Google adds sustainability features to search
Yesterday I received a press email from Google telling me about some cool new options and features in Google Search. They don’t just raise awareness of the sustainable things people can do. They empower people with the knowledge to save money and protect the environment, then leave the decisions in the hands of users so they don’t feel like they’re being preached or manipulated.
Google says interest in terms like electric cars, solar power and thrift stores has hit new heights globally over the past year, suggesting people are looking for ways to integrating sustainability into their daily lives. It’s a trend they’re happy to see growing, but they also know people are coming to them for that information, and they want to make sure they’re giving people what they need to understand what they are looking for.
How it helps with electric vehicles and with reducing emissions from a gasoline car, too
If you are shopping for a new vehicle, one of the things you will want to consider is the running cost. Google will begin showing annual fuel costs for vehicles in search results over the next few days. It will also display emissions ratings so you can see how your favorite model stacks up against comparable models.
Google says it will soon show users estimated costs, ranges and charging speeds for popular electric vehicles. Plus, finding compatible public charging stations near you will be easy. For US buyers, it will also include available federal tax incentives that will make switching to electric cars more attractive. Thus, people will be empowered to make their EV purchase choices in a more informed state.
Google Maps’ eco-routing feature helps users locate the most fuel-efficient routes and is now also available for businesses in their apps. The green routing capability allows businesses such as delivery or ride-sharing services to become more sustainable by integrating it into their application.
Check blog post on these Maps updates to learn more about this feature.
In my experience, the “eco” option in Google Maps doesn’t suggest anything drastic, like taking a frontage route through an entire state on road trips. But it lets users know they can reduce their gas or battery consumption without going too far out of their way. One thing I’d like to see are more eco-friendly options so users can decide what sacrifice is acceptable.
It would also be great for Google to offer EV route planning, but that’s probably a huge Pandora’s box that would take years to develop an idiot-proof solution that wouldn’t block people.
Reduce emissions by buying used
You may not know it, but the clothes you wear have an impact on emissions and waste. In fact, clothing is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions. So what can you do to help? A simple solution is to buy used items instead of new. This way you help reduce pollution and maybe even save money! Later this year on search, Google will highlight second-hand products so it’s easy for everyone to make sustainable choices when shopping.
Many people are starting to Google clothing ideas, so by putting used items front and center, people will be able to make the choice to reuse instead of buying new much easier.
Another benefit to this is that Google can play a role in normalizing second-hand shopping. Let’s face it: buying used items is often associated with poverty, and many people don’t want to feel like they’re doing things that make them less successful. If Google starts suggesting second-hand items, people will start seeing second-hand shopping as normal, not just struggling people. Making this social leap is going to be very helpful in tackling climate change and other environmental issues.
I don’t know about you, but one of the biggest challenges in making eco-friendly meals is knowing that they’re even an option, let alone something I’d really want to eat. Some foods, on the other hand, are more environmentally friendly than others. However, it is not always easy to determine which food components have less environmental impact than others.
Soon, when you search for words like “bean recipes” or “chicken broccoli,” you’ll be able to compare one option to the others thanks to the United Nations’ ingredient-level emissions data. This feature will soon be available in all languages of the world.
why it matters
From what I could find, it seems that over 90% of internet users rely on Google to find things online. In the 1990s, you might have used a search engine to replace your phone book and find things to read online, but today search engines help us find all kinds of things we couldn’t. probably couldn’t have imagined in the year 2000.
So it’s no exaggeration how important Google is now to people’s day-to-day decisions. Its algorithms may not be perfect, but they are much better than before. Google has always been about giving people the information they need to make informed decisions, but it’s never given people the complete picture of everything (it’s not even possible). But, as our reliance on search engines like Google grows to make more and more decisions, Google’s information is becoming an increasingly important part of the climate change puzzle.
And now it looks like Google is using its position of power to help steer people toward more sustainable choices. But, the company does not do it in an authoritarian way. It’s just about making sure the relevant facts are there and readily available so users can stay in the proverbial driver’s seat instead of feeling like “Google woke” is trying to plug them into the green matrix.
And you? What things do you think Google could add to make its search results more helpful in improving people’s environmental choices? Feel free to share your ideas with us in the comments or on social media!
Featured Image: A screenshot of Google Maps.
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