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Matt CLead Designer

An introduction to green hosting and green hosting providers

  • Insights
  • 2 Mar

    What is green hosting?

    Green hosting is the sustainable business practice offered by many website hosts and content delivery networks (CDNs) by minimising or eliminating their environmental impact and offsetting the carbon emissions produced by their data centres.

    Most green hosting providers typically do this by simply partnering with businesses such as Ecologi or purchasing one-time Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to offset their carbon emissions, whereas others will look to take proactive steps to reduce their environmental impact from the offset by changing the way the business operates from the ground up.

    What are the benefits of green hosting?

    Often faster, more energy-efficient and cheaper than internal, self-hosted servers with expensive equipment and power requirements, Green Hosting can often benefit the day-to-day running of an online business just as much as it can the environment.

    An independent study commissioned by SmartestEnergy revealed that 81% of consumers would actively look to buy products and services from sustainable businesses, yet 45% of those surveyed were unaware of the specific steps some businesses were taking to further their environmental goals. A separate study conducted by IBM also indicated that 57% of consumers were willing to change their purchasing habits to help reduce negative environmental impact.

    What this data suggests is that there is a large opportunity for businesses who are working towards a more sustainable future to shout about what they're doing. Include any official accreditations across all of your key marketing materials, and if your website already utilises green hosting, then consider using an online tools such as Website Carbon to measure your website's carbon emissions. Once done, you'll be awarded with a code-based badge that you're able to display in your website footer to showcase how clean your website performs to potential customers.

    πŸ”— Be sure to also check out the Competition and Markets Authority's 'Green Claims Code', which provides further guidance on how to ensure your environmental claims are genuinely green.

    Green Hosting is typically just one of many avenues businesses will explore in an effort to go more green. Companies that opt for green hosting often partner with other sustainable businesses in ventures ranging from forest and wilderness conservation efforts to ocean sewage and plastic reduction schemes.

    How does green hosting work?

    There's a lot more to green hosting than simply planting a tree for every kWh of energy used, and as worldwide demand increases by 71% for more sustainable goods and business practices, hosting providers are turning to additional methods of ensuring their business is as eco-friendly as possible.

    πŸ”Œ Green energy in data centres

    The very first step a hosting provider will generally take when looking to 'go green' is to identify where the energy their data centre consumes comes from, changing (where necessary) to an energy supplier that focuses much more heavily on energy from renewable sources such as wind, hydroelectric or solar farms.

    Some hosting businesses (such as GreenGeeks) will actively look to further their commitments beyond this, pledging instead to generate and invest up to three times more energy back into the national grid than they themselves consume.

    πŸ’» Energy-efficient and recycled hardware

    After switching energy providers and reducing the impact of energy supplied directly to the data centres themselves, the next step a sustainability-conscious business should take to improve their environmental footprint is examining the overall energy-efficiency of any on-site hardware.

    This can involve switching to more reliable equipment that needs to be replaced far less often, or simply changing over to more energy-efficient hardware that is able to handle an increased load while running at far lower temperatures (requiring less energy expended on external cooling).

    There's also the option of looking for equipment that is made from recycled materials, or for businesses with limited budgets, considering buying second-hand equipment to avoid any unnecessary waste based on the manufacture and supply of brand new hardware. However for larger businesses who have strict service-level agreements (SLAs) in place, then the risk involved in possible downtime means this isn't always possible.

    ☁️ Storage-efficient cloud hosting

    The majority of green hosting providers opt for technology known as cloud hosting, where data from multiple businesses is securely grouped and then divided across multiple, interconnected servers across a global network.

    One of the main environmental benefits of this approach is that server space is then able to be fully-utilised, cutting down on wasted storage space and reducing the amount of hardware and the power needed to cool and maintain it.

    Cloud hosting also offers many other benefits over traditional hosting plans, such as:

    • Higher speeds as data is hosted across a global network instead of being constrained to the location of a single server.
    • An increase in server uptime and performance with inherent backup and data recovery often included.
    • Increase scalability of resources, helpful for e-commerce websites looking to run limited-time promotions.
    • Typically cheaper than internal, self-hosted servers with expensive equipment and power requirements.
    ♻️ Environmentally-conscious waste disposal

    One of the unfortunate side-effects of running a business is there there is inevitably going to be a certain amount of waste generated in one form or another. Waste is never good for the environment, but there are steps that forward-thinking businesses can take to help limit the negative consequences that waste disposal can have on the planet.

    Consider contacting businesses and asking how their waste is managed, and whether they partner with any third-party waste management companies. Effective waste removal, when done correctly, can help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and improve overall air and water quality. When managed poorly, improper waste disposal can even encourage the proliferation of bacteria and disease, increasing the risk to any humans or wildlife who come into contact with it.

    Also think about promoting behavioural changes in the business, particularly when it comes to reducing the amount of non-recyclable materials purchased or by encouraging staff members to recycle. Businesses who are able to recycle more of their waste help minimise the levels of new materials that must be extracted in the manufacturing of new products, alongside the added benefit of keeping more waste from being sent to landfill.

    Who offers green hosting?

    πŸ› Shopify

    Investing in a $5M annual sustainability fund, a platform-wide shift to Google Cloud and working from LEED-certified office spaces are just some of the steps that Shopify is taking to improve the overall health of the planet.

    The team at Shopify actively invest in sustainable partners all around the world, focusing on key technologies that either reduce or prevent the release of further levels of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, including direct air capture, the planting and preservation of new forests, alongside investment into biomass, soil, ocean and product-based carbon storage innovations.

