Google skimps on details about how it’s cutting packaging waste

Jeremy Kaplan

Google is the only major company in the world to be carbon neutral (others have merely pledged to get there) and is the largest purchaser of renewable energy in the world. A $7 billion investment in energy infrastructure has led to countless renewable energy projects over the years.

But “greening up” Google’s own packaging? They’re still working on it.

Last fall, the company made a commitment to the issue, pledging that 100% of Made by Google products will include recycled materials by 2022, with a drive to maximize recycled content wherever possible.

During a press conference at the Collision From Home virtual tech event on Tuesday, Digital Trends asked Google’s Sustainability Officer Kate Brandt for details on the company’s efforts to address sustainability in packaging.

“It’s an important part of the equation when we think about sustainability,” Brandt told us. But rather than detail progress toward the initiative, she focused on efforts to improve package design at Google Shopping, which introduced a sustainable packaging suite last summer. “Anyone who sells through Google Shopping can take advantage of it,” she noted, explaining that the suite was entirely free of plastic.

It’s unclear if the Suite is still available; The Sustainable Suite doesn’t appear to be on Google Shopping anymore.

Packaging waste is a huge issue, and efforts to reduce it — whether in Google’s own products or through third parties — are important. So is Google’s pledge; key to that initiative is follow-through and transparency through the process.

Google’s sustainability packaging Google

Meanwhile, Brandt — clearly passionate about sustainability — had many other details to cite about the company’s commitments in this field, notably in the data center sector.

“We run data centers around the world that make all of our products available 24/7 so we ‘re constantly thinking about how to design and operate those to be as self-sufficient as possible,” she said. Compute power has increased by 550% over the last decade, she noted, while the amount of energy consumed by those data centers has ticked up by a tiny 6%.

“And that’s because there has been such a focus, not just at Google but across the industry.”

How that data is put to use to help the planet and improve society is a focus at Google as well, she noted, citing air quality as a recent area of interest. Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, traffic worldwide has decreased, leading to a marked reduction in pollution emissions. Google has worked with sites like Gizmodo’s Earther to create interactive maps showing the changing air quality, and government agencies to showcase how Waze data can impact city planning to improve commutes.

“How can we utilize our data and our platforms to provide insights during this extraordinary time? How can we do this in ways that are going to be particularly useful for policymakers, for communities as they’re looking to drive change?” she asked.

Companies like Google have taken a leadership role when it comes to driving sustainable policy around climate change, the environment, and more. It’s “a critical part of the conversation,” Brandt said. Let’s hope there is continued action as well.