Google just announced that its Maps and Search products will highlight the sustainable practices of featured businesses, enabling users to make more green choices day-to-day.
It will also show nearby locations where people can recycle problematic items such as electronics, clothing, hazardous materials, and batteries.
According to Google, merchants with Verified Business Profiles are encouraged to upload details of their recycling practices and other sustainability efforts for users to view. Users themselves can create custom, public lists for their community, city, or region by curating hard-to-find locations and sustainable restaurants and retailers.
Those who visit listed locations will be prompted to answer questions about the business to confirm details and help to give sustainable business-owners a boost.
For example, Karol, a user of this feature based in Posadas, Argentina, created a map of recycling drop-off locations in her city. She told Google that she hopes people around the world will create their own lists of electric vehicle charging stations, recycling centers, and second-hand stores.
“Posadas is truly a blessed place surrounded by nature, but it breaks my heart that it’s just taking its first steps on the path to being environmentally-friendly,” she continued. “Anything that can be done to promote sustainable consumption is priceless.”
Google and sustainability
Google first became carbon neutral in 2007, but recently announced that the company’s “entire carbon legacy” has been eliminated through carbon offsets. This makes Google’s lifetime net carbon footprint zero, a world-first for a business of its size.
While carbon offsetting has been criticized by some as a deflection of responsibility for the creation of emissions and damage to the environment, Google has also matched its annual electricity consumption with 100 percent renewable energy since 2017. The company plans to run entirely on carbon-free energy by 2030.
“We’re optimistic that by harnessing new technologies, investing in the right infrastructure and tools, and empowering partners, nonprofits and people, this can be the most decisive decade for climate action yet,” wrote Google CEO Sundar Pichai last year.
Back in March, Google Maps began redirecting travelers to eco-friendly routes using data such as traffic, incline, and various other facts, in an attempt to reduce transport-based greenhouse gas emissions.
The company also recently launched a timelapse feature in Google Earth, compiling 24 million satellite photos from the past 37 years to show the enormous scale of global warming and our changing planet. The press release for this update reads:
“Visual evidence can cut to the core of the debate in a way that words cannot and communicate complex issues to everyone […] We hope that this perspective of the planet will ground debates, encourage discovery and shift perspectives about some of our most pressing global issues.”
Google has been the target of a great deal of criticism over the last 20 years, including but not limited to accusations of tax avoidance, privacy violations and data sharing, collaboration with the U.S. military, and countless reports of worker mistreatment (as recently as last month).
Google responded in a statement saying that the company is committed to supporting employees with concerns about workplace treatment. “We have a well-defined process for how employees can raise concerns and we work to be extremely transparent about how we handle complaints,” said Jennifer Rodstrom, a Google spokesperson.