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An introduction to green hosting and green hosting providers

Industry Insights, 2nd March 2022

What's green hosting?

Green hosting is offered by many website hosts and content delivery networks (CDNs) these days. It's a business practice which minimises or eliminates the environmental impact of their data centres.


Most green hosting providers do this by partnering with businesses such as Ecologi or purchasing one-time Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to offset their carbon emissions. Some go further to take proactive steps in reducing their environmental impact 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, but 45% of them 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.


This data suggests there's a large opportunity for businesses working towards a more sustainable future to shout about what they're doing. Include any official accreditations across your marketing materials and if your website already utilises green hosting, 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 to display in your website footer and showcase how clean your website performs to potential customers.


🔗 Check out the Competition and Markets Authority's 'Green Claims Code', for detailed 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 opting 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 for sustainable goods and business practices continues to increase, hosting providers are finding new ways to ensure their business is as eco-friendly as possible.


🔌 Green energy in data centres

The first step a hosting provider generally takes when looking to 'go green' is identifying where the energy their data centre consumes comes from. From there they can switch (where necessary) to an energy supplier that focuses more on renewable e energy 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.


💻 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.


If budget allows, switching to more reliable equipment that needs to be replaced far less often, or simply changing over to more energy-efficient hardware can help. 


Looking for equipment made from recycled materials is another option. Or, perhaps consider buying second-hand equipment to avoid unnecessary waste based on the manufacture and supply of brand new hardware. For larger businesses with strict service-level agreements (SLAs) however, 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. Through this method, data from multiple businesses is securely grouped and 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 waste and reducing the amount of hardware and 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. For example, do they partner with third-party waste management companies? Effective waste removal, when done correctly, can help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and improve overall air and water quality. Poor waste disposal can encourage the growth of bacteria and disease, increasing the risk to those who come into contact with it.


Think about promoting behavioural changes in your business. Particularly when it comes to reducing non-recyclable materials purchased and encouraging staff to recycle. Businesses that 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?

As sustainability continues to become an important consideration for both businesses and consumers alike, more and more hosting companies are turning towards renewable energy as a means of powering their servers and digital services.

Let's take a look through some of the most popular green hosting platforms on the market today, and exactly what makes each of their platforms sustainable to use:


🛍 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. They focus 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 and bandwidth, automatic updates and blazing fast server speeds. It's no surprise that it's 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.


💎 Krystal

Krystal's hosting plans run on 100% renewable energy from sources including sun, wind and sea via their partner Ecotricity, the UK's leading green energy supplier.


They were one of the first hosting providers in the UK to power their entire platform with green energy 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 LifeEcologi and 1t to further offset their own carbon emissions and establish a clear path for a greener future.


🖥 Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure is a sustainable cloud infrastructure that puts sustainable technologies at the heart of their business. Their cloud-hosting platform 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).


Microsoft is also engaged in over 40 worldwide environmental projects 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.


📦 Amazon Web Services (AWS)

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


In an effort to lead from the front, Amazon has announced the AWS Clean Energy Accelerator Program. It offers 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 power all of their operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025 with 50% of all shipments net-zero by 2030. Longer-term, they're aiming for 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.


Alongside their efforts to recycle and minimise paper use, they've also switched to higher efficiency servers. Plus, HostGator offsets the carbon emissions of both their shared and reseller servers by 130% by purchasing 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.


🤓 GreenGeeks

Since their launch in 2008, GreenGeeks have established themselves as a frontrunner of sustainable website hosting. They're powered by 300% renewable energy thanks to their efforts 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 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 supplier?


Before committing to work with any apparent sustainability-conscious business, you need to be confident their environmental claims hold up well to scrutiny.


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


As such, it's always worth doing a little digging to feel confident that the business you choose is transparent and honest with regards to their sustainable commitments.


Ask yourself the following questions before making any final decision:


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

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