The issue of sustainability is an ever growing concern in our society. Now more than ever people, and companies are faced with the daunting task of “going green”. Everywhere you go people are asking “how sustainable is this?” and “what will the carbon footprint be?” And so they should – this is a pressing issue that our society needs to address. This week a colleague of mine, and a Fan of WebFuel’s on Facebook, asked me “What is the greenest Search Engine?” I was left sitting there thinking to myself, “How have I never thought of this before?” So I did a little research.

To my surprise, there are quite a few “green Search Engines” out there – here are some of them.

Green Maven is a Search Engine that searches the “green web” – meaning that they help searchers find green websites.

Ecocho is summed up by it’s slogan – “You Search, We Grow Trees.” That is exactly what they do. This Search Engine, that is powered by Yahoo, will plant two trees for every 1000 searches made.

Blackle is creative and effective – they are basically Google with the lights turned off. Blackle saves energy by using a Google with a black background, which uses significantly less energy than a white background would on a typical computer monitor. Other similar black background Search Engines include Eco-Find, Earthle and Groonle.

There are literally dozens of other similar Green Search Engines out there – but typically they are small, and the results are not too relevant. So that brings us to the big guys – Google, Yahoo and Bing – which one is the greenest? Well, it wasn’t a tough decision for me.

Google

Does this surprise anybody – really? Google has always been known for their proactive, innovative practices. So why wouldn’t sustainability be one of them? Google has long been a supporter of “Going Green”, a value that is mirrored by their everyday business.

The first thing to note with Google is that they are huge, so their data centers will naturally use more energy than those of smaller Search Engines. Google knows this, so they strive to decrease their carbon footprint, encourage efficient computing ,and promote a green workplace.

Reducing Carbon Footprint

In recent years, Google has made strong efforts to use cleaner, cheaper energy sources. They have made significant investments into renewable energy start-ups, as well into alternative energy source projects such as wind farms and solar installations. In fact, Google’s headquarters is home to one of the largest solar installations in the United States.

Efficient Computing

It takes a lot of energy to run the largest Search Engine in the World – and the majority of that energy is needed to run the data centers. However, Google claims that their data centers are the most efficient in the World, using about half of the energy of a typical data center. As a result, the energy used per search is extremely small – about 1kJ of energy per search query, which translates to 0.2k of C02. Okay…so how much is that really? Let’s put that number into perspective. A daily newspaper printed on 100% recycled paper would create the same amount of C02 emissions as 850 Google searches. I’m pretty sure you could get your daily news in less than 850 searches.

Sustainability is not only good for the environment, but also good for business for Google. Their efficiency has allowed them to save costs and become the industry leader that they are today. Here is a example of the energy use for Google’s servers and data centers compared to the average.

Green Employee Program

Google’s Green Employee Program was designed to promote green habits within the organization to decrease their overall carbon footprint.

So whether it’s biking to work, eating locally grown food, or working in a building powered by solar panels, Google truly encourages their employees to be green.

Google’s continuous innovation will only make them more efficient. Take their newest feature, Google Instant for example. Instant will save searchers time by delivering Search Engine results as the user types. It is estimated by Google that Instant will save 350 hours of search in Instant’s first year.

Have you taken steps to reduce your own carbon footprint?

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