Numerous evaluation metrics and standards are being proposed across industry and government to measure and monitor the energy efficiency of data centers. However, the energy use of data centers is just one aspect of the environmental impact. In this paper, we explore the overall environmental footprint of data centers beyond just energy efficiency. Building upon established procedures from the environmental sciences, we create an end-to-end life-cycle model of the environmental footprint of data centers across a diverse range of impacts. We test this model in the case study of a hypothetical 2.2-MW data center. Our analysis suggests the need for evaluation metrics that go beyond just operational energy use in order to achieve sustainable data centers.

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