Facebook Joins EDF Climate Corps

Five companies joined the Environment Defense Fund’s (EDF) Climate Corp program which uses MBA students who are placed in companies as fellows where they find energy efficiency opportunities. Facebook, Dunkin’ Brands, Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts joined the program for summer 2011.

EDF’s Climate Corps program began in 2008, and since then has helped 66 Fortune 1,000 companies save $439 million in operation costs and prevent 557,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions a year. Companies involved in the program have initiated or completed 84 percent of the energy savings identified by 2008 and 2009 fellows.

Facebook is no stranger to criticism over its environmental impact

Last week, Facebook  announced plans to move its headquarters from Palo Alto, where it has been located since 2004, to Menlo Park because of overcrowding. The 57 acre, nine building campus formerly was occupied by Oracle and Sun MicroSystems. Facebook also purchased the adjacent property owned by a Ford Motors affiliate. EDF Climate Corps fellows will “draw up a plan to reduce the environmental impacts of the move,” Environmental Leader reports.

“This is not just a feel good thing, this makes good business sense,” Melanie Janin of EDF said, quoted on the BBC. “Embedding these fellows in companies helps embed an understanding of pairing environmental innovation with business sense. You can cut costs and your carbon footprint.”

There is an environmental downside to the move. More employees might drive to work instead of taking public transportation because the closest train stop is “an 11 minute ride away in one of Facebook’s shuttle buses or a 16 minute bike ride—roughly twice the distance from a train as the Palo Alto offices,” as a blog post by Inside Facebook puts it.

Facebook is not a stranger to criticism over its environmental impact. Greenpeace has an ongoing campaign “make Facebook coal free.” Facebook announced it was building a data center in Prineville, Oregon last year. When the Prineville, Oregon data center completed it will need 30-40 MW of power, electricity purchasing power of 30,000 to 35,000 homes. PacificCorp, the company that will supply power to the data center, imports over half of its power from out-of-state coal plants. Last year, out-of-state coal power supplied 58 percent of PacificCorp’s electricity.

“Facebook can control where it builds its infrastructure; the power purchasing agreements it enters into; and how it uses its brand’s power to advocate for strong policies that promote clean energy,” the homepage for Greenpeace’s Facebook campaign states. “Given all of the control Facebook does have, it can make a commitment to phase out coal and show the rest of the IT sector that it can be done.”

The Greenpeace campaign is employing the power of Facebook to influence the social networking giant to give up coal. The environmental group is asking people to “like” the campaign’s Facebook page, and sign a petition asking Facebook to stop using coal generated power.

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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