Green Hosting News

Reducing Waste in Our Digital Lives

1st Sep 2019

Do you remember back in the day when we would add a note in our e-mail signatures saying something like “Please consider the environment. Do not print this e-mail unless necessary”?

Many of us were in a new phase of working where paper was the bad guy and digital was the environmentally friendly alternative. It was easy to think of e-mails as an intangible thing, magically leaving your mailbox and arriving in your recipients’ a few seconds later without so much of a tiny tiptoe, never mind a great big stomping dirty carbon footprint.

Illustration showing various icons to represent our online activities, such as social media, online shopping, video streaming etc.

Fast forward 10 to 15 years later and the world is very different. E-mails are now one tiny aspect of our extensive online professional and personal lives. I would dare to guess that most people reading this have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts. We stream movies and tv series, listen to music, podcasts, radio and we play games. We buy books, holidays, gifts and other fun things. It’s such a joy! We conduct much of our work online whether through our own websites or third-party platforms; writing articles, creating promotional videos, making sales, communicating, learning, buying from suppliers, managing our admin. It makes life so much more convenient and is a vital marketing tool. Entrepreneurs may have separate business accounts from their private ones for various digital services and our online activities are split into the data we consume and the data we create.

Taking an inventory of our digital activities

If you take a moment to make a mental list of all of your day-to-day online tasks and pastimes, you’ll probably be surprised by how many there are and how they are continually growing. These activities are such an impalpable, integral part of our lives, seemingly residing in our devices and office computers that barely take up any of our own space or energy. But that isn’t the full picture…

The thing is, e-mails are not an intangible thing nor are any of the other multitude of online activities I’ve listed (and not listed) above. Every click, every published word, picture, video, sound and transaction uses energy and resources and creates waste. The abstract internet isn’t abstract at all. The digital equates to the physical and in very significant ways and amounts. It translates to electricity and gas consumed, materials sourced, hardware manufactured and transported, structures built and land taken. All of the data we consume and create is stored in millions, yes millions of data centres around the world which house, process and serve up every single thing we say and do online. These data centres accommodate the web servers which are connected to the internet 24/7, they need to be kept secure, maintained, cooled and of course powered constantly. Their physical size varies between 5,000 and 500,000 square feet. The whole thing is absolutely gargantuan and it is growing at an incredible rate.

Here are some figures to put this into perspective:

  • A smartphone streaming a one hour video per week uses more power annually than a refrigerator. ₁
  • In 2012 there were 500,000 data centres globally. Now there are 8 million. ₂
  • In 2015 the world’s datacentres used 416.2 Terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity which was much more than the whole of the UK’s 300 TWh consumption in the same year. This energy use is doubling every 4 years.₃
  • Currently the internet uses around 3% of the world’s global electricity supply. If it continues to grow at its current rate this could reach more than 10% by 2030.₄ In fact, the data centre expert Professor Bitterlin states that if the same growth continues, the energy supply in Japan will be completely consumed by data centres by 2030.₅
  • Last year new data created was 33 Zettabytes (ZB). In 2025 it is predicted to be 175 ZB. One Zettabyte = one trillion Gigabytes.₆
  • In 2018 online video viewing created the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions as that produced by the whole of Spain. ₇

There are many more articles and studies online if you would like to delve deeper into this topic (I have added a list of resources at the end of this article). However, it doesn’t take long too see that our ever-increasing use and creation of online data is causing a problem that isn’t going to go away.

Let's extend our sustainable choices to our digital lives

Many of us are already on the path of living a more sustainable lifestyle and thankfully this is becoming more mainstream too. We switch off our electrical goods when not in use, look for low energy appliances and light bulbs, we’re cutting down on single use plastic and worry about the damage of palm oil production, fast fashion and the meat industry. Slowly a wave of less consumption and lower waste is happening in many areas of our lives except in the world of online data, where exactly the opposite is taking place.

We need to apply the same level of responsibility in our digital lives as we do our physical ones. We wouldn’t dream of polluting the air by driving to each of our friend’s houses to tell them about the local veg we’d eaten for dinner or waste paper and ink printing off unnecessarily large photos of our shop products. But we do squander the resources we have to communicate online.

How can we lower our digital (which is actually physical) waste?

I don’t need to write a list of things that you can do instead of binge-watching your favourite box-set or scrolling through your Instagram feed. We all know that there’s life out there away from the Internet, let’s just go and live it (I’m saying this to myself too by the way).

I can, however, provide some useful ways to work more efficiently online, especially with the content and data you publish on your own website and elsewhere:

Please consider the environment. Do not post this unless you really need to.
Where we conduct so much of our business marketing and valuable (dare I say essential) networking online it is tempting to feel like we continuously need to post something (anything) on our social media business accounts so that we aren’t forgotten. Don’t give in to that temptation and work on curating useful, informative posts less often instead. The quality over quantity principle really applies here.

