Google pushes sustainability, from new eco routes to Nest features

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Contributed date

October 11, 2021 - 6:35pm

Critical Commentary

Google announced a suite of sustainability features to give consumers more information so they can choose to cut their emissions. "These include:

  • Showing the most eco-friendly route in Google Maps and defaulting to it when the estimated travel time is comparable to other, more fuel intensive options. This feature was developed in partnership with the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.
  • The feature uses metrics like road congestion and incline to calculate the route that will burn the least fuel.
  • Google Flights is surfacing more sustainable choices as well, by starting today, displaying the carbon emissions of various flight options when using the Google Flights search tool. Its metrics are both seat-specific and flight-specific. A first or business class seat has a higher greenhouse gas footprint than a coach seat does because it takes up more space.
  • The flight search will label flights with a green badge that have much lower emissions than other flights on the same route.
  •  Hotel search now shows if a hotel has made sustainability commitments and whether they have eco certifications from independent organizations.
  • Google will surface the most cost-effective and sustainable options when you search for energy-intensive appliances, such as furnaces, dishwashers and stoves.

In addition to these measures, Google is redesigning new landing pages for when people search "climate change", with top recommendations containing the most reliable information from neutral organizations. The landing page step is not being applied to Youtube, home of many videos that question the proven findings of mainstream climate science. 

Google is also initiating a program called "Nest Renew," where people with compatible Nest thermostats (a 3rd-generation Nest Learning Thermostat, Nest Thermostat E, or the newest Nest Thermostat) will be able to shift their peak heating and cooling electricity usage to align with times when the electricity grid is cleaner or less expensive. A paid version of Nest Renew, to be known as Nest Renew Premium, will cost $10 per month. This program aims to allow users to match their carbon-based electricity use at home with renewable energy credits from U.S. solar and wind plants in Google's energy portfolio, thereby compensating for their greenhouse gas emissions."

As exciting as these new features and initiatives are, I can't help but critique why Google hasn't implented them sooner, especially the redesign of landing pages that elicit "reliable information from neutral organizations" when individuals search climate change, however I acknowledge that popular search results for climate change may have shifted drastically during the Trump Administration and COVID-19, so perhaps neutralizing search results is necessary due to relatively recent phenomena. The Nest thermostat program is intriguing, but when thinking about the program in the context of "just transitions" it leaves much to be desired, as households with smart thermostats are typically higher income homes, and the Nest premium program is an inroad for Google to strengthen their renewable energy portfolio. I fear that Google may dominate the renewable energy market. 


Cite as

Andrew Freedman, "Google pushes sustainability, from new eco routes to Nest features", contributed by Morgan Sarao, The Energy Rights Project, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 12 October 2021, accessed 27 October 2021.