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Greenpeace: Apple has the dirtiest data

Doug Gross
Data centers like Apple's 500,000-square-foot facility being built in North Carolina burn tons of energy, Greenpeace says.
Data centers like Apple's 500,000-square-foot facility being built in North Carolina burn tons of energy, Greenpeace says.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Greenpeace report says Apple's data storage is environmentally unfriendly
  • Yahoo!, Google scored higher for practices like wind and solar power
  • Report: Apple facility in North Carolina will consume as much energy as 80,000 U.S. homes
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(CNN) -- Sure, most of us consider the environmental impact our recycling habits or car's gas mileage may have.

But what about our text messages and status updates?

The energy that technology companies use storing and transmitting our data is becoming more of an environmental risk, according to a report from environmental group Greenpeace.

And according to the report, which was timed to coincide with Earth Day, Apple has some of the dirtiest data of all.

"How Dirty Is Your Data?" examines the amount and type of energy consumed by several top tech companies' data centers, the massive warehouses where banks of servers store information.

If the Internet was a country, it would rank fifth in the amount of energy consumed, just behind Japan and Russia, according to the report.

And in the report's ranking of nine major tech companies, Apple's data-storage practices earned the lowest "Clean Energy Index" score. The score considers the percentage of these data centers' electricity generated by "clean" energy such as solar or wind power versus "dirtier" energy sources, such as coal and nuclear power.

(That score, Greenpeace acknowledges, is based on a limited amount of public data and required some speculation. The report says Greenpeace asked all the companies studied to provide complete data and then submitted scores to the companies for comment before the report was published.)

Apple's 6.7% score was largely based on its 500,000-square-foot facility coming online in Maiden, North Carolina. According to Greenpeace, that facility will consume as much energy as 80,000 homes in the United States, or nearly a quarter-million in Europe.

The North Carolina energy grid it uses is made up of only about 5% clean energy, the report says, with the rest coming from either coal (62%) or nuclear (32%).

Also scoring in single digits was HP, with a 9.9%, based on facilities fueled almost exclusively by coal and nuclear energy.

Topping the list were Yahoo! (55.9%) and Google (36.4%).

Yahoo! locates most of its data centers near sources of renewable energy, Greenpeace says, and Google is investing in wind and solar power as well as making deals to buy power from companies that use sustainable means to create it.

"Their models should be employed and improved upon by other Internet ('cloud computing') companies," Greenpeace said in the report.

Also ranked in the report: Amazon (26.8%), Microsoft (25%), Twitter (21%),Facebook (13.8%) and IBM (10.9%).

While Facebook avoided the bottom of the list, Greenpeace says the ever-growing social networking site could be on its way.

"Facebook, one of the fastest growing and most popular destinations on the web, is unfortunately on track to be one of the most dependent cloud computing companies on coal-powered electricity, with over 53% of its facilities estimated to rely on coal to power the Facebook cloud," the report says.

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