What is eco-friendly web hosting?

What is eco-friendly web hosting?

Green is the new black – and that’s a good thing for our planet!

Our impact on the environment influences many of our decisions as consumers.

As a result, businesses are looking to increase or drive sustainability measures in their strategy and operations.

Although we tend to focus on what we can see such as driving emissions, we often overlook the impact we can’t see. The internet is said to be responsible for more than 2% of global carbon emissions and is expected to increase by 3% in the next few years.

At LYF Solutions, sustainability has always been a core value. We are a proud carbon neutral operation and are beyond chuffed with what we’ve achieved. As of 2022, we are the first web host in Australia to provide our eco-friendly web hosting clients with an annual carbon report card.

But what exactly is green web hosting and what do you need to be aware of when choosing an eco-friendly web hosting service?

Read on 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.

What is eco-friendly web hosting?

Every online article you ever read, every image you ever clicked on, every email you sent and every website you ever visited, is hosted in a data centre on a server. A web hosting service manages its secure storage and access.

“What’s a few clicks between friends?”, you might ask. Well, 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.

If you can remember just how warm an open plan office can get with a few computers going, imagine the energy that big data centres need to use to keep thousands of computers cool and running seamlessly 24/7.

That’s where green web hosting can make a real difference.

Green or eco-friendly web hosting seeks to eliminate or mitigate the environmental impact of your online presence. It is 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 a great green web host?

When comparing and choosing a web hosting provider, factors such as reputation, support, price, features and security will all influence your decision.

Consider these features before you choose an eco-friendly web host and plan:

  • Storage / disk space / email storage: Don’t buy more than you need at the time. That’s why we incentivise clients to live within their means by charging $2 per extra GB over their plan and 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. If your business operates in Australia, make sure your server does too!
  • Security and backup. Note that 43% of cyber attacks targeted small businesses in 2021. By preventing known spam or virus culprits, you prevent unnecessary page loads and thus reduce your footprint.
  • 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.
  • Features / pre-installed apps: the more apps or tools you add to your site, the likelihood this will slow down your website and increase your energy used.
  • Ongoing support. Easy access, channels available and response time is crucial to ensure your site has the support it needs. 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 is meant.

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 should not be a future consideration but should be open to participation right now.
  • 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.
  • What certifications has the provider received?
  • Is the hosting facility up to standard in energy efficiency, and 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
Carbon Report Card for a Client, 2021

Carbon Report Card for a client, 2021. This client was responsible for an estimated 1,752 Kg of CO2 based on their page views for the year, which represents why it was important for us to calculate each client’s usage and not set the average calculation across the number of clients we had to meet our greener web promise.

How do we measure your digital carbon footprint?

A lot of thought has gone into how to develop our eco-friendly green web host clients carbon report card. 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’.

All data was gathered over 12 months and calculated to provide an average guide based on the range of carbon footprint your website has produced during that time frame.

We measured your average digital footprint using the stats of page views at the server level and 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 that 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 and trivial topic given there are many factors and suppliers 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 fasten up sites and reduce bad visitors from coming. Their servers too 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).
  • 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.
  • E-waste impacts from a user and supplier lense.
  • Impact of measuring the recipient device and energy usage e.g. a person’s energy impact may be less if their home uses GreenPower or solar power in their actual office or home, or 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.
  • 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 2025 but like other providers, continue to face challenges. We have not given up on this approach though and with the network growing, will 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, uses highly energy-efficient servers and technology including cooling systems for the data centre 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 1,000 trees with the vision to plant over 10,000 in the next few years. In 2021, the average footprint measured by our network from the best-estimated calculations we could map was an estimated 213kg of C02 per user.

We will offset 17 tonnes of carbon with the program our clients vote on for that year alone based on the total estimated footprint using their actual page views data.

Are you ready?

This year, LYF Solution clients can choose from three programs to offset our combined carbon footprint.

If you are ready to support a greener web, you too can help with:

  1. Managed Green Web Hosting – make the switch to support a greener web.
  2. Green Web Design – we’ll apply sustainability practices to deliver a faster loading site with a lesser carbon footprint. Great for those wanting to speed up their site or do a redesign.
  3. Talk to us about our ethical digital marketing services: whether you need copywriting done, search engine optimisation, content creation or paid ads help – by working with us you’ll be supporting our 1% for the Planet commitment and helping us grow together, to reach more people.

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