If Facebook Unfriends Coal, Will Greenpeace Friend The Open Compute Project?


Image via Find Your Search via Flickr CC

Greenpeace wants Facebook to "unfriend coal" but Facebook has a request of its own. The social networking company is asking the environmental group to please friend its Open Compute Project that will help make data centers far more energy efficient. Will Greenpeace extend a friendly handshake?Greenpeace Getting Facebook to Unfriend Coal
Greenpeace has been working steadily on its Unfriend Coal campaign to get Facebook to move away from coal-powered electricity for its data centers and choose renewables instead. Earlier this week, it even earned a Guinness Book World Record for most comments in 24 hours on a Facebook page, trying to show the company that its users also want it to move toward renewables.

However, Facebook has been working on a project of its own to improve its energy use -- the Open Compute Project which open sources the company's newest data center, from design down to suppliers, so that other companies can improve the energy efficiency of their data centers as well.

Facebook Now Wants Greenpeace to Friend Open Compute Project
In an effort to get Greenpeace to both acknowledge the company's efforts at energy efficiency as well as help get more people on board with the beneficial project, Facebook wrote Greenpeace a letter (provided to us by an anonymous source with Facebook's permission to reprint the letter).

The letter is addressed to Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo from Facebook's VP of Technical Operations Johnathan Heiliger, and it details more about Facebook's push to be as energy efficient as possible as wells as how the Open Compute project will be an important part of that push. But central to the letter is one core idea:

"Just as Facebook believes in using the power and reach of our platform to help effect environmental change, I hope Greenpeace can use the power of your membership to encourage participation in and adoption of the Open Compute Project. Toward that goal, members of my team have already set up a meeting next week with representatives of Greenpeace. We look forward to answering any questions you have about the Open Compute Project and continuing our overall discussion."

Open Compute + Renewable Energy = Happy Planet

The Open Compute Project
is a great idea -- we love open sourcing information so that people and companies can build off one another's successes. And when that open sourced information revolved around energy efficiency, well, our hearts fill to bursting.

MNN reports, "This innovative approach has resulted in a new bar of power usage efficiency - a 1.07 rating compared to the industry average of 1.50 (with 1.00 being 100% efficiency)... Zuckerberg made it clear that Open Compute offers the IT industry a win-win strategy. Facebook's new data center is 38% more efficient, while saving the company 24% on total costs..."

So we have high hopes that Greenpeace will fully support Facebook's new project while maintaining it's stance on getting Facebook to switch to renewables,

On Wednesday, Greenpeace flew this blimp with a message to Facebook:


Photo published with permission from Greenpeace

If Greenpeace steps back for a moment it will see that in no small way, Facebook is part of the energy revolution through this Open Compute Project. Data centers are energy sucks, and making them efficient should be, and is, a top priority for IT companies. The activist organization has a tendency to get stuck on specific goals, and can forget to look at the bigger picture. Imagine what could happen if Greenpeace puts its weight behind the Open Compute Project. It just might make even more headway in getting Facebook to switch to renewable energy.

We want Facebook to switch to renewable energy, make no mistake of that. But energy efficiency is just as (if not more) important than the energy source. It looks like both Facebook and Greenpeace are doing good work, and hopefully, as the letter states, they'll continue to listen to one another an make progress toward a greener good.

I've asked for a statement from Greenpeace in response to this letter, and while I haven't heard back yet, I have high hopes I will, and will let you know the response when I do.

UPDATE
Greenpeace Campaigner Casey Harrell sent me a response to the letter, stating:

Greenpeace applauds efforts from IT companies to effectively improve the energy efficiency of their data centers. Facebook's Open Commute Project's emphasis on energy efficiency, as well as transparency, provides an opportunity to be an open-source model not only for the transparent use of equipment and design of data centers, but also transparency in the disclosure of data centers' emissions and energy sources.

We look forward to engaging with Facebook to make this emphasis on open-sourced data fully holistic. Green IT should not be a choice between energy efficiency and energy emissions: we need both -- energy efficient, renewable energy powered data centers. In order to combat our climate crisis, we need to move toward cleaner sources of energy.


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Tags: Activism | Greenpeace | Renewable Energy | Social Media