Google: Designing 21st Century Infrastructure to Save Planet Earth

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One of the keynotes the first day of the SXSW Eco conference was Kate Brandt from Google. Kate was there to discuss 21st infrastructure and what that means for Google and for us. Her job with Google encompasses handling sustainability across Google’s worldwide operations and products. She does this by coordinating with "Google’s data centers, real estate, supply chain, and product teams to ensures the company is capitalizing on opportunities to strategically advance sustainability and circular economy".

Based on her background she is perfect for this job. Before working for Google, Kate served under President Obama as the Nation's first Chief Sustainability Officer. "She was responsible for promoting sustainability across Federal Government operations including 360,000 buildings, 650,000 vehicles, and $445 billion annually in purchased goods and services. Prior to the White House, Kate served as Senior Advisor at the U.S. DOE and Energy Advisor to the Secretary of the Navy". Wow. Impressive to say the least. So it's safe to say that she knows what she is talking about when it comes to sustainability, climate change, and 21st-century infrastructure.

One of the things she discussed was what's happening to our planet. Did you know that humans are devouring our natural resources at an unprecedented rate and we are consuming more than Mother Earth can provide? Here's what's really scary... our demand for resources is equivalent to 1.5 Earths. That's mind blowing and not sustainable. The 20th-century model no longer serves us in the 21st century. We have to make changes fast if we want a planet to live on!

Google it seems likes to take on challenges and this is one of the biggest that we face. They believe that businesses have a responsibility in changing this issue and they are doing just that through many different paths that cover everything from "where the internet lives at the data center level to how we reduce waste from our cafes to the use of data and analytics" Google is utilizing the circular economy and the innovation opportunities it brings.

I learned from Kate that Google has been completely carbon neutral since 2007 and has committed more than $2 billion to clean energy projects. They are also over 50% more energy efficient than other companies and are the largest non-utility corporation producing over 2.5 gigawatts of energy. Google is leading the fight against climate change with many new innovations including building a network that identifies the healthiest products and materials. They also have this really cool tool where they look at your home and tell you how much solar you need and hook you up with solar providers.

One of the coolest aspects was when she discussed Google's data centers. They are focused on reducing their energy use, while at the same time serving the enormous growth of the internet. These storage facilities normally require a ton of energy and water to run and cool the systems, but Google, through smart engineering and innovation has reduced their overhead energy to 12%. One of their data centers located in Finland uses sea water to run and cool their systems and one in Georgia uses wastewater for its data center. Kate said that when you flush a toilet you cool and run the entire data system for that area. How cool is that?

​​​​​​​To learn more about this concept, check out their video here.

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