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Steve Graham

Steve Graham photo courtesy of Steve GrahamSteve Graham is an award-winning freelance Web and magazine writer living in a Fort Collins, Colorado, neighborhood that will soon produce all of its own energy. He is a former newspaper reporter, editor and designer. He has worked for an alternative weekly and community newspapers in Colorado, and a large daily newspaper in California. Find links to some of his other writing at his Grahamophone blog.

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Green Web Hosting Reviews: Help Shrink Your Website’s Carbon Footprint
Thursday, 01 March 2012 00:00  |  Written by Steve Graham | Blog Entry

Server photo by Jamison Judd Web hosting is not an inherently environmental practice. Even eco-conscious websites like EcoHearth require big, hot, electric computer servers. Unlike an iPod, you can’t recharge a server with a miniature solar panel. In 2005, computer servers around the world consumed the equivalent of 14 standard power plants—that’s enough energy for about 14 million homes. The figure has surely increased substantially since 2005. But you don’t have to use trainloads of coal to run your website. Several companies offer Web hosting services powered by renewable energy.

Affordable Internet Services Online has been 100% solar powered since 2001. “I am not sure the total amount in dollars it saves us monthly,” said AISO founder Phil Nail. “We look at it as an investment in the environment and our customers love us for that.”

He said his users are looking for true sustainability, so the solar panels are paying off in new contracts. “I would say at least 70% of our clients are eco friendly,” Nail observed. “I can certainly tell you they all hate the greenwashing some other hosting companies are doing.”

AISO also has a rainwater collection system for air conditioning and cooling its data center, and it is planting a green roof.

A testimonial on the AISO site argues businesses that use renewable energy to power their websites will show doubters that solar, wind and other alternative energies have a bright future.

“What made me chose AISO is solar power,” wrote a client identified as Franz. “I was working on solar-cell research for several years, and I am convinced that this technology has a future. The best way of convincing other people of its potential is to use it and to show its reliability.”

Canvas Host
Canvas Host (formerly called Canvas Dreams) has facilities in Oregon and Scotland. In Portland, the company plugs into power directly from local wind farms. David Anderson of Canvas Dreams said using onsite windmills would decrease efficiency: “From a sustainability perspective, if the infrastructure is already there, why reinvent the wheel and waste new resources? Beyond this, the sheer amount of electricity we use would make it impossible to build enough turbines or panels on our facility, which is in the heart of downtown Portland.”

Canvas Dreams also works to maximize energy performance. It uses efficient, lead-free, low-heat servers; has an aggressive recycling policy; and allows telecommuting and flexible working hours (which cuts the amount of gas wasted idling in rush-hour traffic). It also offers discounts for environmentally minded non-profits.

“Since advertising our commitments to sustainability, the vast majority of new customers we have added in the past two years have been part of the eco movement and/or place importance on sustainability. Overall, I'd say about half of our customers are in some way tied into the eco movement, but that number is increasing every day,” Anderson noted.

Sustainable Websites
Other hosting companies buy renewable-energy offsets instead of (or in addition to) directly putting up solar panels or wind turbines. Sustainable Websites, for example, matches its electric usage with wind-power certificates.

Green ISP
In the UK, a great green mobile-broadband option is Green ISP. They claim that their employees take puplic transportation to their solar-powered offices and that they have “planted thousands of trees in partnership with Treesponsibility” to offset a large share of their CO2 emissions “by ‘sequestration’ or 'carbon fix.’”

A website is not green just because it is paper-free and doesn’t drive across the country to deliver information. It uses power and plenty of it. But, as a website owner, you can lower your site’s carbon footprint by using a Web hosting company that relies on renewable energy.

[Full disclosure: EcoHearth uses Canvas Host to host our site and we are a member of their affiliate program. - Ed.]

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Comments (1)add
Written by Brian G , September 29, 2009
Fabulous suggestions for putting my old Mac back into service. Thanks!
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Eco Tip

Unplug appliances when not in use. Your electronics—computers, TVs, phone chargers—use energy even when they're turned off. Stand-by power can account for as much as 20% of home energy use. Save both energy and money by unplugging your devices, or put them on a power strip that you can turn off when they are not in use.  More tips...

Eco Quote

It is in man's heart that the life of nature's spectacle exists; to see it, one must feel it. - Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), Emile, 1762  More quotes...