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Google Adds Sustainability Features To Search

Yesterday, I got an e-mail from Google’s press people telling me about some cool new options and features in Google Search. They don’t only raise awareness of sustainable things people can do, either. They give people the knowledge to save money and protect the environment, and then leave the decisions in users’ hands so they don’t feel like they’re being preached to or manipulated.

Google says that interest in terms like electric cars, solar energy, and thrift stores has reached new heights globally throughout the last year, suggesting that people are looking for methods to incorporate sustainability in their daily lives. That’s a trend they’re happy to see develop, but they also know that people are going to them for that information, and they want to make sure they give people what they need to understand the things they’re searching for.

How It’s Helping With EVs, & With Cutting A Gas Car’s Emissions, Too

If you’re shopping for a new vehicle, one of the things you’ll want to consider is how much it will cost to run. Google will start displaying annual fuel costs for vehicles in search results over the next few days. It will also display emissions evaluations so you can see how your favorite model compares against comparable models.

Google says it will soon show users estimated costs, ranges, and charging speeds for popular electric vehicles, too. Plus, finding compatible public charging stations near you will be easy. For US shoppers, it will also include available federal tax incentives which make switching to electric cars more appealing. So, people will be empowered to get their EV shopping choices into a more informed state.

Google Maps’ eco-friendly routing feature helps people locate the most fuel-efficient routes, and is now available for companies to use in their apps as well. The eco-friendly routing capability makes it easy for firms like delivery or ride-sharing services to become more sustainable by incorporating this into their app.

Check out the blog post about these Maps updates to learn more about this feature.

In my experience, the “eco” option in Google Maps doesn’t suggest anything radical, like taking a frontage road across a whole state on road trips. But, it does let users know that they can cut their gas or battery usage down while not going too far out of their way. One thing I’d like to see is multiple eco options so users can decide which sacrifice is acceptable.

It would also be great for Google to offer EV route planning, but that’s probably a huge can of worms that would take years to develop an idiot-proof solution that wouldn’t strand people.

Reducing Emissions By Shopping Used

You might not know this, 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? One easy solution is to buy pre-owned items instead of new ones. This way, you’re helping reduce pollution and maybe even saving some money! Later this year on Search, Google will highlight which products are pre-owned so that it’s easy for everyone to make sustainable choices when shopping.

Many people start searching for clothing ideas on Google, so by putting used items front-and-center, people will be able to make the choice to reuse instead of buying new a lot easier.

Another advantage to this is that Google can play a role in normalizing buying used. Let’s face it: buying used things is often associated with being poor, and many people don’t want to feel like they’re doing things that make them look less successful. If Google starts suggesting used items, people will start seeing buying used as something normal people do, and not just people who are struggling. Making that social jump is going to be majorly helpful in tackling climate change and other environmental issues.

Sustainable Recipes

I don’t know about you, but one of the biggest challenges to making environmentally-friendly meals is knowing that they are even an option, let alone something I’d actually want to eat. Some foods, on the other hand, are more environmentally friendly than others. However, it’s not always simple to determine which food components have a lesser environmental impact than others.

Soon, when you search for words like “bean recipes” or “broccoli chicken,” you’ll be able to compare one option to the others because of United Nations ingredient-level emissions data. This functionality will soon be available in all languages throughout the world.

Why This Matters

From what I could find, it appears that over 90% of internet users rely on Google to find things online. Back 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 sorts of things that we probably couldn’t have imagined in the year 2000.

So, there’s no overstating how important Google is now to people’s decisions on a day-to-day basis. Its algorithms might not be perfect, but they’re a whole lot better than what came before. Google has always been about giving people the information they need to make informed decisions, but it has never given people a complete picture of everything (nor is that even possible). But, as our reliance on search engines like Google increase to more and more decisions, Google’s information becomes a larger and larger part of the climate change puzzle.

And now, it appears that Google is using its position of power to help steer people towards more sustainable choices. But, the company isn’t doing it in a bossy way. It’s just making sure that the relevant facts are all right there and readily available so that users can remain in the proverbial driver’s seat instead of feeling like “woke Google” is trying to plug them into the Green Matrix.

How about you? What things do you think Google could add to make its search results more helpful for improving people’s environmental choices? Be sure to tell us your ideas in the comments or on social media!

Featured image: A screenshot from Google Maps.

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Written By

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to explore the Southwest US with her partner, kids, and animals. Follow her on Twitter for her latest articles and other random things:


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