mac mini. Thanks to the updated specs and increase in price, it's begun to creep up to the base model iMac. In this guide, we now put up the specs on the newest refreshed Mac mini against the…

Will Chrome remain our favorite web browser with the arrival of newest version?

Choosing a web browser for surfing the web can be tough with all the great options available. Here we pit the latest versions of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi against one another to find the best browsers for most users.

Here are the best Apple Watch and Fitbit Versa deals for Black Friday

Apple products are the most sought-after products for Black Friday, the leaked preview ads show what discounts retailers will have for the Apple Watch Series 3 and other smartwatches, such as the Fitbit Versa, this holiday season.

Get up close and personal with this telephoto lens for your phone

Moment is replacing its aging 60mm telephoto lens with a new 58mm tele lens, redesigned from the ground up for the latest iPhone, Pixel, and Galaxy phones. Mount it onto the phone via a case and get closer with 2x optical zoom.

Should you buy the affordable MacBook Air, or is the MacBook Pro worth the price?

Though they both share Retina Displays and similar keyboards, there are still some specs differences and other changes which distinguish the new 2018 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. In this guide, we stack the two up against each other.