I look at websites every day, I use Bloglovin to see what new, great, paleo, gluten free or keto recipes are out there so that I can share them on my facebook page or Pinterest. I use Instagram most days, posting my own photos or enjoying the pics of my insta-buddies and I occasionally use Twitter too.
I also love to read the interesting things that people write about technology, travel, the environment, lifestyle, global human stories and experiences. I’m not at all interested in celebrities, gossip or negative scaremongering, thankfully I can chose what to read, there are so many different apps, websites and blogs that it’s easy to choose my reading material.
Despite the differences between websites and their content there is one thing which every website has in common, can you guess what that is?
Every website in the world has to be hosted somewhere, it needs an address, a home, somewhere to hang it’s hat.
Websites are hosted on servers, these are basically hard drives. The server is a large box which gets plugged in and stacked in a shelving unit in a large warehouse which is filled with these shelving units from floor to ceiling. The warehouse may be one of many which constitute a server farm, this is basically an industrial area filled with these warehouses. Because servers give off heat as they work they need to be cooled so the demand for air conditioning is huge. Of course the servers also require electricity to work so you can understand that these server farms are energy intensive. The internet is fast catching up on the air industry in the worst polluter category.
Did you know that there is really no such thing as “in the cloud”? At it's simplest “in the cloud” actually means “on a server”, in a server farm somewhere, using electricity every time that we require the data, check the email, upload a photo to the cloud, stream a movie on our smart-phone.
We can debate whether or not we are all responsible for the energy use of the internet, however I’m not trying to run a guilt trip on anyone here. I just want us to understand how the system works so that we are not operating in the dark and also so that we know there are things which we can all do to help reduce the energy requirements of the internet.
Something that we can do if we own a website, such as this one, is that we can exercise our discretion when it comes to choosing a web hosting company. We can choose to use green hosting for our website. Of course there are many different shades of green when it comes to green hosting, some options are to host with a company who will plant trees if you host with them, some hosts will buy carbon credits on your behalf etc.
You can probably guess that I don’t like half measures, I’d rather do a thing properly than half heartedly so when my partner and I were looking for clean web hosts for our own websites we became fed up with the promises of tree planting and we started to look elsewhere. After all, we’ve already planted a few thousand trees on our land and elsewhere, we really don’t need to have someone else do this for us. We live off-grid, making our own electricity using photovoltaic panels and a wind turbine and so we wanted our websites to also use renewable energy rather than nuclear or coal. We could also see that other people might like to have truly green web hosting for their own websites or blogs.
We spend quite a bit of time over the years trying to find really reliable server companies who use renewable energy. We hosted our various websites on different servers so that we could experience the problem solving ability of the server companies, after all if we were to use these servers to host client’s websites we had to be sure that they were reliable and reasonably contactable. We are happy with the servers that we offer to clients, we are on hand if our client has a problem and our clients are happy with our service. To check out my new web hosting business please click here.
It’s great to be able to offer truly green web hosting to anyone who is interested in greening their web presence. Having a website hosted on a green server means that you are reducing the carbon footprint of your online presence. This is particularly important if you have a business oriented towards the environment – having a green web site shows that your interest in environmental issues is genuine, you are showing the world that your business has integrity.
What can you do as a website consumer?
If you don’t have a website yourself you can still help to reduce the carbon footprint of the internet by developing some new habits, we could call it tech hygiene.
Something that is super easy is that we can switch off the mobile data feed on our phones when we are asleep, in class, at work, on a date, in the cinema etc. If our phones are not constantly trying to run apps in the background or update notifications, downloading emails etc then we are reducing the work load on the servers that house the applications and constantly work to keep us updated. We can also switch off notifications off for the apps that we don’t use often, in fact, switching off app notifications could be the subject of a blog post on stress relief all by itself.
Switching off your home computer and smart TV along with the broadband system (if you have one) when it is not in use will not only reduce your internet carbon footprint, it will of course reduce your electrical utility bill.
Reducing the time you spend on social media will also reduce your internet carbon footprint as well as having positive mental health benefits.
Spend more time outdoors instead
You can talk with other people about green hosting, starting the discussion is a great way to share information, lots of people simply aren’t aware what green hosting is or that it is easily available.
Another thing that you can do is share this article on social media or email it to anyone you know that has a website, let’s all do what we can to reduce the carbon footprint of the internet.