Green is the new black – and that’s a good thing for our planet!
Our impact on the environment can be a big influence when it comes to making decisions as consumers. Did you know that you can make greener decisions as a business owner too?
It’s becoming a lot more common for businesses to increase or drive sustainability in their strategy and operations. There are a lot of ways to do this and the first things you’ll likely think of will be related to the products themselves.
Something a lot of people forget is the impact we can’t see. Recycling, using sustainable materials and reducing waste are all important. But have you ever thought about the impact of your website?
The use of the internet keeps on growing! Everything from tweeting or threading, watching a few tiktoks and of course Googling all adds up. As of 2023, the internet is responsible for around 3.7% of global CO2 emissions. This impact is expected to double by 2025.
At True Green®, sustainability has always been a core value. We want to cut down the impact of the internet and we’re doing this with the help of trees. We’re a proud carbon neutral operation and are pretty darn pleased with what we’ve achieved. We don’t want to be all talk and no numbers so we’ve gone ahead and put our statistics where our mouths are. As of 2022, we’re the first web host in Australia to provide our eco-friendly web hosting clients with an annual carbon report card.
“That’s all well and good, but what exactly is green web hosting?” We hear ya. Let’s dive in. We’ll answer that question as well as a few tips and pointers when it comes to choosing an eco-friendly web hosting service for your own business.
If you want to find out more about what you can do to have an impactful and professional online presence AND do good for the planet, read on.
What is eco-friendly web hosting?
Take a moment to imagine this: how many online articles you’ve ever read, every image you ever clicked on, every email you sent and every website you ever visited. That’s a lot, right? Well, every single one of those things are hosted in a data centre on a server. A web hosting service manages its secure storage and access.
“Yeah but how many searches and clicks can really be going on?” You’d be blown away actually! Have a look at what happens on the internet in just a single minute.
All this data needs storage and processing, which uses up an enormous amount of electricity.
Have you ever put your hand on your computer and felt how warm it gets? Computers need to be kept cool to function properly (you’ve probably heard the fan on your laptop at some point doing exactly this). Imagine that scaled up in something like a major datacentre. Not only are they taking a lot of energy to run in the first place, they also take a lot of energy to cool down too.
How do we balance out all the heat? That’s where green web hosting steps in.
Green or eco-friendly web hosting seeks to eliminate (or at least mitigate) the environmental impact of your online presence. It’s the conscious effort of a web hosting service to:
- Offset your online carbon emissions through dedicated sustainability projects.
- Use renewable, clean energy sources such as solar, wind or hydro as a web hosting power source as much as possible.
- Reduce your carbon footprint through smart web design and marketing solutions.
How to spot great eco friendly web hosting:
You’ll want to consider a few things when you’re choosing who to host your website. Things like reputation, support, price, features and security will all influence your decision.
Here are our top things to look for when you’re choosing an eco-friendly web host and plan:
- Storage / disk space / email storage: Don’t buy more than you need at the time. We incentivise clients to live within their means by letting them know when they go over their limits. You can scale up as and when you need this way. We also don’t believe in shonky unlimited data sale pitches.
- Server location: the further you are away from the server, the more bandwidth or energy it requires to display the information to your site visitors. This is kind of like when you’re sending a letter. If you post something down the road, it doesn’t take as much time (or energy) to get there. Servers are the same: if your business operates in Australia, make sure your server does too!
- Security and backup. Cyberattacks aren’t limited to the big businesses only. No matter the size of your operation, security should be a top priority. By preventing things like spam or virus culprits, you prevent unnecessary page loads. This also reduces your footprint – wins all round.
- Content Delivery Network (CDN): A CDN can help to load your site faster by connecting to a closer server to the website visitor. We prefer the likes of Sucuri and Cloudflare. This is handy when customers may be overseas or you get people from across the seas coming to your site.
- Website speed. Today’s norm is for a website to load within 5 seconds or less. As your website speed decreases, your energy load will get higher. You also want a quick loading website for customers too – slow sites mean people get bored and click away more often too.
- Features / pre-installed apps: the more apps, plug-ins or tools you add to your site, the more likely it is that your website will slow down. Again, this also increases the amount of energy you’ll use every time someone visits your site.
- Ongoing support. If something does go wrong, or you just need to update something like your plan, you want it sorted ASAP. Our clients get 24/7 global support on the phone and online for technical server matters.
It’s hip to be green! Green web hosts sometimes make all kinds of eco-friendliness claims, but ‘green’ comes in many shades, and it’s not always easy to work out what’s going on. Keep an eye out for claims that aren’t backed by stats of the impact they’re making. Having a third party verification is always a great thing to look for when you’re choosing a planet-friendly web host.
If you are sold on going green, you’ll want to make sure your web hosting service is too. There are a few questions you’ll want to be answered before you choose the one that is a great fit for you.
- Is the service signed up and actively involved in carbon offset program(s) now? It shouldn’t be a future consideration but should be something they’re already doing.
- What are their core values? Sustainability should shine through in everything the provider does, in all its business decisions. If a provider is green and eco friendly it will say so proudly across its website and marketing materials, not just in a campaign or one landing page.
- What partnerships are in place with green hosting, environmental or carbon-neutral networks? The whole is always greater than the sum of its parts!
- Can you find all the information you need on their website? Claims should not be hard to evaluate. And, if you have questions, they should be able to answer you with solid information and not just sales-speak.
