Greener Beans – AD#5

This article was edited May 2020 after the launch of our S4 hosting service.

In case you have just tuned in, this is episode 5 of my Awareness Diary. Parts 1-3 were mostly spent complaining about stuff, single use plastics came up a lot. In part 4, I explained that I was changing the way that I search online because data centres have massive carbon footprints, and that made me think about…

Greener hosting

It’s all very well using a search engine that plants trees but we actually run a website (or five actually) and I never really gave much thought to the efficiency of the data centre that they they are hosted in or the source of the power that it runs on, and that was a massive oversight.

For the last few days has been running on a shiny new web server that is super green and belongs to a socially responsible company, and to be honest we feel pretty bloody good about it.

But more about that in a second, first here are a few numbers. By conservative estimates, there are:

  • 3.5 billion internet users
  • 70 million servers
  • 20 milligrams of CO2 emitted per user per second for simple websites
  • 1.54 gigatons annually of greenhouse gases emitted by 2020 (3% of all emissions)

All of that means that the internet has a higher energy and carbon footprint than air travel, which is just nuts.

Anyway, back to those lovely servers…

We have moved our site hosting from Luxembourg and our mail hosting from Australia to bring it all together in one carbon happier little bubble, not because we were unhappy with the services that we were using, they were both great, but the energy they were using wasn’t.

There are a lot of companies out there that are offering ‘green’ hosting, and as with everything some are better than others. It’s a balancing act.

I am sure that there are companies who power their recycled servers with their own windmills and cool them with water from the local stream, a process that is all carefully managed by vegan technicians wearing hemp shirts and using solar charged laptops. It may sound like I am taking the piss, but when I was researching possible hosting options I did find at least one company that was almost exactly like this. All of that actually is really great, but if you want a website that is fast and constantly up then things like redundant connectivity, backup power supplies, modern servers and secure off-off site backups are actually all pretty important too.

There are a lot more green hosting companies out there than you might think, you can find a list with some of them at The Green Web Foundation, but do be aware that there are some super sustainable companies that are not listed there. Many of them are really very good, of those that we researched A2 get a lot of good reviews and have great eco credentials, even though they don’t make a big deal out of them. Then there is GreenGeeks who buy three times the amount of electricity they actually use in green energy credits. When this article was first written in February 2019 we didn’t go with either of those or many of the other interesting options that we looked at but decided to host with Kualo, who are pretty great and use actual renewable energy instead of carbon offsetting.

Since then though we have spent a year developing our own sustainable hosting company called S4, you can check out some of the things we do to make sure that our services are sustainable, as well as speedy, secure, and stable (S*4, get it?) here: S4 – Sustainability.

We host sites in one of the most modern and energy efficient data centres in Europe, and I don’t know if their technicians wear hemp shirts or not, but that’s a compromise we are happy to make, while slow hosting or non-renewable energy are not!

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