To video or not to video
Video is the biggest offender when it comes to online resource use as it accounts for 80% of the world’s data traffic. So, although video is an amazing medium for communicating with your audience, use it wisely and only when you will get the best results from it rather than just as your default choice. The Shift Project provides a guide on how to reduce the digital size of your videos, so if you do choose to publish a video, make sure it is as small (in file size) as it can be. *

Sort out those images
You know those times when you visit a website and the page appears with the images missing initially, then the pictures jerkily load into the page? This is when the images used are way too big. It may appear the correct size on the page but only its dimensions have been reduced and the original file size is much larger. This is a common wasteful practice and these huge photos can do your website more harm than good. Re-size your digital images before you add them to your website. Even with large, high res screens it is unlikely that you will ever need to use a photo that is 5000 pixels wide, straight from your digital camera.

Clear out your WordPress Plugins
If you’re a WordPress user, it is likely that you have installed a number of plugins to perform specific tasks on your website (e.g. SEO tools, e-commerce, events calendar etc). These plugins are a fantastic thing for non-web developers because they take a lot of work out of adding a new feature. However, these plugins can be heavy on resources because they perform several functions (you may not be utilising all of them) and when your website is visited, every plugin is loaded, even the ones that are not currently in use. This is wasteful but also potentially dangerous. Plugins that are left idle and not kept up to date cause vulnerabilities in your website, which can be exploited by hackers. Be choosy about the plugins you use and delete the ones you don’t need.

Responsible website ownership
Old and poorly optimised websites are slower, less efficient and use more resources. They provide an inferior experience for your visitors and are damaging to the environment. This is one of the more technical aspects of being a website owner and it is advisable to seek professional support and advice to address this.

Keep that mailbox tidy
If left unchecked your mailbox can become a dumping ground for every e-mail you have ever sent and received. Redundant E-mails stored in your web hosting account are taking up server space, like a digital landfill. Delete old e-mails that you’re sure you no longer need, especially those with attachments and newsletters with images. Do this both in your inbox and sent items. If you’re worried about deleting e-mails that you may want to access later then download them and create an archive. Be sensible though, back ups are still worth taking to make sure you don't lose anything vital.

Wind powered website hosting
Carbon emissions are a waste product of burning fossil fuels. Currently greenhouse gases created by web hosting servers and cloud computing powered by non-renewable resources is equivalent to that of the aviation industry. Don’t contribute to this pollution, choose website hosting powered by renewable energy, like our Green Hosting. Our Centro datacentre in London, which houses the hosting servers, routers and cooling systems runs entirely on wind generated electricity from UK wind farms and employs energy efficient design principles meaning it uses less energy as a whole.

Other benefits of lowering your digital waste

As is often the case, there are other advantageous outcomes of running a more environmentally friendly, low waste website; Its efficiency will be improved and in turn so will your SEO, It will be more accessible to a wider audience, especially those with slower connections and it will be more secure. Reducing the chances of your website or e-mails becoming vulnerable to hackers or phishing attempts will save you time, money and credibility  – everyone benefits.

If you would like to know more about our wind powered website hosting service or how we can help your website run more efficiently then do get in touch.


* The Shift Project video guide - This is not a recommendation and we cannot be responsible for any use of this guide.

Resources referenced above

1) Impakter - Hungry for Data, Starving the World

2) Data Center Knowledge - The Data Center Dilemma: Is Our Data Destroying the Environment?

3) Information Age - A perfect storm: the environmental impact of data centres

4) Data Center Knowledge - The Data Center Dilemma: Is Our Data Destroying the Environment?

5) Independent - Global warming: Data centres to consume three times as much energy in next decade, experts warn

6) Market Watch - 175 Zettabytes by 2025! A data deluge is round the corner

7) The Shift Project - The Unsustainable Use of Online Video
 

More resources and interesting reading

Data Center Knowledge - State of the Data Center Industry, 2018 – Where We are and What to Expect
The Shift Project - “Lean ICT: Towards digital sobriety”: Our new report on the environmental impact of ICT
Greenpeace - Click Clean Report 2017
Data Economy - Data centres of the world will consume 1/5 of Earth’s power by 2025
Nature - How to stop data centres from gobbling up the world’s electricity
The Guardian - Our phones and gadgets are now endangering the planet


Doing green and ethical business

28th Feb 2019

Of course, we spend most of our time talking about Green Hosting here, which makes sense I guess. But I thought it would be good to share the other ways we aim to help make a positive difference with our Green Hosting business too. Here are some of the things we do...

Wind turbines

The company we keep

In our early days when we first set up back in 2004, the ethical business world was much smaller than it is now. However, we always knew that we only wanted to make money from clients who are doing positive things. Our ethical policy guides us and communicates the kinds of activities we do and do not support via our web services. The ethical policy still stands more than 14 years later and is still fundamental to our way of working. We just don’t want to make money from exploitative, cruel or careless companies and we’re sure our clients don’t want us to either.

We are extremely fortunate now to have many like-minded colleagues and a community of conscious brands around us, sharing good practice, supporting each other and working to make ethical business stronger and more mainstream.

Where we shop and how we work

Choosing responsible suppliers is important to us too. We bank with the Cooperative, use Ecotricity to power our office and the Green Stationery Company for any supplies we need. More recently we took out business insurance with Evergreen Insurance and this was new to us last year, which shows we're on a constant learning curve. For our IT equipment we choose energy efficient products and purchase from companies with ethical credentials when we can. All electrical equipment and lights are switched off when we aren't using them. Even though our electricity is from renewable sources, there's no need to waste it.