    All Shopify websites include a Level 1 PCI-compliant content delivery network (CDN), unlimited email forwarding, unlimited bandwidth, automatic updates and blazing fast server speeds, all from one of the industry's most environmentally-conscious website building platforms.

    ☁️ Google Cloud

    Twice as efficient as typical data centres and running carbon-neutral with an aim to be carbon-zero by 2030, Google Cloud offers one of the most environmentally-friendly hosting solutions available on the market today.

    In regards to day-to-day operations, Google deploys advanced machine learning technology via DeepMind to continually optimise their data centres, predicting the viability of electricity generated by wind farms up to 36 hours in advance, or automatically adjusting their internal cooling systems based on current environmental factors.

    Google Cloud's carbon footprint tracker also allows businesses to measure and track their estimated carbon footprint using an in-console dashboard with segmented breakdowns by region, project, product, and month.

    πŸ’Ž Krystal

    All of Krystal's hosting plans run on 100% renewable energy from sources such as the sun, wind and sea via partnering with Ecotricity, the UK's leading green energy supplier.

    Krystal was one of the first hosting providers in the United Kingdom to turn to green energy to power their entire platform and continue to actively look for new partnerships and initiatives to go beyond simply keeping global CO2 emissions at their current level.

    Alongside Krystal's green energy pledge, the hosting platform also works with partners such as Trees for Life, Ecologi and 1t to further offset their own carbon emissions and establish a clear path for a greener future.

    πŸ–₯ Microsoft Azure

    Microsoft Azure is a sustainable cloud infrastructure that puts sustainable technologies at the heart of their business, with a cloud-hosting platform that promises 93% more energy efficiency and 98% greater carbon efficiency than dedicated, on-premises solutions (based on a 2018 study conducted in partnership with WSP).

    In addition to their cloud operations, Microsoft is also actively engaged in over 40 projects throughout the world to help shape our environment for the better, including;

    • Working with communities in Ireland to protect and bolster woodland all over the country.
    • Partnering with universities to help skilled workers take advantage of future opportunities in solar technology.
    • Taking advantage of smart water meters to help meet an aim to replenish more water than Microsoft consumes by 2030.
    • Promising to achieve zero-waste certification by 2030.
    πŸ“¦ Amazon Web Services (AWS)

    The largest cloud provider in the world, Amazon are embracing the shift towards green power, and the cloud hosting solutions offered by Amazon Web Services promises a platform that is 88% more energy-efficient than traditional, on-premises data centres.

    In an effort to lead from the front and help promote clean energy around the world, Amazon has announced the AWS Clean Energy Accelerator Program, which promises selected start-ups with mentorship from clean energy experts, up to $50,000 in AWS promotional credit and opportunities to collaborate directly with other AWS energy customers looking to offset their own climate impact.

    In addition to this, Amazon has pledged to meet the goal of powering all of their operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025 and 50% of all shipments going net-zero by 2030, before ultimately reaching net-zero carbon emissions across the entire business by 2040.

    🐊 HostGator

    While not as openly transparent with their own sustainability credentials as other green hosting providers, HostGator are slowly but surely moving towards a much more environmentally-friendly business model than ever before.

    In additional to their efforts to recycle and minimise paper use alongside switching to higher efficiency servers, HostGator offsets the carbon emissions of both their shared and reseller servers by 130% through the purchasing of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) from trusted sustainability partner 3Degrees.

    Thanks to a partnership with Integrated Ecosystem Market Services, HostGator are then able to pay for the creation of 1 megawatt hour (MWh) by converting these pre-purchased RECs into clean, renewable energy.

    πŸ€“ GreenGeeks

    Since their launch in 2008, GreenGeeks have established themselves as a frontrunner of sustainable website hosting, powered by 300% renewable energy thanks to their efforts of putting back three times the power they consume back into the grid.

    Alongside energy production, GreenGeeks have also partnered with One Tree Planted, planting one tree for every customer that subscribes to any of their web hosting services. What's more, GreenGeeks have also been recognised as a Green Power Partner by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

    What to look out for when choosing a green hosting supplier?

    Before committing to work with any apparent sustainability-conscious business, it's important to do your research and ensure that their environmental claims hold up well to scrutiny.

    Over recent years, several large-scale businesses have been accused of Greenwashing, a deceptive marketing practice where consumers are misled into believing that a business takes more steps to positively affect the planet than they actually do.

    As such, it's always worthwhile to do a little digging and feel confident that the business you're choosing to support is transparent and honest with regards to their sustainable commitments.

    We recommend asking yourself the following questions before making any final decision on any green hosting provider:

    • Do they clearly list their credentials and any third-party certifications?
    • Are they listed on sustainable partner or official organisation websites (such as the Environment Agency in the UK or the Environmental Protection Agency in the US)?
    • Do they release annual impact reports, and are these made readily available to the public?
    • Do they share any official energy rating certificates from their data centres and other business premises?

    πŸ’š Reduce your digital carbon footprint with Noughts & Ones

    Here at Noughts & Ones, we specialise in developing Shopify websites for planet-friendly businesses that take their environmental commitments seriously by strictly adhering to our own Conscious Developmentℒ️ framework and working with a selection of green tools that enable us to code more efficiently.

    We also work with sustainability partners including Ecologi to offset our own carbon emissions and Surfers Against Sewage to fight plastic pollution in our oceans with each project we complete.

    Get in touch with our friendly bunch of website designers, developers and project managers to find out more about how we can make a meaningful difference together.

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