Green Web Hosting: Finding Your Perfect Shade Of Green

Posted by in Business Strategy, Sustainability, Web Development tagged with ,

In this post we share several green web hosting options to reduce the environmental impact of your digital products and services.

In the first post of our Sustainable Web Design series, Tim shared some statistics on how the “green medium” of the web isn’t actually that green. Despite its reputation for replacing paper, the internet has a massive environmental impact.

As one of Illinois’ first legal Benefit Corporations committed to a triple bottom line of people, planet and prosperity, we are always looking for ways to improve our social and environmental impact and incorporate more responsible practices into the DNA of our company.

For these and other reasons, we have been thinking about different ways to reduce our carbon footprint and the carbon footprints of our clients. One service any digital agency uses is web hosting. What better way to improve your website’s carbon footprint than by investing in green hosting that’s powered by renewable energy?

There are many different types of green hosting providers that power their data centers with renewable energy. It’s important to know the pros and cons of each.

Different Shades of Green Web Hosting

There are a few important questions to ask when researching green web hosts:

  • What’s their energy mix? Do they have solar arrays or a wind farm directly connected to their data centers or are they purchasing renewable energy credits?
  • If they purchase RECs, do those purchases support the proliferation of renewable energy in the market? Do they support local projects?
  • What happens when a website goes down? Do they provide reliable support and good customer service?
  • What’s their uptime history? Do they have a track record of keeping websites online more than 95% of the time?

While the last two questions might not seem immediately relevant, a truly good green web host must be the total package. Unfortunately, we’ve learned the hard way that not all green web hosts are created equal. While we applaud any hosting provider’s sustainability commitments, if they aren’t equally committed to security, data privacy, customer service, and other important concerns, they’re not worth supporting.

Web Hosting Energy Mix

How deep does a web host’s commitment to renewable energy run? 100% wind and solar powered businesses run exclusively on wind and/or solar energy instead of energy that comes from fossil fuels. AISO.net, for example, maintains solar panels in large sets of arrays, capable of generating up to 60 kilowatts of electricity each day. This is the highest level of commitment a company can make. While it is really impressive, most companies don’t have the resources or capacity to build solar arrays or wind farms and must find other options.

Powered by RECs

Companies that don’t have the capacity to build their own wind farms or solar arrays can purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). These purchases count toward the production of renewable energy sources, but—unlike companies with solar arrays on their data center rooftops—the energy itself is created elsewhere.

There are two different perspectives on how green a company is when they purchase RECs:

  1. Even though they cannot use direct renewable energy, because of their location, resources, or other reasons, they’re at least trying to make a difference.
  2. Depending on the quality of RECs purchased, a company might not actually be supporting the widespread proliferation of renewable energy, in which case they might be accused of “greenwashing”.

It is important to understand the difference between direct renewable energy and RECs. Unbundled RECs—those that are purchased separately from the company that created them—can have unfortunate consequences.

The Green Web Foundation Directory

The most comprehensive directory of green web hosts on the internet, the Green Web Foundation’s hosting directory can help you find a suitable green hosting partner that suits your budget and technical requirements. Otherwise, feel free to contact us about green hosting options from Mightybytes as well. We would be happy to help. Not sure how green your own website is? Find out with Ecograder.

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Mightybytes is a Chicago-based digital agency and Certified B Corporation. Connect with us on Twitter or get in touch via our contact form.