The world relies on the internet. Every day, we access websites, stream boxsets, join video conferences and upload media. Do we ever ask how eco-friendly these actions are? Or whether sustainable web hosting options are being used?
For a long time, individuals and businesses haven’t really considered the environmental impact of being connected 24/7. It’s easy to pick up a smartphone, send a few emails, open a few websites and never think about the carbon cost.
However, as more data is created and stored, and as more people get online, it’s a problem we can’t afford to ignore any longer.
The environmental cost of the internet
The vast majority of the internet’s information is stored and processed in data centres. Running these data centres and keeping servers cool, currently accounts for 3% of global electricity usage and 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is a similar carbon footprint to that of the aviation industry.
By 2025 those figures are predicted to rise. Only around half of the world’s population can currently access the internet. And our data needs are increasing quickly as technology advances.
In just a few years, experts predict that the data centre industry will be using around 20% of the world’s electricity and will be producing 3.2% of carbon emissions.
Faced with the realities of the climate crisis and a more green-minded market, internet companies are having to think more carefully about how and where they get their power. Sustainability is rising up the internet agenda.
What is sustainable web hosting?
Sustainable web hosting tries to reduce the environmental impact of the internet. You may also hear it called green web hosting or eco web hosting.
Through the use of green technologies, energy conservation and carbon offsetting, sustainable web hosting makes running a website more eco friendly.
There are some smart ideas around. Companies are using excess heat from data centres to heat local homes. They’re building data centres close to renewable energy sources and in countries with naturally cold climates. There are even experiments taking place to see if data centres can operate on the chilly ocean floor!
There’s still a long way to go but a number of internet companies have been making strides towards sustainability.
What’s more, for a customer’s point of view, opting for sustainable web hosting doesn’t mean accepting a lower level of service. Eco web hosting is often just as reliable as the alternatives. And, as renewable energy becomes more common, green web hosting is becoming cheaper too.
So, if you’re based in the UK or US and you’re interested in moving to a greener web host, here are just a few of the sustainable web hosting providers available…
Sustainable web hosting providers
Sustainable web hosting providers in the UK
In 2016, FAELIX proudly reached their goal of powering all of their data centres with renewable energy. They use only wind, water and other green energy sources to power their business.
Go to Faelix.net >>
Eco Hosting use efficient free cooling techniques in their data centre (and were one of the first companies to do so). They also rely on 100% certified renewable energy. No offset schemes or carbon credits for these guys.
Go to Ecohosting.co.uk >>
Kualo’s operations are only powered by renewable energy and their data centre is energy efficient. Currently carbon negative, the company also funds climate projects through a long-term partnership with Ecologi.
Go to https://www.kualo.co.uk/
The Positive Internet Company
The Positive Internet Company uses only green electricity from 100% renewable sources. Their data floor runs on a low energy cooling system. This is another carbon negative company who are going way beyond paying lip service to sustainability.
Go to https://www.positive-internet.com/
Krystal Hosting (UK)
Krystal Hosting use 100% renewable energy and have done so since 2017. They don’t rely on carbon offsets. The company also regularly donates to Trees for Life, a charity dedicated to rewilding the Scottish landscape.
Green Hosting (UK)
Powered by 100% UK-based wind power, Green Hosting have been around since 2006. They designed and built their data centre to be as energy efficient as possible. And the company’s green thinking extends to their office policies too.
Go to green-hosting.co.uk >>
Sustainable web hosting providers in the US
GreenGeeks purchase wind energy credits to cover the carbon impact of their operations. They go further than necessary, paying for three times the amount of energy that they consume. They also use energy efficient hardware for their data centres.
AISO has its very own solar panel farm, used to fully power its data centre in California. The company has also put lots of thought into the design of the data centre and has introduced energy-efficient green processors that have successfully cut energy usage in half.
Go to AISO
Web Neutral Project
These guys have a data centre and office powered by 100% on-site solar power, making it a completely carbon-free hosting solution. And one of the best sustainable web hosting options around.
Go to https://www.webneutralproject.com/
Sustainable cloud solutions and VPS solutions
So we’ve covered sustainable web hosting. What about the cloud? Can cloud and VPS solutions claim to be green?
Cloud traffic is growing at an unstoppable rate. AI, video streaming and virtual reality are all driving a need for more and more data storage.
The “Big Three” cloud solutions – Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud – all have huge data centres of their own and dominate the cloud solutions market.
These companies have all committed to using 100% renewable energy in the future. But they are all still using fossil fuels. So how do these three cloud solutions rank on sustainability?
Firstly, it’s worth looking at a few commonly used environmental terms and their definitions.
Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs): To offset energy created by burning fossil fuels, companies buy RECs from renewable power plants. If a company buys an REC to cover all of the energy it uses, it can say it runs on 100% renewable energy whilst still using fossil fuels.
Unbundled RECs are less valuable and beneficial to the environment than bundled RECs.
Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs): More expensive than RECs, when a company signs a PPA, they’re helping to fund new renewable power projects. They then get access to the green energy produced by the project when it is up and running.
With those terms covered, it’s now time to take a look at how sustainable cloud solutions really area:
Amazon Web Services (AWS)
AWS is the biggest cloud solution provider around. It is growing rapidly and it seems environmental projects within the company are struggling to keep pace.
Amazon has pledged to be achieve zero carbon emissions by 2040. But its lack of transparency and real progress led Greenpeace to rank it bottom out of the Big Three in its latest Green Internet analysis.
As of 2018, Amazon only used 50% renewable energy (and this figure included RECs, some of them unbundled). It seems Amazon has a long way to go in order to reach the same level of sustainability as its main competitors.
Microsoft is aiming to totally eliminate the environmental impact of its data centres. The company has been carbon neutral since 2012.
When we include RECs, Microsoft has run on 100% renewable energy since 2014. However, not counting RECs, data centres currently run on 60% renewable energy.
By 2050, the organisation aims to remove all of the carbon it has created since founding in 1975.
Google boasts that it is the cleanest cloud in the industry. The company has certainly made some good progress towards sustainability in recent years.
The company has offset all carbon emissions created since founding in 1998. They have offset 100% of electricity consumed with renewable energy purchases since 2017. These purchases include both PPAs and bundled RECs.
Google has also committed to operating on only green energy across all operations by 2030.
What’s more, the tech giant is using AI technology to manage renewable energy more effectively. For example, in predicting how much energy windfarms will produce over the next 36 hours.
Is your web hosting green?
If you’d like to know whether your website is hosted green, it’s easier than you might think to find out.
Just visit The Green Web Foundation, enter a website of your choice, and you’ll find out how sustainably it’s hosted.
A green result means the website uses eco web hosting – the host is using green energy or carbon offsetting its services.
A grey result means the host still relies on fossil fuels and more work needs to be done to make this host a truly environmentally friendly option.
To date, internet users have checked the green credentials of over half a billion websites! So why not join them and help to make the web a greener place?