If you’ve ever wondered about the energy powering your favorite websites, a new tool from Greenpeace is here to help. On Thursday, the advocacy group released a new browser extension tool that shows which of the most popular websites are moving most ambitiously towards renewable energy use. Users that download the extension (compatible with Google Chrome) can distinguish leaders from laggards by the color of a cloud icon that appears green, yellow, or red whenever they open a new site.
Greenpeace chose 110 websites for its first “Click Clean Scorecard” tool from lists of top US sites by traffic, grading them based on their renewable energy commitment, renewable energy championship and energy transparency. The extension enables users to spread the word about a company’s performance or request that a site be included in Greenpeace’s next ranking. For example, with one click you can commend Google for its commitment to 100 percent renewable energy with a ready-made tweet that appears:
“Glad to know @google is powering the Internet with clean energy! See how others compare: clickclean.org #clickclean”
Users can also urge those companies that score poorly to improve their performance. The Greenpeace scorecard reveals Reddit, for example, is “powered by 23 percent clean energy,” but is not committed to 100 percent renewables. Under the shameful red cloud icon, users can choose to “Tweet at Reddit.com” with the line, “Disappointed to know @reddit powers the Internet with dirty energy.”
As Caeli Quinn explained in a post earlier this year – the more traffic a site gets, the more energy it uses, both on the server side and the front end, where users access content through smartphones, laptops, and an increasing array of Internet-connected devices, all of which require power to run. To put this into perspective, it is estimated that the Internet consumes nearly 10 percent of global electricity consumption, with the world’s data centers consuming between 1.1 and 1.5 percent, which is approximately 300 million megawatt hours of electricity annually. That’s the equivalent to the power consumed by 21.8 million American homes and the CO2 output of 46 volcanic eruptions.
David Pomerantz, Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace USA, says the rating system empowers consumers to make informed choices about which sites they use and support.
“As people move more of their lives online, they deserve to know which companies are working to power their favorite sites and services with renewable energy, so that they can choose to stream and share with companies that are helping to build a greener Internet," he said.
Accompanying the new tool is the latest edition of Greenpeace’s assessment of Internet companies, Clicking Clean: A Guide to Building the Green Internet. Results show that Apple, Google, and Facebook are still leading the way in powering their data center operations with renewable energy, consistent with the 2014 report’s conclusions. Greenpeace remains critical of Amazon for failing to provide transparency about how it will power with renewable energy as it expands in coal, gas and nuclear-heavy locations such as Ohio and Virginia.
Many companies included in the Click Clean scorecard do not operate their own data centers, instead leasing from providers or using a cloud-computing vendor such as Amazon Web Services (AWS). Greenpeace says these companies have a crucial role to play in building a green Internet by disclosing information about their energy use, committing to renewable energy, and by influencing their providers.
Many AWS customers are among the websites graded in the new report and browser extension, and several have publicly advocated that AWS become more transparent about its energy footprint. While AWS announced a new solar project in Virginia earlier this week, Greenpeace cautioned that the company is a long way from reaching its 100 percent renewable energy goal, and urged further transparency to assess the significance of this solar investment.
In the meantime, with a quick download of the Click Clean extension tool, the public can now browse a little more consciously.