Businesses that really care about their green credentials and want to reduce their carbon footprint have a number of different measures they can take. That includes things like improving the energy efficiency of office equipment, lighting and heating systems, recycling and taking a more sustainable approach to procurement.
But there are also a few lesser-known initiatives they can put in place.
We rarely consider the Internet as a pollutant, but did you know that every second someone spends browsing a simple website, it is estimated that 20 milligrams of carbon dioxide is produced? The picture is worse for more complex websites, which can produce up to 300 milligrams per second. With more than 3.5 billion internet users around the world, you soon see just how potentially damaging online use can be.
So, what can we do? Thankfully there is a very simple solution you can put in place. But first, it’s important to understand the scale of the problem we face...
How does the internet work?
We very rarely think about the real-world mechanics that keep the online world running, but the truth is that the internet is actually a carbon-emitting beast. Every website is housed on a server in a datacentre which powers all the videos, applications and web pages we access. There are currently 70 million serves in the world, with each one needing electricity to keep it powered up, and almost as much again to keep it cool. And, as is still the case with much of the electricity we produce, this typically comes from burning fossil fuels.
The result is that the annual amount of carbon produced by the internet is equal to:
• All 31 million cars in the UK taking a road trip around the world;
• The countries of Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Singapore, The Philippines and Mongolia combined;
• A Boeing 747 flying to the moon and back 5,674 times.
How does green web hosting help?
Green web hosting is a service provided by a number of companies in the UK, where the host only use electricity from renewable sources, and also aim to minimise the amount of electricity actually consumed in the first place. The datacentres that keep websites up and running use a huge amount of energy, which is usually produced by burning non-renewable fuels that emit carbon and a number of other pollutants. The datacentres of green web hosts are powered entirely by renewable energy, with some data centres built from the ground up specifically with energy efficiency in mind.
A new way to keep data centres cool
As well as using renewable energy to power the datacentre, web hosts like Kualo have gone a step further with a datacentre that was built from the ground up with extreme energy efficiency in mind. In most datacentres, the server rooms are kept extremely cold, but the servers themselves produce a huge amount hot air. Energy is then wasted re-cooling the hot air that’s produced. In an energy efficient data centre, the hot air that is expelled by the servers is contained and directly extracted from the building, allowing the cooling system to work much more efficiently. Energy efficient datacentres like Kualo’s also make use of ‘free cooling’ – which on cold days uses the outside air instead of the air conditioning units to keep the datacentre cooled, further reducing electricity usage. That, and the reliance on renewable energy, significantly reduces the amount of carbon produced.
Such is the effectiveness of green web hosting that businesses currently running an in-house server could contribute to a 38 percent reduction (pdf) in the world’s datacentre energy usage by 2020, by moving across to a green hosting solution.
How do I know if my web site is green?
If you’re unsure whether your web site is powered by green web hosting, it’s easy to find out. The Green Web Foundation are a non-profit organisation that are looking to a future where the entire Internet runs on green web hosting. They have created a simple tool to check whether your web site is green, simply by entering your site address. If you’re not currently running on green web hosting, it might be time to consider changing providers.
Is a green web host right for you?
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be any legitimate reason why a business would not choose to go green. Of course, it’s essential to make sure the green web host is at least as reliable as your current provider, as any downtime can directly impact your bottom line. There’s also no reason for green web hosting to cost more than a conventional service, although some businesses may be willing to pay a small amount more for the benefits it provides.
Green web hosting also allows you to show customers just how committed you are to reducing your carbon footprint, and some green hosts produce badges that you can display on your web site to show off your green credentials.
Moreover, as a business owner, you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re doing one more thing to protect the planet for future generations.