“Dirty” Data Producers

by Monica G

It is common knowledge, that every major technology corporation has data warehouses or data backup sites. But have many of us thought about the energy usage of these locations. Well Greenpeace has, they even published a report titled, “How Dirty is your Data?” in which it listed the top nine technology companies and their power usage. Apparently, Apple along with HP, do not use very “clean” power for their data warehouses. The scores are based on the percentage of “clean and dirty” power used by the companies. “Clean” referring to the type of power such as solar or wind, while “dirty” means coal or nuclear. The statistics come from the information publicly available from the organizations, even though a request is made by Greenpeace for more information, to help make the evaluations more accurate. As stated before Apple scored very low, 6.7% while HP received 9.9%. The Apple score primarily came from their location in North Carolina, where only 5% of the energy usage was deemed “clean.” While, HP’s electricity usage primarily comes from coal and nuclear energy, which explains why they received such a low rate. The article also notes that even though Facebook didn’t make it to the bottom of the list, it is well on its way. The ever growing social network relies heavily on coal for its cloud.


Data warehouses not only store data but they also manage the huge servers within the sites. They control all the traffic that flies through the servers. These locations are primarily used by companies like Google, Yahoo, Apple, etc. in order to function every day. Their databases process so much information it is crucial to have these warehouses. This relates to our class because they’re databases. According to the textbook, a database is “an organized collection of logically related data”(Hoffer, Ramesh, & Topi, 2011). And this is the purpose, the data warehouses serve.

The article makes an interesting read because we are bombarded everyday by the media on energy efficiency and here are top, Fortune 500 companies polluting like the rest of us. How can we call ourselves ‘eco-friendly’ when we use such dirty means of electricity? Going green doesn’t mean only one person goes green, but whole countries. So many stigmas have been placed on China for putting up nuclear power plants, but we house huge polluters too.

Further Reading:

“How dirty is Your Data?” http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/publications/climate/2011/Cool%20IT/dirty-data-report-greenpeace.pdf


Gross, D. (2011, April 22). Greenpeace: Apple has the dirtiest data. Retrieved Ocotober 16, 2011, from CNN Tech: http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/web/04/22/greenpeace.apple.dirtiest/index.html?iref=allsearch

Hoffer, J. A., Ramesh, V., & Topi, H. (2011). Modern Database Management. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.