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Greenpeace ranks world's most popular websites on renewable energy use

Campaign group releases Chrome browser extension that gives web users at-a-glance information on the clean energy habits of internet sites

Greenpeace has graded 110 of the internet’s most popular websites based on their use of renewable energy sources so web users can weigh up the site owners’ approach to sustainable energy use.

All of the sites, which include the likes of Amazon.com, Buzzfeed, Tumblr, Wikipedia and Wordpress, have been assessed by Greenpeace for their commitment to using green energy sources and how open they are with users on this front. Greenpeace has graded their efforts from A to F, accordingly.

The results have been packaged into Greenpeace’s Click Clean Scorecard report, but are also available to view in a more interactive form through the release of a Chrome web browser extension.

Once installed, the extension will pull up data relating to the energy footprint of these 110 sites when web users pay them a visit, and display either a green, yellow or red cloud depending on its owner’s use of renewable energy.

Greenpeace has pledged to expand the number of sites listed on the scorecard over time and continually update the information about their environmental practices the extension provides.  

It’s also planning to bring out additional versions of the plugin that are compatible with a wider range of web browsers.

Dave Pomerantz, senior climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace USA, said the report and the browser extension are designed to help web users make an informed choice about what services to use online.

“As people move more of their lives online, they deserve to know which companies are working to power their favourite sites and services with renewable energy, so they can choose to stream and share with companies that are helping to build a greener internet,” he said.

Yahoo hopes for a more sustainable web

The release marks a renewed push by the environmental campaign group to highlight technology companies which use renewable energy sources to power their operations, as well as those which don’t.

Read more about IT and the environment

This has seen the firm release a series of annual reports in recent years looking at the renewable energy commitments and carbon footprints of companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google, which have all been hailed in the past for the progress they’ve made in addressing sustainability issues.

Web giant Yahoo! has also found its operations scrutinised in past editions of the report, and has previously been commended by Greenpeace for siting its datacentres close to clean energy sources, and for publicly pledging to cut the “carbon intensity” of its facilities by 40% by 2014.

Speaking to Computer Weekly, Christina Page, global director of energy and sustainability at Yahoo, applauded the release of Greenpeace’s Chrome extension, and said she hoped its insights will compel users to force the worst-performing players to clean up their acts.

“Five years ago, it was hard to get hold of this information, but now people are being empowered by it. I’d be curious to see, in terms of the average citizen, whether they care about this and if it leads to them putting pressure on the people who own these sites,” she said.

“I hope the level of transparency it provides will lead people to say, ‘we’re customers of yours, we care about this, so come up with a policy’, and lead to some real change.”   

Pressure on AWS to go green

Amazon Web Services (AWS), despite making a long-term pledge to have 100% of its datacentres powered by green energy, has been roundly criticised by Greenpeace in the past for not disclosing detailed information about its energy sustainability strategy.

In keeping with this, the public cloud giant receives another kicking in Greenpeace’s latest tome, where it claims no other company could do more to make the internet a more environmentally friendly operation, given the sheer number of sites that run on AWS.

“In the sample of 110 websites included in this report, at least 35 use AWS for a significant portion of their hosting, with many others likely using their services to some degree,” the report stated.

“A massive portion of the internet would be on the road to becoming greener if Amazon moved to power with renewable energy.”

It then goes on to implore AWS customers to put pressure on the firm to come clean about its energy habits and step up its use of renewable energy sources.

“Amazon customers should push the company to become more transparent about its energy footprint, and to make clear what strategies and principles it is using to reach its 100% renewable energy goal, particularly in its dirtiest regions, like Virginia,” the report added.

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