Facebook Sustainability Efforts

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Facebook Sustainability Efforts

A lot of Facebook's sustainability projects have been centered around its data centers; in one particular project, the company recycled heat from its servers and sent them to a local distribution center. Facebook is also committed to the Paris climate change agreement and has pledged to reduce its greenhouse emissions by 75% by 2020 over what it was emitting in 2017. Four case studies, as well as four partnerships that Facebook is or was involved in, have been detailed below.

Water Restoration in New Mexico

  • When Facebook was to build a data center in Mexico, the company realized that they had to find sustainable solutions to "address a shared water challenge with the community," especially given the region's dry climate.
  • Given this, the company partnered with the local community through a third-party sustainable organization, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation’s Business For Water Stewardship program. The partnership aimed to find projects or initiatives that could help restore water in the Rio Grande watershed.
  • So far, Facebook and its partners have identified and implemented three water restoration projects. Each of the projects focused on "restoring the hydrology in a beneficial way and contribute towards reducing shared water challenges in local and regional watersheds. "
  • The first of the restoration projects, the Comanche Creek restoration project, was carried out in partnership with the National Forest Foundation, Trout Unlimited, and the U.S Forest Service.
  • Another project, the Middle Rio Grande flow restoration project, was done in partnership with the Audubon Society, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, and the Bureau of Reclamation. Due to this project, "the entire 35-mile Isleta Reach kept flowing for approximately 58 days in 2018, which was crucial to sustaining wetland vegetation and the quality of fish and wildlife habitat during an abnormally dry year."
  • In total, the three restoration projects have helped reclaimed "miles of stream, 17 acres of off-channel floodplain wetland habitat, and helped with the protection of several endangered species, including the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow, the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, and the Rio Grande cutthroat trout."

Recycling Construction Waste at Clonee Data Center

  • While building its second data center in Europe, the Clonee Data Center in Ireland, Facebook sought to find ways to limit its materials footprint, as well as recycle as many products/materials as much as possible.
  • At the peak of the project, up to 250 tons of materials got delivered to the site daily, while the construction of the first three buildings generated more than 10,000 tons of waste.
  • The first part of the solution was to reduce the waste generated. This was achieved by ensuring subcontractors only brought essential materials to the site, while also identifying which materials can be reused for other purposes. This led to establishing takeback schemes with some vendors to give materials a second life such as reusing waste canisters to serve as plant pots.
  • Materials that could not be reused were collected across seven areas on the site after which they were sent to a local recycling company instead of landfills.
  • The solution also involved educating the workforce present on the site "on the best waste minimization techniques and empowering them to come up with new ideas to help us achieve our goals."
  • The desired outcome was also possible due to the adoption of digital tools that tracked all materials coming in and out of the construction site.
  • As a result of the strategies employed, 96% of wastes generated during the construction of the first two buildings were recycled leading to being awarded Ireland’s 2019 Green Construction Award.

Saving Water in the Workplace

  • The Facebook headquarters, located in Menlo Park, California, a water-stressed region. As such, the headquarters also experiences droughts frequently.
  • While facilities such as efficient restroom and kitchen fixtures help minimize water use, Facebook wanted to further reduce water consumption at its headquarters and therefore collaborated with "with public and private sector partners to install its first blackwater treatment system at its headquarters."
  • In partnership with Aquacell, a Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) was designed and developed while all relevant permits, approval, and support were garnered from the relevant authorities.
  • "Over the next two years, the team worked closely with the agencies to design a system that met local and regional safety standards using biological treatment, ultrafiltration, ultraviolet light, reverse osmosis, and chlorination."
  • The blackwater system was developed such that any water going down the drain is harvested and made safe for reuse.
  • The first blackwater system was completed in late 2019 with another set for commissioning in the future. The two blackwater systems are expected to save approximately 16 million gallons of water per year.

Denmark Data Center to Warm Local Community

  • In building its Odense Data Center, Facebook included infrastructure that can "capture and recycle excess heat generated by its servers to provide heat to the local community." The aim was to redirect the recycled heat into the local heating system, which was operated by Fjernvarme Fyn.
  • The project is in line with Facebook's commitment to phasing out coal by 2025, five years earlier than the goal set by Denmark.
  • Working with Fjernvarme Fyn, Facebook identified efficiencies in the project design and the proximity to the local heating system meant the infrastructural requirement was minimal.
  • The typical approach for Facebook with heat and their servers is to reduce the heat. In this case, however, it "directed this heated air over water coils, recovering the heat by raising the temperature of the water, which is then delivered to the heat pump facility where the temperature is raised further and delivered to the district heating network and distributed to the local community."
  • The project is expected to recover 100,000 MWh of energy per year, which is more than enough to warm about 6,900 homes.


Partnership with Intel

  • As Facebook grew, so did its need for servers that are efficient and cost-effective.
  • To that end, Facebook constantly added powerful servers over the years, which although provided more power, also demanded more energy use.
  • In particular, "two-processor servers with progressively more powerful Intel CPUs" were constant features of Facebook's data centers. In a bid to improve the power of the servers without increasing the energy consumption, Facebook partnered with Intel to redesign the processor they supply, while also restructuring their server infrastructure.
  • In the end, instead of a two-processor server, the "collaboration produced a one-processor server that was more powerful and suited to data centers than the previous two-processor server; and, crucially, it didn’t use any additional power." This enabled Facebook to do more without drawing excess energy.

Renewable Energy Buyer Alliance

  • Through the Renewable Energy Buyer Alliance (REBA), Facebook is working with other large-scale energy buyers, to improve the way they procure clean energy across multiple industries.
  • The vision of REBA is to have a "resilient zero-carbon energy system where every organization has a viable, expedient, and cost-effective pathway to renewable energy."
  • The current membership strength is over 200, with the leadership circle made up of 23 companies, including Facebook, Shell, Amazon, Google, Salesforce, Walmart, and General Motors.
  • Peter Freed, Energy Strategy Manager at Facebook is part of the board of directors, as well as part of the advisory board of the organization.
  • Other NGOs participating in the alliance include BSR (formerly the Business for Social Responsibility), the Rocky Mountain Institute, and the World Resources Institute.

Open Compute Project

  • "The Open Compute Project Foundation is a rapidly growing, global community whose mission is to design, use, and enable mainstream delivery of the most efficient designs for scalable computing."
  • Facebook and three other companies, Intel and Rackspace, and Goldman Sachs, launched the Open Compute Project in 2011 after Facebook had shared some of its breakthroughs in designing a more efficient and cost-effective data center.
  • Currently, over 200 companies are participating in the open-source community.
  • Through the project, teams have been able to minimize the materials they use in server design and production, which has led to reduced production and shipping cost, "easier installation, maintenance, and decommissioning, and higher energy efficiency."
  • Mark Roenigk, Facebook's head of hardware engineering, is the current CEO and President of the foundation.

We Are Still In

  • Members of this coalition aim to fulfill the spirit of the Paris climate agreement.
  • Over 2,240 businesses and investors, 289 cities and counties, 353 colleges and universities, 31 health organizations, 69 cultural institutions, 10 states, 11 tribes, and 10 states have so far signed the declaration declaring their support and commitment to delivering the Paris Agreement promise and help play America's role in it.
  • Facebook joined the coalition in late 2017 and by so doing committed to some sustainability goals.
  • For example, the company pledged to reduce its greenhouse emissions by 75% by 2020 over what it was emitting in 2017.
  • Facebook also pledged to eliminate its "scope 2 emissions by 2020 as part of our additional commitment to powering our global operations with 100% renewable energy by that same timeframe."