When it comes to green corporate policy, Google has long been a front-runner, making far-reaching decisions before the thought of doing so had even crossed the minds of most tech companies. Now, 13 years after going carbon-neutral, Google says it’s finally eliminated its carbon footprint — all the way back to the company’s founding in 1998.
Google has mostly accomplished this genuinely awe-inspiring feat by investing in high-quality carbon offsets. Offsets compensate for an individual or company’s carbon emissions by effectively canceling out those greenhouse gas emissions somewhere else in the world.
Google isn’t done just yet. It has bigger plans still: namely to run its business entirely on alternative fuel sources in the next ten years. Then Google won’t need to buy carbon offsets anymore, because it won’t be producing any carbon in the first place.
Next steps are even more complicated — Google’s goal of becoming carbon neutral has taken 17 years and a tremendous amount of carbon offset purchases to become a reality. The company’s next goal of running all of its offices and data centers on carbon-free energy is even more of a moonshot.
Google plans to use mostly a combination of wind and solar power to achieve its next goal, and by storing that energy in more efficient batteries. The company is also invested in innovating in the alternative energy sector to better the production and consumption of energy both for itself and others. Google plans to create 12,000 jobs over the next five years to work on projects like applying artificial intelligence to optimize electricity demand and forecasting.
The kind of example we need — Climate change is threatening to upend every aspect of life on Earth that we’ve become accustomed to. The recent (and current) wildfires up and down the West coast serve as a stark reminder that, unless species-scale changes are made, we’re not making it out of this crisis intact.
By offsetting its carbon usage to such an extreme, Google isn’t just making itself look good (though it certainly does). Google is an absolute behemoth, both in the tech world and across other industries, too. Other companies — like Microsoft and Apple — have already followed Google’s lead in making big promises related to curbing their own contributions to climate change.
Where the vast majority of tech companies are struggling to exist in a way that isn’t harming the planet, Google has eliminated its carbon footprint, promised to stop building custom software for gas and oil companies, and is now even dedicating resources to finding better energy solutions for the future. Google is lightyears ahead of its fellow tech companies — they’d do well to take some notes.