Greenpeace Targets iPad In War On Dirty Tech


The environmental group has launched simultaneous attacks on Dell and Apple, on the eve of the launch of the iPad

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace has taken some pot-shots at tech companies in the past, but this week upped its campaign against energy-intensive and toxic IT in separate campaigns targeting Samsung, Dell and Apple.

In a report released to coincide with the US launch of the Apple iPad this week, Greenpeace did not criticise the device directly but rather the “cloud” infrastructure which supports it. The report, Make IT Green: Cloud Computing and its Contribution to Climate Change, uses the launch of the Apple device as jumping-off point to discuss the growth of cloud services and the energy-hungry data-centres behind them.

Cloud services create massive carbon footprint

“‘Make IT Green: Cloud Computing and its Contribution to Climate Change’, shows how the launch of quintessential cloud computing devices like the Apple iPad, which offer users access to the “cloud” of online services like social networks and video streaming, can contribute to a much larger carbon footprint of the Information Technology (IT) sector than previously estimated,” Greenpeace stated.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hype surrounding the launch of a new device such as the iPad and forget about the infrastructure behind it, which is consuming increasing amounts of energy, Greenpeace said. “At current growth rates data centres and telecommunication networks will consume about 1,963 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2020,” the group said. “That is more than triple their current consumption and more than the current electricity consumption of France, Germany, Canada and Brazil combined.”

According to Greenpeace, large cloud services providers such as Google, Microsoft and to some extent Apple, should use renewable energy in their data centres where possible and use their size to push the importance of sustainable energy production to utilities and governments alike.

Greenpeace also singled out Facebook as a company which has failed to adopt a sustainable approach to data centre management citing the construction of a Facebook data centre in Prineville, Oregon, which the environmental group claims runs primarily on coal. “By choosing energy company PacifiCorp, a utility that sources the majority of its power from coal-fired power stations, Facebook missed a chance to promote the use of renewable energy and instead reinforced the coal industry’s grip on the United States power grid,” Greenpeace stated.

Greenpeace should put its money where its mouth is

However Greenpeace risks accusations of hypocrisy for its stance on green energy for data centres and its criticisim of Facebook. Specialist site Data Center Knowledge, revealed earlier this month that Greenpeace has a number of servers in a colocation centre in northern Virginia. Most data centres in northern Virginia are thought to be supplied by Dominion Virginia Power, which gets 46 percent of its production from coal, 41 percent from nuclear, 8 percent from natural gas, and just 4 percent of its power from renewable generation.

Gary Cook, a Climate Policy Advisor for the Greenpeace CoolIT Campaign, told Data Center Knowledge that Greenpeace is trying to run the greenest operation it can by purchasing renewable energy certificates (RECs) to offset the carbon output of its data centres – the bulk of which are in Amsterdam. “We’re buying RECs because we want to put our money where our mouth is,” he said.

Michael Dell: Drop The Toxics

Greenpeace has also stepped its campaign against the use of toxic compounds by hardware makers. Earlier this week, campaigners unfurled huge banners on Dell’s offices in Bangalore, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen calling on chief executive Michael Dell to “Drop The Toxics”. The banners were timed to coincide with a meeting of Dell execs on Monday to discuss the companies plans to cut the use of toxic materials.

Greenpeace said that Dell had committed to cut the use of PVC vinyl plastic and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in all its computers by the end of last year but had failed to hit the deadline.”The giant PC maker committed publicly to be off these chemicals by the end of 2009. Well the deadline has passed and anyone buying a Dell computer will be sadly disappointed by what is in the box,” Greenpeace said.

Samsung’s Benelux headquarters was also targeted by Greepeace banner teams this week when the Korean hardware maker was accused of breaking promises over use of toxic substances. “Samsung’s promises are proving to be as thin as its TVs, as it loses face and ground to competitors such as Apple, HP, Nokia and Sony Ericsson who have long delivered products free of these hazardous substances, proving that this can be done,” said Greenpeace International Electronics campaigner Iza Kruszewska.

Tom Jowitt contributed to this report

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