Will Facebook Going Green Start an Even Greater Social Media Outcry for Businesses to Do the Same?

 Recent talk of another new energy efficient facility has sparked conversation about how the social network is stepping up to be a leader in the green data center revolution. While nothing is for certain, Facebook’s latest efforts could result in an outcry calling for other internet companies to follow suit.

IT and The Environment

Facebook, Google, Microsoft and other major companies that are heavily dependent on IT require data centers to maintain their operations. These facilities are extremely important as they deliver the software, services and technology that have become such vital components of today’s digital world. Unfortunately, these data centers and the operations running within them are taking a terrible toll on the environment by releasing the harmful gases many environmentalists believe are contributing to Global Warming. Data center emissions are considered bad now, but could get much worse in the very near future. According to Gartner, server sales are expected to sky rocket through 2012, which not only means increase usage, but also more power and cooling requirements to support that usage.

To this day, coal-fired electricity remains as the most affordable form of electricity in existence. It is indeed inexpensive when compared to other options, but quite costly when you factor in the emission of the mercury, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide that find their way into the earth’s air and water supply. For decades, the United States has been seeking a cost effective solution to its electricity problem and dependence on coal. However, as the country continues to move further towards information technology, more data centers, servers, and electricity is required, thus worsening the problem and seemingly putting a viable solution on the back burner.

Environmentally-Responsible IT

In recent times, some of the biggest players in IT have made a dedicated effort to go green in the data center environment. They are incorporating energy-efficient server hardware, turning to virtualization to use less equipment, and making investments in carbon credits to offset their coal-fueled electricity usage. Some have gone completely paperless in the office and even go as far as asking employees to carpool to work. A few companies have only made small efforts, but every step helps toward a cleaner environment.

Whether or not Facebook is stepping up to be a leader in the green IT movement is certainly a matter that is up for debate. In fact, news that its newest data center would be built in a coal-infested area actually resulted in a bit of outrage from the environmental community. However, the social network has covered its tracks by creating “Green on Facebook”, a new page that lists all the steps it is taking to be a more eco-friendly company. There is no guarantee that what Facebook is doing will impact any other company, but if businesses see that such a major internet player is making a dedicated effort to be more responsible, and it could cause them to look at their impact and consider doing the same.

Gary San is a best practices activist and advocate for Benchmark Email, a leading Web and permission-based email marketing solutions.