Carbon Neutral Business April 23, 2020

Etsy Unveils Innovative Tool to Track Energy Usage in the Cloud

Image: Jorey Hurley

The company’s Sustainable Computing Task Force developed a new way to track progress towards energy goals.

In 2017, Etsy laid out a series of public energy commitments to help reduce the carbon impact of our operations and drive efficiencies for our business. These commitments included running our global operations with 100% renewable electricity by 2020, and a goal to reduce the intensity of our energy use by 25% by 2025, including our office operations and our computing footprint.

While we’ve made significant gains in our office energy footprint — in 2019, we saw a 33% reduction in kWh per square foot based on our 2016 baseline — our computing footprint presented a different set of challenges.

This year, Etsy completed our two-year migration to Google Cloud. This is a big step forward for us, giving us greater resilience and flexibility in scaling our computing capabilities, and enhanced website performance for buyers and sellers around the world. Moreover, Google’s hyperscale data centers operate very efficiently, with industry leading power usage effectiveness (PUE) across their fleet.

However, when we moved away from our colocated data centers, we also gave up access to the detailed energy consumption data we needed to track progress against our 25% reduction in energy intensity commitment. We decided to dig deeper to find a way to estimate our cloud energy consumption, and our associated carbon footprint.

Over the past year, an innovative, cross-functional group at Etsy worked to develop an estimation methodology that would fill this gap. Using publicly available data on hardware infrastructure and Google Cloud CPU specifications, we derived energy coefficients for servers and storage. We applied these coefficients to usage data from our GCP invoices, to estimate our energy consumption in the cloud. Using GCP’s publicly available PUE, we also calculated Etsy’s estimated share of overhead energy consumption, which gave us a meaningful estimate of our energy footprint in the cloud, an output we lovingly call Cloud Jewels. To convert energy consumption to metric tons of carbon, we multiplied this estimate by relevant carbon emission factors, and included this in our Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions inventory. Our estimation methodology was reviewed by industry experts, and Etsy’s energy and carbon metrics included a metric for cloud computing, which was assured by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and included in our annual integrated report.

This methodology represents a key step in giving us visibility into the ecological impacts of our cloud computing. Quantifying our cloud footprint will allow us to meaningfully explore and activate levers of change to drive further cost and energy efficiencies. This work provides an essential step forward to confidently meet our energy intensity reduction goals by 2025. We are also very excited to open source this methodology. This is a challenge facing many cloud customers, and by making this methodology public, we hope to make it easier for our peers to use and build on this approach, and to drive more transparency, accountability and progress in efficient computing.

Importantly, this estimation methodology allows us to continue to deliver on our ecological commitments. Since 2013, Etsy has reported on our ecological footprint publicly, and since 2015, we have had a portion of our carbon and energy metrics externally assured by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. In 2019, we started reporting against the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board’s (SASB) Consumer Goods — E-Commerce standard, which includes reporting on hardware infrastructure energy management, like our colocated data centers, and our cloud computing footprint. We’re proud that this methodology allows us to continue to meet our high standards when it comes to data integrity and public disclosure.

To learn more about the Cloud Jewels methodology, visit Code as Craft, Etsy’s engineering blog.

  • cloud computing
  • Ecological impact
  • Energy efficiency
  • sustainability
Althea Erickson

Althea Erickson