Apple Named Least ‘Green’ Tech Company

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Correction appended: April 21, 2011

While Apple celebrates a surge in profits, a report by Greenpeace has ranked it as least “green” among tech companies.

Apple’s quarterly earnings have grown 95% to $6bn, but the company has also been accused of heavily relying on pollution-inducing coal power to support its banks of data servers.

The report, How Dirty is Your Data?, highlights the company’s investment in a new North Carolina facility which will triple its electricity consumption, using up the same electricity required for 80,000 average U.S. homes.

North Carolina is known as the “dirty data triangle” used by Apple, Google and Facebook. And they are likely to use it because it’s cheap and offers tax incentives. But it comes at a high price: only 4% of its energy comes from renewable sources; 61 percent comes from coal.

“Consumers want to know that when they upload a video or change their Facebook status that they are not contributing to global warming or future Fukushimas,” said Gary Cook, Greenpeace’s IT policy analyst and lead author of the report.

Apple’s data centers’ dependence on coal is estimated to be at 54.5%, followed by Facebook at 53.2%, IBM at 51.6%, HP at 49.4%, and Twitter at 42.5%. On the report’s good books are Yahoo, Google and Amazon for their use of clean energy; however Google and Amazon both scored an F for transparency.

Greenpeace was able to do its research for the report by relying on publicly accessible data, but there are concerns that tech companies aren’t transparent enough. In the US, companies are not required to disclose their energy use.

The authors emphasize that the internet needs growing amounts of energy, but secrecy in the IT industry means that it’s difficult for us to know how it is affecting the world.

Greenpeace predicts shocking figures; the electricity demand of the web is estimated to be greater than the total electricity demands of France, Germany, Canada and Brazil put together.

Now doesn’t that make you feel like switching off your broadband?

Correction appended: The original version of the article incorrectly placed quotes around the words “least ethical” in the first sentence.

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