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What is green web hosting, and why should you use it in 2021?

When choosing a web hosting company, we think about how good a service the company provides, how cheap their services are, how easy it is to set up but we often don’t think about the environmental impact a web hosting company can have. Many web hosting companies are relying on data centers, some of these companies have their own data centers and others rent space at other companies. Most data centers are running on dirty electricity such as coal energy and this results in all the websites using that data center polluting our breathable air with CO2.

In this article, you will learn more about what green web hosting is and why you should be using it in 2021 to host your website.

What is green web hosting?

Green web hosting is a term used to describe a web hosting company or data center running on green sustainable electricity/energy. To earn the status of being green and sustainable all energy/electricity must come from renewable resources such as solar power, wind power, or water power. This means no coal was burned or nuclear waste was created when producing the electricity to run these data centers.

Besides getting the electricity from green and sustainable methods some of these data centers choose to send out the excessive heat created from running the servers and then use it to heat water for the citizens living in the nearby city. The servers are already running 24 hours every day and they are producing lots of heat, so using the excessive heat to heat up homes in nearby cities ensures that they are sustainable and have less bi-product.

You can read more about green and sustainable data centers here at Interxion's website https://www.interxion.com/why-interxion/sustainability. Interxion is not the only green data center, in fact, there are many located around the world, but Interxion is used to host our website.

Another way that a web hosting company or data center can be green is by compensating for the amount of energy used to run their servers. This can for example be done by planting trees to compensate for the amount of CO2 emitted while running their servers or by buying climate credits to cancel out the amount of CO2 emitted during the year.

There are quite a few ways to be green, so make sure to choose the right company that suits your interests and idea of being green. In the next section, we will go into the types of green web hosting certifications that exist and what it means.

Types of green web hosting certifications.

As mentioned in the previous section there are many different levels of green web hosting certifications, but in this article, we will talk about the two most common ones: Renewable Energy Certificates (REC) and Carbon Offset Certificates (VER).

The most common certification used is the Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) which ensures that all electricity used to run a data center comes from a renewable source such as wind power, solar power, or water power. It is a renewable source because the sun shines every day, the wind blows most days by itself and water runs downwards automatically because of gravity. Let’s say that a data center is using 1 TW pr year to run their servers, then it has to be proven 100% of the energy came from a renewable source for them to earn the (REC) certification.

The others less common certification called Carbon Offset Certificate (VER) is another way for a data center to become green by taking other initiatives such as recycling, planting trees, or buying carbon credits to cancel portions of the CO2 emitted every year. Many companies have used this method and to give you an example, then let's say a company spent 1-megawatt last month to run their production, then by the end of the month, they choose to donate 100.000 trees to compensate for the amount of CO2 emitted during the production. The company could also have chosen to recycle some of their bi-product or spend some of the revenue to buy carbon credits to cancel out their footprint.

To many people, the Carbon Offset Certificate (VER) sounds wrong and doesn’t make much difference in the world, so when choosing a green web hosting company in 2021, it is important to research which type of company they are and how they run their business.

You can read more about the Renewable Energy Certificates (REC) here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_Energy_Certificate_(United_States)

You can read more about the Carbon Offset Certificate (VER) here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voluntary_Emission_Reduction

Benefits of green web hosting.

One of the greatest benefits of using a green web host is the environmental impact your website has. Instead of being a polluter, you will contribute to a more clean internet since the servers will be running on green sustainable energy from sources such as wind, solar, and water. Sustainable and green energy is getting popular and also the visitors are starting to look for signs that certain websites are sustainable.

It is hard to ensure that your website is 100% sustainable since you can’t control what type of electricity your visitors are using, but alone the fact that you can keep your slate clean is a huge benefit.

In 2018 statistics showed that if the internet was a country it would be the 7th worst polluter in the entire world. The internet alone was responsible for 3.7% of the CO2 emissions measured globally. These numbers are expected to be doubled by 2025 unless changes have been made before. Renewable energy only made up for roughly 23% of the amount of electricity needed to run the servers from all the websites in the world.

Why use green web hosting?

Throughout our life’s we go through many stages and for any one of them is becoming more sustainable. At this moment around the world, both businesses and consumers are starting to lean more towards a green solution in the hope that we one day will lower the CO2 emission and thereby be able to live in harmony with our earth. At this moment we pollute much more than what we compensate for and therefore we are on our way in the wrong direction.

You as a web developer or website owner has the chance to step in front of the crowd and help us all walking in the right direction. Change has to start somewhere and if just switching to a server run by green energy can make a difference then that’s worth doing. One server won't make much difference but when more do the same we can change the statistics and make the internet much more sustainable.

A simple website hosted on a server running on sustainable green energy will use roughly 9% less CO2 than a server running on coal energy. So if you ask yourself why use green web hosting? Then the answer is that You can make a difference and you can help influence people to make changes in their own life’s so that we one day can live in harmony with our world. 

Get started with green web hosting.

The first step to getting started with green web hosting is to make the decision. Once you have decided to either build your website on a green web hosting server or move it one, then you can start looking for available green services.

The list of green sustainable web hosting services is fairly long, but underneath here you can see a list of the most common ones.

Once you have chosen your green web hosting company and moved all of your files to your new server, then you can start redesigning your website so that also the design is as sustainable as possible. There are many ways to make your website design more sustainable, but one of the quickest ways to make an impact is by resizing your images and reformat them to WebP to lower the file sizes as much as possible. The fewer data needed to download the less impact your website has.

If you are interested in knowing more about how you can redesign your website to become more sustainable and green, then we have a whole section designed just for the purpose. On our principles page, we have collected a bunch of articles with easy ways you can improve your website: https://sustainablewww.org/principles.