Before I go into the how, let me go quickly again over the why: so far, when we decide on where to host our websites, the decision is usually motivated by our budget or by specific technical specs a hosting package has to meet. How the data centre is powered where our website is located has no impact on how well our site communicates our message. But since climate science broke into mainstream consciousness, we know that we should be acting with the same urgency as we are during the current corona pandemic.
The internet is already emitting as much carbon dioxide as aviation and consuming much more energy than the UK while data centres are multiplying at an astonishing rate. If we stay on the current trajectory, the internet is predicted to emit as much as 14% of greenhouse gasses by 2040, since Governments still don’t seem to be responding to the climate crisis in an adequate way. That’s why it is up to us to divest from fossil fuels where we can as quickly as we can.
[include_blockquote style=1] The internet is already emitting as much carbon dioxide as aviation.[/include_blockquote]
And since most hosting providers are offering free website migration, moving to a hosting company that is already fully powered by clean energy sources should be a no-brainer. Why support the fossil fuel industry through current website hosters, if moving your site could just require a quick phonecall? The only thing that is stopping us is that there is not that much information out there on how to find, or how to choose a green provider.
Buying RECs means still burning fossil fuels
Indeed, if you start looking into sustainable data centres, things get a bit complicated. Even the information that is easy enough to find is quite confusing. When I started my research on Ecosia, I found a handful of “green hosting” reviews. However, half of the rated companies did not provide any information about sustainable hosting on their websites at all. One promising looking web host who caught my eye early on, mentioned that their energy provider is E.ON, a main contractor of the Nord Stream Pipeline who discloses that renewable energy makes up only 32.8% of their electricity sources. The rest of the companie’s UK average energy mix in 2018/1029 came from Coal (5.2%), Gas (41.4%), Nuclear (18.7), and 1.9% from other sources.
The remaining reviewed and rated “green” website hosters mention on their websites that they purchase REGs, (Renewable Energy Certificates, or REGOs as they are called here in the UK). The Energy Saving Trust, a UK organisation that is devoted to promoting the sustainable use of energy, describes this as “greenwashing” on their website.
Google sends mixed messages
Even the most informative and well written review of green hosting companies by a ‘sustainable’ London based web design agency lists a number of providers who have their data centres with Google. And while Goggle declared already in 2017 to be 100% renewable, Greenpeace’s click clean report from the same year, who rated the search engine provider as one of the greenest internet companies, reveals that their energy mix consisted only 56% of sustainable energy. 14% came form natural gas, 15% did indeed still come from coal and another 10% came form nuclear power plants.
Also news, that the internet giant financially supported climate denying interest groups and quietly set up a fossil fuel division which aims to support the fossil fuel industry with AI, makes Google, just like Microsoft and Amazon, a difficult choice.
Are providers disclosing their energy sources?
Eventually I did find a few hosting companies who provide more information on their websites abut what energy sources their servers are using. London based Eco Hosting and Krystal say that their data centres are fully powered by Ecotricity, who’s energy mix consists of Offshore Wind 84.9%, Onshore Wind 14,94, Solar 0.12%, Hydro 0.03%. Ecotricity is also rated elsewhere as one of only few genuine fully renewable electricity providers.
German based Raidboxes describes in length their green credentials and provides a TÜV certificate which states that they are, like Swiss based Data Center Light, running fully on hydro power generated on the Rhine.
Also running on hydropower is Web Hosting Canada, the only North American hosting company I found, who specifies their energy source and rejects offsetting on their “green web hosting” page. While Green Hosting says they only purchase wind energy, Positive Park additionally claims to be carbon negative already.
A quick comparison of entry plans
* smaller plans available
Real green hosting has everything we need
With this list of companies, who provide some good information about where their electricity is coming from and what else they are doing for the climate, now we can have a closer look at their hosting packages. And while Eco Hosting offers packages that range from a very affordable £1.50 per month to optimised WordPress hosting and Web Hosting Canada, Raidboxes and Krystal offering managed WordPress hosting, high-performance and dedicated servers , their free migration services should provide enough incentive to get us to divest from our current fossil fuel powered providers and every reason to support such companies, who are already making a real difference.