Technology

Sustainable with Google 2021 Occasion: Nest Renew and Extra

During its Sustainable with Google event on Tuesday, the company announced a series of improvements to its product portfolio aimed at helping users make more sustainable choices. Updates and projects aim to reduce CO2 emissions by guiding people to greener travel choices, greener products and more accurate information on climate change.

Aside from consumer goods, Google took the opportunity at the event to honk its earlier commitment to have net-zero data centers by 2030. The company says it uses the “cleanest cloud in the industry” for partners like Whirlpool, Etsy, HSBC, Unilever and Salesforce. More news in this regard is expected at the annual cloud conference next week. Here’s everything that was announced on Sustainable with Google 2021.

Nest offers carbon offset

Google

Nest Renew is a new service that adjusts heating and cooling for owners to use more sustainable sources of electricity. Because the power of sources such as sun and wind fluctuates widely, it is possible to make small changes to the thermostat to use an abundance of clean energy or to respond to a decline in availability.

Electricity providers try to incentivize behavior to adapt to these fluctuations by offering usage time tariffs. It’s not entirely practical to hang on your thermostat to tweak, but having Nest adjust automatically can be a great solution. Ideally, these changes are small enough that they don’t make a significant difference in household comfort.

Nest Renew dashboard with emissions savings. Google

Nest has given users a leaf if they save energy, and Renew will be giving away a few more. This includes occasional challenges to earn bonus hands such as: B. the obligation to wash a load of laundry in cold water to save electricity. These can be redeemed to vote on how Nest uses funds in its Energy Impact Program, which makes donations to a number of nonprofit environmental organizations such as GRID Alternatives and Elevate.

Although Nest Renew is a free program, Google also offers Renew Premium. For $ 10 per month, your estimated fossil fuel electricity usage will be matched against renewable energy credits. Perhaps it is best to think of this as a carbon offsetting subscription. The first partner on this front is the Bethel Wind Project, but more partners are expected to join over time. Nest Renew includes monthly impact reports that show exactly what it has achieved with its fiddling.

Nest Renew is rolling out in the continental US in a limited preview “in the coming weeks,” and you can sign up for an invite.

Emissions are displayed when searching for flights

A screenshot of the Google search results for flights with sustainability filters.Google

Search results for flights now contain filters and sorts according to CO2 emissions for your routes. These numbers will also adjust depending on the class, as first-class seats take up more space and a proportionally larger share of the emissions of the flight than those in the coach. Newer aircraft have improved fuel efficiency and will also reflect emissions in these ratings. To find the best options, green flights in particular are marked with a leaf.

Hotels also receive similar awards for receiving sustainability certifications such as Green Key or Earth Check. This should help tourists find hotels that have water saving and waste reduction programs in place. These are all handy things to have on hand when travel restrictions are lifted and more people are comfortable getting on an airplane.

Google Maps is becoming more bike-friendly

Screenshot of Google Maps driving directions with a more sustainable route.Google

New updates to Google Maps for the US help drivers find environmentally friendly routes based on estimated fuel consumption. Of course, this is not necessarily the fastest route, but it is an option that you have in your navigation. Expect this feature to land in Europe next year.

In the coming months, cyclists will be able to avoid distractions with a new “lite” navigation interface. The standard turn-by-turn directions aren’t particularly useful if your phone is tucked away in a pocket or pocket anyway. Cyclists can also use Google Maps to find bike sharing services in 300 cities around the world. These regions include Berlin, New York, São Paulo and Taipei, Taiwan, others are in preparation.

Search highlights facts about climate change

Disinformation about climate change is significant and Google is updating its results interface on this topic to highlight high quality information. Users will be able to search causes, effects, and definitions with high quality sources to back up the information.

Shopping search finds green alternatives

Screenshot of Google search results for water heaters.Google

If you search for home appliances on Google, it will be easier to find energy efficient options. If you search for ovens, dishwashers, kettles, ovens, and dryers in the US, you will now have a tab with helpful sustainability suggestions.

This also applies to searching for electric vehicles on Google. The results will now improve the visibility of electric vehicles and show the estimated annual fuel savings compared to gasoline-powered cars and the location of nearby charging stations. Expect this feature to be available in the US early next year.

Google Finance can help you build an eco portfolio

Google Finance will continue to highlight corporate environmental performance in their listings. Google has already added a sustainability rating from CDP for nonprofits to individual listings, and soon Google Finance will provide an overall rating for an entire portfolio. This should help investors gauge the overall impact of their contributions.

New AI research can reduce idling at intersections

Diagram showing traffic improvements with Google AI.Google

Finally, Google announced that it was doing research using AI to improve the efficiency of traffic lights in cities. Pilot projects in Israel have already reduced fuel and intersection delay times by 10 to 20%. Further trials are in the works in Rio de Janeiro and elsewhere in the world. Hopefully such technology can reduce idle times and wasteful emissions.

That’s a lot to cram into a single event. For end users, much of this will mean just UI changes, but on a Google scale, the cumulative impact of these changes could be significant. Nest Renew stands out as the biggest single announcement, and while it has strong renewable energy targeting potential, trying to get users to tackle a $ 10 a month carbon offsetting subscription can be ambitious.

There are many reasons to be cynical about Big Tech’s commitment to sustainability, even if a lot of what Google is saying here sounds good. Measuring the results of these initiatives is in itself a challenge, both from the perspective of accuracy and transparency. At least we can applaud the spirit in which they are undertaken.

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