The most impactful way that Google can lower its carbon footprint across the board is to empower its users to make decisions that help the environment. On its sustainability website, the company has pledged to be carbon-free by 2030. As that date is now less than a decade away, we’ve seen many efforts pointed at reducing waste and destruction caused by burning fossil fuels including its more eco-friendly routes becoming the default in Maps, the new cycling tools, and other transit initiatives that are now available on the service.
We’re proud that we were the first major company to reach carbon neutrality and have become one of the world’s largest corporate buyers of renewable energy.Google Sustainability
Google is now taking to the sky with its vision for a cleaner tomorrow. In a Keyword blog post, the tech giant has detailed a new feature for Google Flights – the ability to see carbon emissions estimates for each plane you’re considering flying on. Actually, the estimates are even for each seat on the plane too, and apparently, flying economy and first-class produce more emissions and take up more space, so in some small way, Google is saying that you should feel bad about that great front-row seat you were considering.
In all seriousness though, these tools do provide users with a way to have a positive impact on the world in practical ways, and it’s wonderful that they’re becoming so accessible. Just look at Nest Renew – you can even make a difference from your couch based on how you heat or cool your home in more intentional ways so that clean energy is prioritized.
As you’re planning your trip (if you’re even comfortable doing so yet), you’ll see a green badge next to any flight with significantly lower emissions and it will be placed at the top o the list if you use the new filter for sorting this way.
You may be wondering how Google came up with these estimates. They’re combining data from the European Environmental Agency and flight-specific information from airlines and other providers. This gives it access to the aircraft type, trip distance, and the number of seats in each class. If you want to find flights with lower emissions, you can try choosing different dates to see the data change.
Now, this begs the question – if Google is providing all of these fantastic ways for us to improve the world we live in, how many of us will be willing to sacrifice our comfort and convenience for things that don’t immediately impact us or our generation? I’m willing to bet that in Maps and in Flights, choosing more eco-friendly routes or flights will force individuals to get where they’re going at a different time of day, and in the end, many people will think of themselves first.
I’m not saying we’re terrible people, but the expected behavior of the human race is self-preservation. We need to shift our understanding of this concept from individual self to collective and generational self if our grandchildren and theirs will have a planet worth living on.