If you’ve ever wanted to factor in the carbon emissions of your flight or choose the most sustainable new appliance, these updates could help you.
From this week on, Google will help users to search for eco-friendly products and services – if they're in the US, at least. European users will have to wait until next year.
In a blog post, Google CEO Sundar Pichai contextualised the updates as part of a Google initiative with the goal of helping "one billion people to make more sustainable choices by 2022". While this seems like a bit of a nebulous target, more environmental information and options for consumers can only be a good thing.
Pichai wrote: “Around the world, wildfires, flooding and other extreme weather continue to affect our health, our economies and our future together on our planet. We need urgent and meaningful solutions to address this pressing challenge.”
One of Google’s solutions is to offer authoritative facts and figures from the UN among top responses to search questions about climate change, which may help to combat misinformation on the topic.
Here’s are some of Google's other new sustainability features. Most are currently available in the US and are coming to Europe next year.
Help in choosing sustainable appliances and EVs
A Google Shopping update will add suggestions for more sustainable and cost-effective products if you’re searching for energy-intensive appliances such as dishwashers.
Google Search will also help US car buyers by making it easier to spot hybrid and electric vehicle options and work out their price, taking rebates into consideration.
Information on the environmental impact of travel
Booking a flight? Google Flights will show you the associated carbon emissions for every seat on a flight and make it easy to see lower-carbon options. The data factors in the age of the aircraft (newer planes tend to be more fuel efficient), and where you're sitting (taking up more space in first- and business class means you're responsible for a larger proportion of the plane's emissions).
At the very least, it may make those of us who tend to be economy travellers feel a little better about the lack of legroom.
Google says the data comes from the European Environmental Agency and "flight-specific information we get from airlines and other providers".
When you’re looking for a hotel, Google will offer up information on any sustainability initiatives the hotel is running, including water conservation and waste reduction. The information will be found in the hotel's 'About' tab.
It’ll also note any certifications, such as Green Key or EarthCheck via an eco-certified badge next to their name. However, it seems that hotels are responsible for providing details of their own environmental initiatives, so this data may not be as solid as the flight information.
Fuel-efficient routing and navigation updates
From now on, Google Maps will let you choose the most fuel-efficient route, even if it isn't the fastest one. As well as saving money for individual drivers, Google estimates that this could save "one million tons of carbon emissions per year".
Google also aims to make cycling a more attractive option with an upcoming update: lite navigation. Instead of turn-by-turn navigation that's less useful to cyclists as it requires them to have their phone to hand, lite will give at-a-glance information on journey progress and elevation and real-time ETA updates.
Google's bike and scooter share information has also been expanded to over 300 cities.
If you're concerned about wasting energy and saving money and want to know if smart heating can help, we've got information on if and when buying a smart heating system can reduce your bills.