Google launches new features to help users shrink their carbon footprints

Google announced a suite of new features that it says will help people who use their platforms make more sustainable choices. The new services focus on reducing planet-heating greenhouse gas emissions and are primarily found on Search, Maps, Travel, and Nest.

But before we get into the details of how their new tools work, a quick note of context; some environmental advocates have called out companies for shifting responsibility for the climate crisis onto individual consumers. Holding big corporate polluters accountable for their emissions far outweighs any one consumers’ individual impact. And Wednesday’s announcements from Google aren’t really designed to reduce the company’s own carbon footprint.

That being said, there’s no time to lose to the prevent the climate crisis from getting worse, and every bit of emissions-savings helps. For those who might want some new tools to rein in their own emissions, here’s a breakdown of what Google just announced.





Sometime this month, Google plans to switch up the way results for “climate change” appear in its Search platform. Users will be led to a dedicated results page with “high quality climate-related information,” according to Google. It plans to source content from reputable authorities on the subject, including the United Nations.

The company also says it wants to make it easier for consumers to see more eco-friendly options when shopping on Google. By “early next year,” when users based in the US search for car models and manufacturers, Google will also show results for hybrid and electric vehicles. When searching for a particular electric vehicle, users will also find nearby charging stations that are compatible with the model.

Similarly, Google users in the US should begin to see suggestions Wednesday for more energy efficient home appliances when shopping online. That applies to searches for furnaces, dishwashers, water heaters, stoves, and dryers.

Google, however, did not announce any changes to searches on YouTube, which is a big platform for misinformation and lies about climate change. Of the top 100 videos that pop up when searching for “global warming,” 20 percent of views are for videos rife with misinformation, according to one recent analysis by nonprofit Avaaz. Google has also not met its own employees’ demands that it cancel contracts with fossil fuel companies or stop funding and lobbying for candidates that derail climate action.



Starting Wednesday, people in the US can see which driving routes are the most fuel-efficient when using Google Maps. (The company originally announced in March that this feature was on the way.) Fuel efficiency cuts down on both gas costs and tailpipe pollution. When the most fuel-efficient route is also the fastest, Google Maps will default to that option. If the fuel-efficient route is slower, the app will show users their options so that they can make an educated decision on which to choose. Users in Europe will be able to do the same starting in 2022, according to Google.

That will, in theory, help individual Google Maps users reduce their CO2 emissions. A passenger vehicle typically releases just under five metric tons of CO2 a year. And a person in the US, which has one of the highest rates of per capita emissions in the world, might be responsible for about 18 metric tons a year. Google, on the other hand, unleashed 12,529,953 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in 2019. That’s roughly equivalent to more than 2.73 million passenger vehicles’ pollution in a year.


Google’s new Lite Navigation for cyclists. GIF: Google



When searching for flights through Google, starting Wednesday, users will now be able to see the carbon dioxide emissions associated with each flight. They’ll even be able to see how their seat choice affects their individual carbon footprint. Taking a seat in business or first class increases the amount of pollution you’re responsible for, since they take up more space and therefore a larger share of the plane’s emissions. Choosing a more fuel efficient itinerary can actually cut CO2 pollution from a given route by as much as 63 percent, recent research found.






Source The Verge

October 7, 2021