Is Green Web Hosting a Lie?

The pollution caused by web hosting is projected to surpass the pollution caused by the airline industry within the next 8 years according to a New York Times article published in 2008.

“The world’s data centers are projected to surpass the airline industry as a greenhouse gas polluter by 2020.”

I’m sure I don’t need to get in to why that’s a bad thing, so on to talking about green web hosting.

A lot of people who have (or want to have) a website and who care about our planet are finding out about the pollution caused by web hosting data centers and starting to look for eco-friendly or “green” web hosting. The hosting companies know this and a lot of them have started to advertise that they’ve purchased Renewable Energy Certificates or wind energy credits to “offset” their energy use. This allows them to claim to be green & 100, 200, or even 300% “wind powered.”

But most “green” web hosts are actually running on the same electricity that we use.

Is Green Web Hosting A Lie?

These credits & certificates don’t actually do anything as far as I can tell. They are purchased so that power from wind & other renewable energy sources CAN be put into the grid. Nowhere does it say that power actually IS being generated and put into the grid. I don’t hear about any power plants being replaced with renewable energy power plants.

It seems like these Renewable Energy Certificates & wind energy credits allow the company to call themselves “eco-friendly” but don’t actually offset anything.

So if Renewable Energy Certificates & wind energy credits are just a marketing ploy, what is someone who cares about the planet to do?

Try to find a truly environmentally friendly host, right?

I started looking for a web host that runs on solar or other renewable power sources and found that there are not very many. Most “green” web hosts are just purchasing the credits & certificates to “offset” their energy usage.

There are one or two web hosts that say they run on wind power or a mix of wind and solar and several more that claim to run only on solar power. Most of the ones that say they’re run on solar appear to be using the data center of AISO.

I sure hope AISO is as environmentally conscious as they say they are, because I very much doubt that most of the other companies I’ve come across are telling the truth.

One company I came across a few months ago claimed to be running on solar power. Now they’ve changed their name, url, and website design, and claim to be using geothermal & hydro-electricity to power their data center that is now supposedly located in Iceland. It could be true, but you’d have to go to Iceland to verify that.

While a ton of companies will quickly claim to be green or eco-friendly or 300% wind powered, it appears that very few actually are.

I understand that running 100% on solar, wind, and other sustainable energy is not immediately possible for every company. And any company doing something to slow & hopefully reverse the damage we have caused to the planet certainly deserves our support over the ones that don’t give a shit. But how do we tell which companies are actually doing something and which ones just say they are?

Do you have any recommendations for environmentally friendly web hosts?

Let me know in a comment!

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What do you think about this?