Over the past two decades, the Internet has grown exponentially, but it shouldn’t be surprising that many people don’t recognize the massive amounts of electricity necessary to maintain a website.
It can be hard to grasp how much merely sitting at a computer can wreak havoc on the environment. To be sure, a single person isn’t going to have much of an effect alone, but every individual’s carbon footprint adds up, day after day.
Due to the surge of startups and online businesses, more websites are constantly being ushered into the ether. That steady increase in energy consumption is having a damaging effect on the overall well-being of the planet.
Complete energy efficiency is currently impossible, but finding ways to reduce energy usage has benefits for both individuals and businesses. Aside from conserving natural resources, using less energy:
- Decreases expenses. Green alternatives may cost more initially, but the long-term financial benefits will often compensate in a surprisingly short time.
- Promotes brand reputation. Going green is popular with the general public. Being able to show you have green practices in place indicates to clients that sustainability and efficiency are important to your company … not just building a revenue stream.
- Decreases insurance premiums. For buildings that adopt green practices, credits may be available to decrease the overall cost of an insurance package.
According to this infographic from Texas-based web hosting provider Hostgator.com, the Internet consumes more power than the entire nation of Russia. By 2020, the web’s footprint is expected to be 14 GT from today’s footprint of 830 MT.
Web hosts who choose to be environmentally friendly use a variety of green practices to offset costs, decrease energy consumption, and deliver results. Using a green host instead of a traditional host represents an effort to temper the serious energy consumption problems that the planet will face in the next decade while retaining the service normally provided by a web host.
How to choose a green web host
One of the easiest ways to reduce the negative impact your website has on the planet is to get it hosted with an environmentally friendly provider. Green, or environmental, or eco-friendly generally means the web-hosting company secures most or all of its energy from renewable sources (i.e., wind, solar, or hydroelectricity).
Carbon offsets and green marketing practices are other ways that web hosts and other companies can go green. It can be good to evaluate to what extent a particular company operates green.
The term can be used to refer to a variety of levels, and finding the company that utilizes renewable energy sources can be highly desirable if you’re a firm that provides a service that uses high levels of energy.
Green companies aren’t just for eco-chic consumers, though. Often, they perform just as well as, or better than, their traditional counterparts, due to a conscientious evaluation of products and processes.
Expense is not necessarily a defining feature of green web hosts, either. Many green hosting companies that are currently operating actually benefit from decreased operating expenses, which means savings for both the company and the consumer.
Look carefully at the statistics for the green hosting company. It’s great to have a green marketing campaign, but it’s just as important to receive the service you sought when you were shopping for a host for your website.
Choose a company that has a proven track record for support and a high rate of uptime. Green web hosts can purchase renewable energy credits and become certified. Renewable energy credits allow the company to say it depends on renewable energy even when it’s not physically available.
Certification often involves recognizing a company for its commitment to renewable energy or a proven reduction in emissions. Use of shared and recycled servers that are powered by alternative energy sources enables green hosts not only to shrink their carbon footprint, but start to reverse their level of consumption.
Finding a green-certified web host is a guarantee that the green exists not just in the marketing, but throughout the company.
By the numbers
The statistics regarding web hosting effects on the environment and the potential savings associated with them are staggering. Consider that the average number of tweets per day, 500 million, is equal to 10 tons of carbon emissions.
That is the equivalent of emissions from 13.1 tons of waste sent to the dump … or 4,126 gallons of gas consumed. Carbon emissions affect the global climate, human health, and the economy by depleting the ozone layer.
In addition to the effect energy use has on the environment, the cost of running traditional servers can run up to $7 billion worldwide.
A large part of the solution is streamlining processes. Web pages that are hard to load or have slower application speeds drive visitors away and eat more energy.
Techniques such as conditional loading can help improve the user experience and save energy. In addition to using a green web host, web designers can also compress file sizes and downloads, use PNG files instead of JPGs, and decrease the amount of icons they place on a page.