Cloud Campaign Rains On Apple’s Parade

It wasn’t so long ago we reported that Greenpeace was calling on Apple to address the somewhat staggering numbers it released in a recent report detailing the greenhouse gas emissions of data centers (in terms of total energy use, if there were a country called Data Center, it would be the fifth largest consumer of electricity on Earth). But you didn’t expect the folks famous for boarding whaling ships to stand idly by and wave that report in the air, hoping someone would notice, did you? We didn’t think so.

To draw attention to the fact that, as more and more companies around the world switch operations from local computers to the ever-present cloud (storing their information in data centers around the world), these emissions are set to further spike, Greenpeace activists staged protests at Apple stores in eight countries around the world, the last of which just wrapped up in Australia. By the end of the day on Thursday, 140,000 people had signed the petition to the CEOs of Apple (and Amazon and Microsoft too) to power the cloud with clean energy, and over 44,000 people had viewed Greenpeace’s spoof video highlighting the coal used to power Apple’s iCloud.

Greenpeace protests at Apple store

image via Greenpeace

Some highlights from the campaign’s protests: in London, activists distributed apples made of coal dust (reclaimed, of course) in the store with a leaflet highlighting the dirty energy polices of Apple; in Hong Kong, New York, and San Francisco, they filled Apple stores with floating black balloons to symbolize the dirty energy powering the iCloud; and in Hungary, they staged a “cloud cleaning” outside the store by cleaning a black-colored, giant Apple logo outside the store’s front door. (Oh, those crazy activist kids! What will they think of next!)

The goal of the activist organization’s “Clean our Cloud” campaign is simple: to get the company to power its massive data centers worldwide with renewable energy, rather than coal.  Along the way, Greenpeace would also like to see Apple (and, presumably Amazon and Microsoft as well) become more transparent about their energy usage and carbon footprint, and to share green solutions aimed at helping the IT sector as a whole improve; make access to renewable energy a key factor in deciding where to build future data centers; use their healthy profit margins to invest in or directly purchase renewable energy; and use their clout to demand that governments and electric utilities increase the amount of renewable electricity available to the grid.

Judging by the organization’s recent success in bringing Facebook around to its point of view on this subject, Apple may be next.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.