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Facebook enlists in pro-green coalition

The social network's membership in the Digital Energy Solutions Campaign puts it alongside Cisco, Microsoft, and Intel.

Facebook on Thursday unveiled "Green on Facebook," a page dedicated to spreading environmental awareness and other "green" news, and in tandem announced its participation in the Digital Energy Solutions Campaign (DESC), a nonprofit coalition of large technology companies and trade groups designed to solving the problems of environmental degradation and energy consumption. It's organized by the Information Technology Industry Council.

Existing members of DESC include co-chairs Intel and Verizon, Sony Electronics, Cisco, AMD, Microsoft, and Hewlett-Packard. This is Facebook's first major corporate "green" initiative: It's growing fast, and the energy consumption of its servers and data centers is escalating.

"Global leaders such as Facebook provide the ideal foundation for promoting environmentally-responsible business practices across all industries," an announcement from DESC explained. "The organization is leading in a number of ways: by connecting millions of environmentally-minded consumers and enabling real-time collaboration, reducing the number of company servers through a special programming language, and driving environmental responsibility across every aspect of its operations."

Facebook has long followed a mantra of minimalist resources, frequently pointing out how much it can accomplish with a relatively low headcount of engineers. It's begun to apply that same rhetoric to energy consumption. "Earlier this year, Facebook engineers launched a programming language, HipHop for PHP, which allowed their servers to do the same amount of work with half the number of servers," a press release announcing the company's DESC participation explained. "To spread the benefit, Facebook has open sourced the programming language so that other companies can get the same energy saving benefits."

Additional information on the Green on Facebook page about the company's corporate initiatives explains that through recycling and composting, it's estimated that so far it has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 294 tons, "comparable to taking 59 mid-sized cars off the road," that water conservation strategies have cut back on water use at the company's headquarters by 60 percent, and that more than 40 percent of its employees commute by carpooling, bikes, shuttles, and public transportation.

Sunny statistics like these may seem like corporate greenwashing, but in Facebook's case, CEO Mark Zuckerberg may actually walk the walk with a minimal carbon footprint: Hardly flashy, the young billionaire drives a modest sedan and rents a nondescript house that he found on Craigslist.