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The pollution behind these words.

Did you know that: “Worldwide, the digital warehouses use about 30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants, according to estimates industry experts compiled for The Times” (Glanz, J. 2012)? At this rate, the internet industry will account for more global warming than the Airline industry?

Internet is not the zero-waste, clean resource it seems to be. Every word typed, every picture uploaded, every undeleted email, every website created constitute infinite data that, although we tend to forget, needs to be stored. Indeed, far from the virtual image of the cloud, data becomes a physical reality as it needs to be stored (Glanz, J. 2012). This translates into gigantic data centers, using incredible amounts of electricity, generators and batteries, technology and all the insanely polluting materials they involve, space that would be otherwise occupied by trees or people, and generating burning heat requiring a cooling system, which further increases the internet’s footprint. In top of this, data centers can waste 90% or more of the energy they take up, making them highly inefficient (Glanz, J. 2012).

I first became aware of this thanks to my grandpa, who watched a documentary on this issue and dropped me a: ”Did you know internet can be more polluting than paper?”. (While we’re on the subject, I’d invite all of you to switch to Ecosia as your default search engine, a greener alternative to Google using the money they make from ads to plant trees and restore water around the world).

When I started thinking about creating a blog, this was one of the major argument holding me back; does the internet need yet another white, cis, western, able, privileged traveler sharing her view of travelling, and polluting the world at the same time? No, clearly not. So, my first prerequisite was to find a ”green host”, meaning a ”platform” where I could create my blog without the environmental impact.

I found ”GreenGeeks” through a third website, citing them as the greenest host, along with many other websites claiming similar arguments. Since 2008, GreenGeeks rejoices in being a 300% green host, not only relying on renewable energy, but compensating for 3 times their energy consumption and environmental impact, in collaboration with Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

In their own words: ‘’We work with environmental foundations to purchase wind energy credits to put back into the grid three times (3X) the amount of energy we consume. In effect GreenGeeks not only wipes out our carbon footprint but we’re also negating the carbon footprint of two additional companies of our size. This is in addition to already using energy efficient hardware housed in data centers which are designed to be environmentally friendly.’’

In addition, they claim to be as energy efficient as possible, reducing wastes on every aspect of their hosting platform. In short, not only does GreenGeeks appear to be the most eco-friendly platform, choosing them as my host would make my blog ‘’carbon-reducing’’. In other words, it’s not just about compensating a negative, but actively turning it in a positive impact on the environment.

I was still skeptical. How do they actually do this? How it works, from my understanding, is that they give enough money to the Bonneville Environmental Foundation for them to manage different programs, which will aim in producing green energy and/or compensating the corresponding amount of C02 (details on the certification here), through water management and planting trees for example (descriptions of the programs here). It is stated that: ‘’ Prior to sale by BEF, each Carbon Offset generated is third-party verified to prove that real, permanent, verifiable, additional and enforceable emissions reductions have occurred,’’ and you can find more information on how the certifications are controlled here.

On the down side, this is very clearly based in the corporate world. It’s a business (although a non-profit, Bonneville Environment Foundation) paid by other businesses (including GreenGeeks) to help promote the use of renewable energies, mainly through other businesses. I have to admit I have a negative bias towards companies in general, even non-profit ones, and although I couldn’t find their budget online, we can assume there is a certain ‘’loss’’ of money in the process. This being said, it is very relevant to have organizations specialized in environmental initiatives and sustainable initiatives, and there is a clear need for this, especially for big industries such as the internet. However, self-sustainability still remains the better solution, to me. In conclusion, although I would favour smaller scale community investments and a more direct chain, GreenGeeks clearly stands out as the best option as a host for your website (in terms of being eco-conscious), and as an environmental leader within the internet industry.

A few other factors made the balance tip in GreenGeek’s favor. Not only are their environmental commitments superior to most hosting companies, their long term commitment (10+ years) illustrates durability and consistence in their values, making them more trust-worthy to me than companies making recent changes that (although positive) might appear as more of a marketing scheme. You can also choose the location of your data center (4 locations between the USA, Canada and the Netherlands), allowing you to practice the ”local is better” philosophy rather than having your data travel the world (considering that, unfortunately, the web is vastly dominated by westerners). The prices are the same as ”normal” host providers and the interface is easy, accessible and will meet the needs of the average blogger/writer/freelancer/person who wants to create a website. Click on the banners to check it out for yourself!

DISCLAIMER: Yes, these are affiliate links so I will get paid a small amount if you choose to purchase a service from GreenGeeks through this link, at no extra cost to you (as you may have noticed, there are no ads on my blog so you would be helping me make a little bit of money, to pay for the cost of keeping this website up!). I wrote this article before becoming aware of this program, and it did not change my take on this. I wanted to promote GreenGeeks as they are the most sustainable option, to the best of my knowledge. In short, good for the environment, good for me, good for you; why not?

Reference:

  1. Glanz, J. (2012). Power, pollution and the internet. The New York Times22. (Data sampled by McKinsey & Company)

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