Google flaunts its eco-warrior leanings for Earth Day

18 Apr 2016

The tech industry is a powerful engine – an analogy that can have as much to do with carbon footprint as it does with output of products. Data centres, office complexes and innovation displacing legacy devices all play their part in producing vast carbon emissions.

In a world where tech companies are contributing so significantly to the creation of greenhouse gases, seeing what some of the behemoth companies are doing to redress the balance is fantastic.

In a post released on the company’s official blog in advance of Earth Day, Google has highlighted the various ways in which it can “help you reduce your everyday emissions and learn more about preserving our world”.

One of these – and perhaps the best known – is Project Sunroof.

Project Sunroof was first unveiled in August of last year. The initiative used the technology behind Google Maps and Google Earth to determine whether installing solar panels on the roof of your building would be worth your while, even estimating your potential energy savings if you did.

Initially only in place in San Francisco, Fresno and Boston, Sunroof was expanded in January to a further 16 locations. As of last week, it is now available in 42 US states. Surely a global rollout is only a matter of time.

Some of the other ways Google is involved in environmental initiatives may come as more of a surprise, operating somewhat outside the media spotlight.

The first of these sees Google products being used to monitor forests and wildlife. Scientists at the University of Minnesota are using Google Earth Engine in concert with Global Forest Watch to assess forest loss in tiger habitats. By monitoring this loss and making efforts to reverse it, it is anticipated that tiger populations could see a further resurgence.

This assessment is done entirely through satellite imagery available for free through the Earth Engine, which enables users to watch how specific areas have evolved over time.

In another bid to reduce greenhouse gases, Google has also teamed up with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to map methane leaks that could prove incredibly costly in the context of global warming.

To carry out this mapping, Google tweaked the marching orders for its Street View cars just a bit. In addition to logging streetscapes, the vehicles are now also equipped with methane analysers, which measure methane concentration every 30 seconds, thereby locating leaks, and assessing their size.

Armed with this data, Google and the EDF hope that utilities companies will use it to fix or replace damaged piping.

Main image via Shutterstock

Kirsty Tobin was careers editor at Silicon Republic