8th Jan 2020
Awareness of sustainable lifestyle choices has thankfully now become part of the mainstream. We are extremely conscious of plastic pollution, unsustainable palm oil, switching to meat free meals and buying from zero waste shops. We take a lot of time to think about how choices and actions in our physical lives affect the planet and life upon it.
But what about our online lives? How often do we hear conversations or read articles in the mainstream about the pollution and waste created by the Internet? Not that often I would say. When I talk to people about the negative environmental effect the Internet has, they are often initially surprised that they haven’t considered this before. Consuming and posting content online is such a big part of our every day lives, how have we omitted to think of the power and resources needed to maintain it?
Probably because to us it’s invisible and intangible. It just works. We don’t see the energy required to power, maintain and cool the servers that store, process and deliver every single item of content that is posted online, or the 8 million global datacentres that house those servers.
Currently there are over 4 billion of us using the internet and according to We Are Social & Hootsuite there are on average more than a million new users coming online every day. Our internet use is consuming 3% of the world’s electricity supply and in 2015 totalled more than the whole of the UK’s consumption that year. This is continually growing at an extremely fast rate and experts predict that by 2030 the energy supply in Japan will be completely consumed by data centres.
That massive energy use doesn’t come without an environmental cost. Most data centres are powered by fossil fuel energy sources which means that the global carbon emissions of the world’s data centres now equal that of the aviation industry. The Shift Project also tell us that video watching alone (the hungriest of all online media) generated the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions as that produced by the whole of Spain in 2018.
In a world where we are trying hard to reduce our environmental impact in most areas our online lives seem to be going in the opposite direction.
According to Greenpeace there is much work to be done but there are some positives too. Since 2010 when they began documenting and reporting the demand for energy and resulting pollution caused by data centres some major internet companies have expressed their commitment to moving to 100% renewables. This has had the knock-on effect of utility companies in the US switching to renewables to meet customer demands and attract new investors.
So, how about your own website? You can make sure that is powered by renewable energy too by using Green Hosting. Switching to a hosting company that powers its servers and data centres with renewables means you are not only helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by our online lives but you are also telling utility and data centre companies that Internet users want more clean energy. This is a great way to exercise your consumer power!
Our green website hosting is powered 100% by renewable energy, all year round. The Centro data centre, which houses our hosting servers, runs entirely on wind generated electricity from UK on-shore and off-shore wind farms. Because the energy is supplied via the grid, the power does not stop if the wind isn’t blowing, nor does it need to fall back on fossil fuels. It remains as reliable as ever and as green as always.
Centro data centre isn’t wasteful with that green energy either and has in fact achieved a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.2, which is a very high efficiency rating. This is because it has been designed and built to use electricity as efficiently as possible. By extracting hot air from the building and using naturally cold outside air through the water-based chillers, the cooling systems do not need to be constantly at full power as they would in traditional data centres.
Our Green Hosting service provides all of the same, usual features you would expect from other hosting companies. So, if your website is hosted elsewhere we can help you switch to Green Hosting with minimal disruption.
“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!”
You can find out more about our Green Hosting service and see more lovely client comments at green-hosting.co.uk
What else can we do to make our online lives more sustainable?
There are other ways we can live more sustainably online, both via our own websites and elsewhere. We wrote an article about this for Zero Waste Week 2019, so do check it out.
There are lots of useful resources on this topic, some of which I used to gather the figures on internet use, data consumption and carbon emissions shown above. If you’d like to delve deeper here are the links:
We Are Social – Digital 2019: Global Internet Use Accelerates
Data Center Knowledge - The Data Center Dilemma: Is Our Data Destroying the Environment?
Information Age - A perfect storm: the environmental impact of data centres
Impakter - Hungry for Data, Starving the World
The Shift Project – The Unsustainable Use of Online Video
Greenpeace – Click Clean Report
Greenpeace – Clicking Clean Virginia