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A new tool from Google can estimate the carbon footprint of all of its buildings, according to Fast Company writer Adele Peters.

Peters writes:

The Environmental Insights Explorer, an online tool that launched in beta on September 10 and is still in development, is designed to help cities deal with the first step of a plan to reduce emissions: knowing what their current carbon footprint is.

The new tool, which Google created along with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, can help cities calculate a large chunk of those emissions at no cost. “This is looking at the thousands of cities that are out there today that don’t typically have the resources to spend on digging up the data or analyzing the data,” says Nicole Lombardo, who leads partnerships for Google’s environmental insights team, which is creating the tool. “This tool helps to do some of that and reduce some of the complexities and the cost in that process, so you have more people spending less time data gathering and data crunching and more on the action planning.”

Using Google Maps data, the tool can infer whether buildings are homes or businesses, and then can use the estimated size of each building and data about the regional grid to estimate both how much energy the buildings use and the emissions of that energy use.

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