Greenpeace Attempting Earns a World Record with Campaign to Get Facebook Off Coal


Greenpeace wants Facebook to have nothing to do with coal anymore. Photo by psd via Flickr CC

Greenpeace has been tenacious with trying to get Facebook to ditch coal as a power source for its data centers. Starting with their own Facebook page to show the company how many of its users would like it to "unfriend" coal, the activist group is now moving on to trying to set a world record in the comments section.

The Greenpeace Campaign to Change Facebook's Energy Sources
Greenpeace is getting celebrities like Ed Begley Jr to ask the company to make the switch, and now they're moving on to getting their users more vocal too. The group is trying to set a world record of most Facebook comments in a 24 hour period -- 50,000 or more to be exact. As of this writing, the group has 45,000 and climbing quickly.

Will a world record in comments really make a difference? No, probably not. But it's a good start to show the amount of concern users have about the power source their favorite social networking site is using.

Facebook Is Working on Greening Its Energy Consumption
Facebook, meanwhile, isn't deaf to the campaign, or the desire to consume less energy overall. The company has started OpenCompute, a project that promotes building more efficient data centers. They've open sourced the design of their latest data center, showing the design, specifications, even the suppliers, so that other companies can learn from and build on the energy efficient strategies used by Facebook.

According to Facebook, "We started a project at Facebook a little over a year ago with a pretty big goal: to build one of the most efficient computing infrastructures at the lowest possible cost. We decided to honor our hacker roots and challenge convention by custom designing and building our software, servers and data centers from the ground up.

"The result is a data center full of vanity free servers which is 38% more efficient and 24% less expensive to build and run than other state-of-the-art data centers."

In a response to the announcement, Casey Harrell of Greenpeace said, "It's commendable that Facebook is working to increase the energy efficiency of its business, and specifically its data centers--an area of neglect for many years. But as the global warming footprint of the IT industry, and Facebook specifically, continues to grow significantly, a focus on energy efficiency alone will only slow the speeding train of unsustainable emissions growth. Efficiency is simply not enough.

"If Facebook wants to be a truly green company, it needs to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The way to do that is decouple its growth from its emissions footprint by using clean, renewable energy to power its business instead of dirty coal and dangerous nuclear power."

Working Together To Make Things Right
Ultimately, both groups are doing a great thing. Facebook is working to minimize how much energy it needs, and Greenpeace is working to get the company to use energy sources that have the least negative impacts on the environment.

Imagine that -- a social networking company with a minimized energy footprint, and what energy it does use comes from renewable resources.

It sounds amazing, and more importantly, it sounds possible.

Greenpeace writes that Facebook's change can come in five steps (PDF):
1. Come clean: Disclosure of energy and carbon footprint
2. Infrastructure siting policy -- make it a priority to place data centers where renewable energy is plentiful.
3. Increase the supply of clean energy through power purchase agreements or renewable energy credits; investing in clean energy programs directly; or generating their own clean energy on-site
4. Become clean energy advocates
5. Educate Facebook users about clean energy and how we can all sign up for using clean energy.

These are all things Facebook can do, starting today (well, the carbon footprint disclosure would take a little time...), and it would lend a good deal of credibility to their OpenCompute project.

To leave a comment and help Greenpeace reach its world record, head here.

To learn more about Facebook's OpenCompute project, head here.

UPDATE:

Greenpeace broke the record they were going for. The group wrote in a press release:

"Eleven hours into their attempt, tens of thousands of Facebook users around the world established a Guinness World Record for the most comments to a Facebook post in 24 hours. The Facebook users joined with Greenpeace to call on the social networking giant to start powering its services with renewable energy instead of coal and nuclear power."

A big fat congratulations to Greenpeace for an enormous success to their effort. It's clear that there are a lot of vocal people who also want Facebook to leave coal in the dust. According to Greenpeace, Facebook uses about 55% coal power while Google uses 34% and Yahoo uses just 12.7%, showing that Facebook could most definitely change up their patterns and still be successful.

But here's where the group moves from awesome into obnoxious mode:

"The comments will be displayed for Facebook employees on a LED screen placed outside its California office, encouraging the company to meet Greenpeace's Earth Day challenge to announce a plan that would phase out its use of coal power over the next decade."

Really? Because the employees don't already know about the campaign? Does Greenpeace really have to place an LED screen outside the offices and gloat? It seems like there could be a more productive, less childish way to ensure Facebook acknowledges the new world record; after all, the company is part of that record considering it was set using their platform (and their coal-powered data centers).

Follow Jaymi on Twitter for more stories like this
More on Greenpeace and Facebook's Coal Consumption
Celebrities Tell Facebook to Ditch Coal (Video)
Greenpeace Urges Facebook to 'Unfriend' Coal (VIDEO)
Facebook is Between a Rock and a Greenpeace

Tags: Activism | Greenpeace | Renewable Energy | Social Media

Best of TreeHugger