Greenpeace campaign tells Apple to abandon coal

Last week, Greenpeace launched a new “Clean Our Cloud” campaign to urge Apple and other technology companies to source their energy from solar, wind, or other renewable resources instead of from coal, their current source. Protests last week spanned the globe from London to Hong Kong, with consumers and environmentalists worldwide joining forces to demand sustainable business practices.

Currently, Apple powers its iCloud storage system with coal-fueled energy – a common form of energy used to power technology companies and computer servers – that contributes to serious diseases and respiratory illnesses such as asthma and damages the environment by releasing toxic chemicals, including mercury and arsenic, into the atmosphere. Greenpeace is already working with Facebook to help Facebook power its server system through renewable energy, and hopes that a massive global campaign will inspire Apple to adopt the same practices. The iCloud stores users’ data and files, including photos and videos, on a cloud computing network; it launched in October 2011 and, last week, Apple revealed that 125 million users subscribe to the service, with more expected to join the network in the near future. As consumers rely more heavily on the Internet and cloud computing systems, data centers need more electricity to power more servers to accommodate the growing body of cloud users.

Apple is known for designing user-friendly products and catering to the needs and wants of its customers; perhaps, if enough Apple users show the company that they want clean energy, Apple will wean itself off of coal. Renewable energy technology, such as solar and wind energy, currently exists at the large scale needed to power data centers at major technology companies. Greenpeace reasoned that Apple is “the most cutting-edge company in the world and they don’t want their customers associating their brand with a 19th Century energy source that is poisoning the air and wrecking our climate” and that its employees “care about the world their children will inherit, just like we do,” factors that the organization hopes will inspire Apple to stop using coal energy. The coal industry, of course, is lobbying tech companies to continue using coal, but public attention and demand for clean energy could convince the tech industry to abandon coal.

In last week’s “Clean Our Cloud” protests, Greenpeace activists gathered at Apple stores in San Francisco, New York, and Europe and dressed up as window washers, pretending to clean the stores’ windows to encourage Apple to clean up its cloud system. Protesters brought biodegradable black balloons – symbolic of dirty coal energy – into the stores and changed the display computers’ homepages to, the campaign’s Web site.

Greenpeace reports that, if the cloud system were a country, it would be the fifth-highest consumer of electricity worldwide, and that data centers can consume as much electricity as the amount used by 250,000 homes. With more users signing on to cloud computing services, the amount of electricity used by rapidly growing data centers is projected to triple by 2020. The environmental group is also targeting Amazon and Microsoft in its Clean Our Cloud campaign, encouraging them to follow the lead of companies like Google, Yahoo, and Facebook, who are already prioritizing renewable energy in their data centers.

In addition to buying renewable energy instead of coal, Greenpeace is asking Apple to “think different” and adopt an official company policy stating a preference for clean energy, make its energy figures transparent and available to the public, and encourage its suppliers to implement renewable energy policies.  Greenpeace has already gathered more than 160,000 signatures on its petition to Apple. Help them reach their goal of 200,000 signatures by signing the petition on today!

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