Will Facebook “Unfriend” Coal?

Whether or not you “like,” “share” or “tag” with regularity, Facebook’s online dominance is impossible to ignore. The site has over 500 million users, half of whom log on every single day. People around the globe spend an average 700 billion minutes on the social network every month. Needless to say, the days of running the site on one server in a Harvard dorm room are long gone. This year, Facebook plans to open its first custom data center–a 307,000-square-foot facility in Oregon that’s estimated to cost over $200 million.

The rapid growth since the site’s founding in 2004 has led to a steady increase in costly leased data center space in California and Virginia. “We are now ready to build our own,” Jonathan Heiliger, VP of tech operations, wrote on the company’s blog last year. The facility will use a staggering amount of energy to keep the site powered up. By 2020, Facebook will require more electricity than France, Germany, Canada and Brazil combined. This is why organizations like Greenpeace are fighting against Facebook’s decision to run their new center in Oregon with coal-powered electricity, the world’s dirtiest energy. In their Unfriend Coal campaign, Greenpeace is seeking to rally as many Facebook users as possible to “like” the challenge they pose to Facebook: to commit to using 100% renewable energy by 2021.

“Facebook has a real opportunity to lead by example by extending this spirit of innovation to the environment. The company can show that businesses can flourish by being clean-energy powered,” Greenpeace states on the campaign’s Facebook page.

Despite celebrities like Ed Begley, Jr. and Rachelle Carson showing their support, as of today, the “Unfriend Coal” campaign only has just over 60,000 “likes,” representing just .012% of Facebook users. With plans to present their campaign to Facebook on Earth Day, Greenpeace is going to need more support to get Facebook to truly “like” renewables over coal. As Jodie Van Horn, a green technology blogger for Greenpeace International, notes, “Just like everyone who has benefited from the connectivity of Facebook’s social platform, we hope to see the company and its enormous global community thrive, but we cannot continue to support a healthy and connected global community with coal power.”