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Solving for sustainability

At Google sustainability is a part of everything we do. Larry Page and Sergey Brin made desks out of sawhorses and doors because that was the most efficient use of existing resources, and built the company’s first disc enclosure out of Lego bricks because what better, cheaper, geekier way to get more hard drives into less space?

Today, Google’s founders have been joined by energy and policy strategists, mechanical and software engineers, sustainability experts, and 65,000 other creative tinkerers, and we’re still focused on finding new ways to do more while using less. We approach environmental sustainability as we would any other challenge — with a healthy disregard for the impossible in creating technology that improves as many lives as possible.

There are as many ways to solve for sustainability as there are Googlers who see ways that things can work better. There’s the engineer who invented the Bay Area tech shuttle as a traffic-reduction side project and the team that figured out how Google could buy renewable energy at utility scale. There’s the idea to encourage solar adoption by telling any homeowner how many watts of sunlight hit their roof per year, and the insight that we can turn up the thermostat in our data centers because our servers work just as well when it’s 80 degrees inside the building (plus staff get to wear shorts to work).

We tackle these projects because they reduce our company’s environmental impact, and also because they improve our bottom line. But mostly we do this stuff because it needs to be done and it’s the right thing to do. Google has been carbon neutral since 2007, and in 2017 we’ll reach 100% renewable energy for our operations, including our data centers and offices. But our ambitions don’t end at our own door. Climate change is real. We’re a global company, and our goal is to give everyone everywhere the tools and opportunities they need to play their own part in protecting the planet.

That’s why we’ve invested $2.5 billion in renewable energy projects, and why we freely share technology that might help others study and respond to environmental challenges. It’s why our food services don’t just save money by buying and cooking ugly vegetables; they work to create markets for food that would otherwise go to waste. It’s why we didn’t just make our own campuses healthier; we built a public database to help everyone eliminate toxic chemicals from construction materials.

It’s why even as we use new technologies like machine learning and cloud computing to make our products more useful and our operations more efficient, we also put them to work analyzing data on forests, oceans, and other ecosystems to help scientists, communities, and environmental organizations deal more effectively with challenges like clear-cutting, overfishing, and air pollution.

Finally, it’s why Google has long been — and will remain — a strong advocate for local and global solutions that accelerate a clean energy future. The data on climate change is clear, and so is the data on renewable energy and economic growth. Shifting to a clean economy won’t just build a more sustainable world; it will build a more prosperous one as well.

We get that this is a long-term project. We’re okay with that. Every company makes choices — about products, about planning, about purpose, about people. You approach these decisions differently if you’re focused not on your next earnings release, but on future generations that will have to live with the consequences of the choices you make today. Our choice today — in the products we create and in how and why we create them — is to do everything we can to bring into being the best future any of us can imagine. And we can imagine a lot. Let’s get to it.