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Leon Kaye headshot

Soon, ‘Googling It’ Will Make Sustainability Data Fast and Easy

Google says that soon, more searches will pair results with relevant sustainability data, notably for queries related to clothing, food and transportation.
By Leon Kaye

It has become clear that more people want to do what they can to shop, drive, eat and live more sustainably. One roadblock, however, is finding information about certain sustainability data points like carbon emissions to make the best possible day-to-day decisions.

While we are more dependent than ever on our smartphones, the size of the screen doesn’t always make gleaning this information the most seamless process, and toggling between tabs on a device can still be a hassle. Plus, there are lingering questions over the reliability and veracity of the various sources of sustainability data that are readily available at our fingertips. Google, however, says users will have access to more of this data, quickly and easily.

During the company’s annual Search On event last week, the company revealed that certain Google searches will soon pair results with relevant sustainability data. For now, such information will fall within three pillars: clothing, food and transportation.

Focusing on secondhand clothing certainly makes sense, though the proliferation of “pre-owned” clothing on thrifting apps that originate from fast fashion brands are complicating the appeal of buying used apparel for younger consumers. Nevertheless, Google has promised that consumers on the hunt for new additions to their wardrobe will be able to see what used clothing options are available within Google Search later this year — a solid effort when considering estimates suggest the global garment industry generates about 10 percent of the planet’s total emissions.

When it comes to making food choices, Google’s plans for sustainability data appear to be more robust. Soon (a timeframe that so far Google has not defined exactly), when searching for recipes like “chicken curry,” or “lentil tacos,” the company has promised that consumers will be able to quickly compare the emissions per pound of food with data from the United Nations.

Finally, the comparison of vehicles is where the upcoming sustainability features within Google’s search function could shine. Consumers researching leading automakers’ cars and trucks, including electric vehicles (EVs), will be able to quickly sort out information such as fuel and electricity costs per year. In the case of EVs, buyers will be able to compare range and charging speeds. Meanwhile, Google says it has improved its maps and navigation features so that drivers can find the most fuel-efficient routes for getting from points A to B.

“Search interest in terms like electric vehicles, solar energy and thrift stores reached new highs globally over the past year — suggesting that people are looking for ways to practice sustainability in their daily lives,” Hema Budaraju, the director of Google Search, wrote on the company's blog, explaining what is driving these upcoming changes.

Other changes Google has made to reflect its users’ increased interest in sustainability include filters for flights and hotels so users can book more responsible options for their travel plans.

Image credit: Solen Feyissa via Unsplash

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

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