By Meredith Barnhill
Web hosting can require a lot of resources, particularly in energy costs. Not only does this increase emissions by energy companies, but it also takes a considerable amount of energy off the public grid. The Internet industries' environmental footprint is growing at an estimated 10 percent every year due to rising demands. To reduce the impact on the environment, Web hosting companies are finding ways to "go green."
Ways Hosting Can Be Green
Web hosting can be green in several different ways. Some hosting companies plant trees for every account hosted. This solution isn't immediate but offers a long-term effort to reducing a negative impact on the environment. Companies also pledge to donate percentages of their profits to environmentally-conscious groups like the Environmental Defense Fund.
To offset the energy necessary to run Web hosting, some companies may choose to draw their energy from renewable sources such as wind or solar power. Hosting companies can do this by directly getting energy from alternate sources, like installing solar panels. Most organizations choose to buy renewable energy certificates to make up for the resources used for their operations.
Renewable energy certificates, or RECs, are basically vouchers that prove that the company has purchased a certain amount of energy from sustainable sources. Energy companies are credited with RECs for the amount of energy they produce through alternate means and this energy is fed into the public grid. Energy companies can sell these credits to companies interested in reducing their environmental impact.
Hosting companies can also be green in other, smaller ways like recycling materials, going paperless or purchasing hardware that uses less energy. Some go as far as to reduce energy usage by heating their office spaces with the hardware's heat output.
Why Go Green?
Unless a user does a considerable amount of research, one won't entirely know if a Web hosting company is as green as it claims. Most hosting sites have banners or badges signaling that they are eco-friendly, often with a percentage attached. This percentage is the amount of energy used that is covered by RECs. Some companies purchase two- or three-times the amount of RECs necessary to cover their energy expenses, allowing them to put more energy back into the grid than they expend.
Not only does hosting your Web site on eco-friendly servers help reduce emissions, you can also display virtual badges signifying that your site is a green friendly site. This might make clients or consumers more likely to choose your services. By using eco-friendly Web sites, they indirectly help protect the environment from harmful emissions.
About the Author
Meredith Barnhill is a multimedia journalist working as the assistant director of Web development and communications at Southwestern University.