- What certifications has the provider received?
- Is the hosting facility up to standard in energy efficiency? Is it getting its power from renewable energy sources? Note that this is not always achievable and feasible yet given most of our national grid is powered by fossil fuels. But we strive for that.
- What support and advice is available to you as the customer to grow your business sustainably and do good for the planet?
Top tips to keep your digital carbon footprint in check
There are many small things we can tweak to keep our online carbon footprint a bit smaller. Even turning down the brightness of your computer, blocking your video autoplay, reusing searches and downloading instead of streaming your music or favourite shows and movies will make a difference!
Some of the more significant sustainability efforts should go into web design and maintenance though. Good practice may include:
- Use videos strategically and sparingly, and use as low a resolution as possible without compromising quality. Always embed the video from sources like YouTube or Vimeo and don’t enable auto-play.
- Be equally picky when choosing images for your website; optimise their size using a tool like Tiny PNG and reduce their resolution. This helps with loading speed too!
- Use less code and remember that white space can be a good thing.
- Even a website can use a spring clean now and then. Go through old posts and unused media, unwanted plugins, spam and broken links.
- Logical and well-organised site navigation will also help with its energy consumption. It means users don’t have to click through lots of content to find the information they need.
- Ask the specialists in a greener web.
How do we measure your digital carbon footprint?
We thought long and hard about the best way to measure and present our report cards for clients. It needed to be meaningful and based on actual data gathered throughout the year. We also wanted it to give you perspective compared to the usual ‘carbon footprint suspects’.
We gather data over the span of 12 months and calculate an average guide based on the range of carbon footprint your website has produced during that timeframe.
If you want more nitty gritty details: we measure your average digital footprint using the stats of page views at the server level. Then, we get a conservative average estimate of your level of carbon per page view. That means some clients may actually produce less of a footprint per page, but by using an average we can even out those who may be higher than the rest.
These stats include various factors and exclude others, such as domains that do not contain an active and public website. Calculations also take into account the best available EPA data from the USA. Rather than using Google Analytics traffic data which is often more accurate for website traffic, we have taken server-level data which means page views would be higher and include bot traffic. We believe a page view is a view, even if Google’s systems don’t think so.
What are you doing to measure and offset your emissions?
Measuring the carbon footprint online is a complex topic given there are so many factors to consider. We continue to work with our greener web partners in the calculation and reduction of emissions plans.
At the moment, our focus is on the network data transfer energy use and server energy use to track how responsible we are at a supplier level.
To put that into perspective here are some of the other factors that we have considered already and are trying to work through:
- Upstream and downstream server providers: local and international.
- Middle-level digital providers or software: Sucuri and Cloudflare provide servers to speed up sites and reduce bad visitors from coming. Their servers also likely have an energy impact and given complexity are difficult to map together. We use cloud software to update plugins remotely, which also would have an impact (although presumably minimal). From our investigations so far, the Sucuri and Cloudflare operations claim to use renewable energy or purchase carbon offsets.
- Confidential supply chain agreements for energy usage, security and data centre allocation local and globally.
- Electricity usage and percentage coming from which parts of the national grid at a given time is unclear. For example: some companies have green energy (like solar) but most of the grid largely uses fossil fuels.
- E-waste impacts from a user and supplier lens.
- Impact of measuring the recipient device and energy usage. Again, some people might have solar at home while if they’re using a provider who uses coal, their internet will be more or less impactful as far as emissions go. It can even come down to the small things like if they have a less energy-efficient device or setting on.
- The impact an individual site has: the load time of a website does not stay the same for each user or day, it can differ each time it is tested, meaning the energy intensity calculations are not fully accurate. When a lot of people visit a site at one time, it’ll slow it down. This means more strain on the server which, yep you guessed it, increases the amount of energy required.
- The average carbon footprint estimation data: the only source on this at the moment drives from UK and USA data calculations and is based only on a home page (although one could argue this is often the largest visual page). These calculations don’t intertwine well given they are completely different countries and would also differ from our local market factors here in Australia.
We have the ambition to have the full supply chain mapped by 2030 but like other providers, it’s not a simple equation to answer. We’re not giving up though! With the network growing, we’ll be further able to fund this important scientific research work.
In order to ensure we make the most impact we work with a trusted upstream provider who is strategically looking to increase its use of renewable energy. They use highly energy-efficient servers and technology including cooling systems for the datacentre in Sydney, Australia.
We also donate 1% of all of our businesses revenue to environmental causes as part of our 1% for the Planet commitment. To date, we have chosen the Its Time Foundation as it means we will fund solar panels for schools in the Pacific Island and remote communities to make a difference.
In addition, our partnership with carbon-neutral has seen us plant over 1,300 trees with the vision to plant over 10,000 in the next few years. In 2022, the average footprint measured by our network from the best-estimated calculations we could map was an estimated 541kg of C02 per user.
Are you ready?
This year, True Green clients chose:
Project 2: Biodiverse Reforestation Carbon Offsets – Australia
This reforestation project contributes to:
- The reforestation of the Yarra Yarra biodiversity corridor
- Restoring a native ecosystem – plantings will provide habitat for thousands of species of unique wildlife
- Supporting habitat restoration and land conservation
- Social and economic well-being – training and employment opportunities for the local community, as well as ongoing engagement with indigenous communities
If you are ready to support a greener web that’s kinder to the planet you too can by checking out our plans here.