Guinness world record for Greenpeace Earth Day campaign

James F. Wakeham
Tuesday, 19th April 2011

In January, Facebook announced the opening of a new coal powered data center in Prineville, Oregon. Greenpeace immediately challenged them to use renewable energy instead, giving them a deadline of April 22, Earth Day to produce a more carbon friendly solution. Or else. Today the plant opened to protest from over 80,000 people who voiced their objections on the social network itself.

The tragedy of the global commons is accelerating; carbon emissions from industrial pollution contaminate the land sea and air as the spectre of climate change looms on the horizon. Earth Day on April 22 is approaching, and the Greenpeace campaign machine has selected a target. Is it oil spills? Nuclear power? Rainforests? Well... the carbon footprint they wish to erase revolves mainly around photos of people falling out of clubs while drunk, and adding essential information to cyberspace such as updates about the T.V. show they have just watched or how they spent the last hour cleaning their kitchen. Using inflatable blimp fly-bys and setting a world record, Greenpeace have gone large in a campaign aimed at the social network: Facebook.

The controversy began when Facebook announced that it would be building a new data centre in Prineville, Oregon in the Northwest of the USA. The facility, run on coal energy provided by Facebook's parent company Pacific Power, opened today and is expected to use the equivalent amount of electricity as over 3,000 average American homes. Greenpeace have demanded that facebook power their data centres with renewable energy such as solar, wind or water power and to ditch coal power, one of the leading sources of climate wrecking carbon emissions. The deadline they set for Facebook to set a target plan for this goal was Earthday, April 22. To hammer their point home Greenpeace set up a Facebook page to "unfriend" coal, which yesterday set a Guinness world record for most comments made on an internet site in 24 hours.

A staggering 80.000 people commented, outdoing the old record by 30,000, which represents a vast contemporary population who are concerned with the ecology of their actions. Greenpeace commentator Jodie Van Horn highlighted three areas of improvement in which the company could take steps to reduce their environmental impact:-

1. Transparency and reporting: Facebook should disclose the energy sources and renewable energy percentage of its Prineville data center publicly and expand upon the transparency endeavors of the Open Compute Project to open source its emissions reporting as well.
2. Increase renewable energy in Prineville: Through some combination of direct on-site installation and investment in clean energy development (a la Google), Facebook should set a target to use more renewable energy to power its data center, and use its bulk purchasing power to work with Pacific Power on getting more renewable energy onto the grid.
3. Policy Advocacy: As part of an overall greater emphasis on climate policy advocacy, Facebook should push for strong policies and incentives in Oregon that increase the availability of renewable energy and ensure that its Prineville operations will be increasingly run on clean energy.

As an attempt to safeguard pre-emptively against industrial ecological hazards from the IT industry trendsetters new plant, this campaign has been effective in drawing attention to the issue if nothing else. As well as using Facebook's own mechanisms to highlight to their environmental shortfallings, demonstrations have been held on the streets of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Norrköping, in Sweeden, and a Greenpeace sponsored blimp has been overshadowing the Facebook offices in Palo Alto, where the world record accomplishment was shown on a large screen which was brought outside the Facebook offices by supporters. Greenpeace have called on Facebook to draw up a plan to switch to renewable energy themselves, refraining from dictating company policy. Although the practical cost of doing so may give them pause, with public pressure mounting, the company may relent on their use of coal causing others in the IT industry to follow. 

Click here

To find out more about the Greenpeace campaign Unfriend Coal

To find out more about Earth Day 2011

and have a look at this great campaign film:-



James F. Wakeham ([email protected]) is a freelance journalist who is currently interning at Permaculture magazine. For more information about our intern programme please email [email protected]

Support Permaculture Magazine on Facebook - see our special page and keep in touch!