In the day-to-day running of our business travel is kept to a minimum and so is paper use, we just don't really need either of those things to provide our service. Sometimes its handy to write things down and so if we have notepads or notebooks they are made from scrap or recycled paper. The pens we buy are made from recycled materials too.

Most of our marketing is done online but if we need printed materials we choose a printer with environmentally friendly practices and products. We haven't had anything printed in a while but we recently discovered Hatch and so we might try them next time we do.

We have an environmental policy which goes into lots more detail if you'd like to read more.

Kind business

We know that the technicalities of websites and web hosting can be daunting, especially when a business relies so heavily on their online presence and e-mails. So we aim to be kind in our approach and communication. Our clients reciprocate that kindness in lovely feedback, messages of support and spreading the word about us. It makes us feel really good!

Supporting community groups

With a view to hopefully making a difference in a more direct way, we work with community groups and positive projects that make us smile, providing services for free. Most recently we built the new Greens Windmill website, update it as volunteers and we power it with our wind powered hosting too. It gives us a real buzz to be able to do this and to get to know some really fantastic people and organisations.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Being real

Everything we do in our business reflects how we live our lives outside work. Like lots of other people we're increasingly more conscious and careful about what we eat, what we wear wear and what we buy (or rather don't buy). We're cutting down our plastic use, composting kitchen waste, planting flowers for pollinators and growing veggies, supporting charities, shopping locally, buying second hand, raising our awareness. We're a small business trying to do our best, we're know we're not perfect but we're always learning and working to do more.

Since we started out in 2004 our values of wanting to make a difference haven’t changed, but thankfully the business world around us has. It’s so wonderful to now be part of a much bigger movement of brands driven by the triple bottom line - people, planet and profit – and we’re excited by how much of a difference we can all make in the future.


Have you seen our clients?

28th Feb 2019

One of the things we love to do here at Green Hosting is shout about our clients because, wow, they're amazing!

Take a look at our Clients page and you will see individuals, businesses and non-profits all working to do good for people and the planet. We have social charities, conservation groups, sustainable fashion companies, conscious lifestyle bloggers, ethical marketing brands, cruelty-free & organic skincare producers, fairtrade jewellers, artists, educators and so, so much more.

If you want to make your website kinder to the planet by switching to Green Hosting, you can see you're in good company.

Here are a couple of lovely messages we received from our happy customers too. Head over to our Clients page to read more:

"I switched to Green Hosting a week ago now, and I honestly feel it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made."
Francesca Willow
Ethical Unicorn

"I'm really impressed with the service I received from Green Hosting. I was nervous about moving my site over in case anything got lost or broken but they guided me through the whole process, answered all my questions in plain English and kept me updated at every stage. They handled the whole switch over for me and it went smoothly. Not only have they made my site more sustainable but it's actually much faster now too!"
Sian Conway
Ethical Hour

"As always a great service from you. I have recommended you a number of times and will continue to do so. Not very often you get such fantastic service these days.....big pat on the back to the Green Hosting Team. I'm a very satisfied customer."
Jason Hollingsworth
Etheco

We'd love to power your website by the wind too. Do get in touch to see how we can help.


Green Web Foundation Partners

4th Oct 2017

The Green Web Foundation PartnerGreat news! Green Hosting is now listed in the Green Web Foundation's international directory of hosting companies using renewable energy AND we are a Green Web Foundation Partner too. We have gained partner status due to our ethical and environmental policies published on our website.

The Green Web Foundation is a non-profit organisation working hard towards an internet powered entirely by renewable energy and checks every members' green credentials before listing them on their website. They provide an online tool to check whether websites measure up as Green (powered by renewable energy) or Grey (powered by fossil fuels or status unknown). If your website checks out as being green you can show one of their badges on your website.*

*NOTE: We have found that websites using Cloudflare may check out as not being green when in fact they are. This is because Cloudflare obscures the website's actual IP for added security.


A customer’s view on Green Hosting

13th Sep 2017

We 'met' sustainable lifestyle blogger Francesca from Ethical Unicorn via the online #EthicalHour Network this summer. We had been talking about our wind powered website hosting, answering questions and generally finding out that still even lots of environmentally aware folks do not know of the pollution caused by web hosting powered by fossil fuels. We were delighted when Francesca signed up to one of our hosting plans and hired us to help her switch from her old WordPress hosted platform to our Green Hosting server and get her set up with a new theme.  

I switched to Green Hosting a week ago now, and I honestly feel it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Once her new website was up and running Francesca wrote about what she learned about the website hosting industry, how there is an environmentally friendly alternative and her experience on working with us. Read Francesca's article 'The Environmental Impact Of Web Hosting, And Why I Switched To Wind Power'.

We get lots of lovely feedback from our clients but we thought this was particularly great, detailing Francesca's initial decision to switch right through to our customer service. Take a look at our clients page to see some of the other websites hosted with us.


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