The idea that hosting one’s website can be eco-friendly is a pretty foreign one.
I mean, don’t hosting companies operate huge energy guzzling server farms with significant cooling requirements?
The answer is of course yes.
Websites are indeed hosted on data servers that require a lot of energy to ensure 100% uptime and most importantly, significant air conditioning to ensure that that they stay cool and don’t overheat.
A study by the US Department of Energy in collaboration with researchers from Northwestern University, Stanford University, and Carnegie Mellon University found that data centers in the US alone consumed 70 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2014, that’s equivalent of the energy consumed by 6.4 million average American homes!
I would hate to think of the electricity bills on some of these data farms. Suffice to say it is LARGE!
Generally, the energy used to run hosting data centers comes off the national energy grid. In most countries this is predominately generated from the burning of fossil fuels.
This means data farms have huge carbon footprints!
When you build a free website with a company like SITE123.com or on WordPress you will have to host it. In the case of SITE123 you will be using their hosting and therefore you are in effect taking on a piece of their carbon footprint as an indirect emission responsibility.
This is true of all hosting companies. When you choose a company you are taking on a piece of their carbon footprint.
So how can you get eco web hosting that doesn’t impact your carbon footprint?
Enter green web hosting companies.
These hosting companies specialise in providing eco-friendly hosting using three main methods:
1. They buy or produce energy onsite from renewable energy sources, for example, wind or solar. Producing one’s own energy is the least common method deployed, as it is incredibly expensive. However, it is possible to purchase energy from specialist renewable energy suppliers and some hosting companies do this.
2. Often it is not possible to find a specialist renewable energy supplier so instead hosting companies purchase energy off the grid as standard, but then they buy 100% renewable energy that they put back on the grid. They do this through what are called Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), which certify energy as being generated using renewable sources.
3. Finally, some hosting companies use carbon offsetting to in offset their footprint. They do this by calculating their annual emissions, and then purchasing carbon offsets from an accredited supplier that invests in renewable energy projects that would otherwise not go forward without the investment. In effect, the hosting company offsets there carbon emissions
Of course the quality of these three approaches varies so it is important to do your research to see if the green hosting claims of a company are credible.
In general, option 1 (purchasing renewable energy directly) is the best approach.
In addition to these efforts, though, you should check what else an eco web host does to reduce their environmental impact. For example, what are their practices regarding energy usage in their offices and do they invest in office recycling?
Using a credible eco web host has obvious benefits in terms of reducing your indirect emissions, potentially saving on costs and the marketing kudos that comes with doing something unique and good for the planet! But it is only one step amongst many that you can do to go green and help the move to a better, more sustainable world!