The goal of a “circular economy” is to minimize waste and maximize the use of finite resources. Google is now setting out to apply this economic system to its operations, products, and supply chains with the “Circular Google” initiative.
After purchasing enough renewable energy to match its global usage in 2017 and 2018, Google set out to switch to round-the-clock carbon-free energy. “Circular Google” fits within that broader vision.
So, our new approach for Google starts with a clear mission: To accelerate the transition to a circular economy in which business creates environmental, economic, and community value through the maximum reuse of finite resources.
This involves three high-level principles:
- Design out waste and pollution: Circularity must be incorporated into design from inception, so things created today can become the resources of tomorrow
- Keep products and materials in use: Maximizing product use and reuse helps to preserve embedded energy, labor, and materials, and reduces environmental impact.
- Promote healthy materials and safe chemistry: To keep materials flowing in commerce longer, we must design them to be safe for human and environmental systems, because we can’t change the chemistry of products once we put them out in the world.
“Circular Google” is already in effect with data centers that produce zero-waste. This includes using remanufactured machines, or reselling components that Google is no longer able to use.
At offices, this involves reducing building waste and deconstructing valuable components, like doors, cabinetry, and plumbing fixtures. Cutting down on food waste sees Google compost or donate leftovers when possible. The company’s food program is also focussed on minimizing single-use beverages and other inorganic waste.
Made by Google also plays a role, with the Nest Thermostat E, Google Home, and Chromecast all containing parts with 20%–75% post-consumer recycled plastic. A look at Google’s future consumer electronics and supply chain reveals sub-goals like building “100% of consumer electronic products launching in 2022, and every year after with the inclusion of recycled materials.” By 2023, Google aims to use safer flame retardants and solvents, as well as eliminate antimicrobials.
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