I am a web developer as well as someone very interested in sustainability and helping the environment. Green Hosting, or hosting that is carbon neutral, is something I am naturally interested in. I am currently in the process of shopping for a new hosting service for a few websites I take care of for other people as well as for some personal projects. I am taking this opportunity to find options that offer less environmental impact.
Over the last couple of days I have been researching what options are out there. Below is what I have learned and hopefully it will help you if you ever decide to make the same switch. My goal is to have all my web hosting carbon neutral by this time next year (when all my hosting accounts will have cycled through renewals).
I will break down the 5 options I see out there and then let you know which one I am choosing and why.
1. Buy Your Own Offset Credits – Just keep doing what you are doing and do enough research to figure out the carbon footprint of your hosting use. Buy carbon offset credits to neutralize your footprint. This is harder than it seems. There are a lot of questions about how companies use offset credits, so this requires a lot of research and you need to answer for yourself which companies are doing it in a way you agree with. I suggest buying credits directly from a wind or solar farm.
- Tip: Overestimate. If your hosting company will not let you know how much electricity they use for your hosting, or are unable, estimate it yourself. My unscientific recommendation is to take 75% of your hosting cost and define it as “electricity use”. Run that $ amount through a tool like this with your zip code. My estimate for $100 annual hosting bill was 1,379 lbs CO2 per year. Round that up to 2,000 or 1 ton (that is how they sell the credits) and you will pay anywhere from $5 to $100 annually. Like I said, a lot of options, a lot of research.
2. Use Hosting that Buys Credits – Same process as above, except the hosting company does all the math for you. A lot of hosting companies are offering these options these days for a little extra cost. For some hosting companies this is the only option, without a geographical move or a massive investment. One major con, is since they do all the research and make all the decisions, you have less control of the quality and legitimacy of the offsets. One good option in this direction is Dreamhost.
3. Use Hosting that Buys Green Energy – With more and more utility companies building and buying into green energy from wind farms, solar panels, and others – more hosting companies are investing in these options. This is better than buying credits as it is a direct buy of green energy and encourages utilities to invest even more in these solutions.
- HostGator is my personal choice for now. While they technically buy credits, they are buying them directly from a wind farm in their home state. And they buy 130% of what is required for carbon neutral, in their words “We’re not just neutralizing our environmental impact, we’re reversing it!” They also are not marking up a special “green” option but have converted all of their shared and reseller hosting over to this process. I know this is not the greenest option, but for me they are offering the best combination of sustainability and webhosting services that suits my needs.
4. Use Hosting that Produces Green Energy – Not all of these companies are 100% carbon neutral, but many of them are very close. Their costs and uptime look pretty competitive. I plan to start using these guys as a green options when I pitch clients. My only hesitation to switching all my hosting to them is a lack of knowledge of their multi-domain options and additional services that I need. Further research is needed here, will keep you posted.
Some, but not all, in this category (from Treehugger.com):
- WebCtel – Solar
- SolarWebWorks – Solar
- EcoSky – Solar & wind
- The Green Web Host – Mixed sources, mostly wind I think
- Locomotive Media – Wind
- Elfon – Wind
- SustainableMarketing – Wind
- Aiso – Solar
- Taproot Hosting
- SolarHost – Solar
5. Use Your Own Green Powered Servers – Buy and setup your own servers, build a wind turbine in the back yard, load up the rooftop with solar panels, and bask in your carbon neutral glory.
Did I miss any great Green Hosting options out there? Let me know in the comments. Also, which option are would you choose?
UPDATE: In response to this post I had requests for a second post on Green Business Card Options