October 07th 2022

What You Need to Know About Carbon-Neutral Web Hosting

What You Need to Know About Carbon-Neutral Web Hosting

Carbon-neutral web hosting is the key to helping websites of all sizes fight climate change. Computing and internet usage relies on large amounts of electricity that still largely come from carbon-emitting sources today. To mitigate the harmful environmental impact of this, more and more web-hosting companies are implementing carbon-neutrality strategies.

There are a variety of approaches to carbon-neutral web hosting and similar green web-hosting methods. Here’s an overview of what carbon-neutral web hosting is and how to get started with a carbon-neutral web host.

What Is Carbon-Neutral Web Hosting?

Carbon-neutral web-hosting companies implement practices that reclaim or reduce carbon emissions equal to or greater than those created in their operations. There are a number of ways that a web hosting company can be carbon neutral. In general, though, the carbon they are emitting is balanced out by the carbon they are removing elsewhere, making their operations net-zero in terms of emissions.

For example, a web host might purchase carbon reclamation from a carbon-capture centre that pulls CO2 out of the atmosphere and stores it safely. This reclaimed CO2 can be repurposed once it is collected without hurting the environment.

Similarly, a web-hosting company might cut back their own emissions to balance out the emissions they are creating elsewhere. Maybe they can’t completely eliminate the carbon footprint for their electricity, but they can allow employees to work from home. This reduces the emissions they are producing through transportation to the office.

Carbon-Neutral vs. Green Web Hosting

Carbon-neutral web hosting is part of a larger category of green web hosts. These are web-hosting providers that more generally implement environmentally friendly practices. It could be as major as powering an entire server centre directly off of renewable energy or as minor as simply having a green culture as a brand and a workplace.

In addition to balancing out the carbon footprint of web hosting, green web hosts may implement a few other sustainability measures. These include using energy providers that use partial renewable energy, powering a server centre entirely off of renewable energy, using energy-efficient servers and equipment, or maintaining a sustainable server centre and workplace. For instance, a web-hosting company might have a paperless office and run a plastic recycling drive every year.

Carbon-neutral web hosts are a type of green web host, but not all green web hosts are carbon-neutral. For example, a web-hosting company with renewable energy credits from their electricity provider is certainly more sustainable than a web host that isn’t using renewable energy at all. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean this company is carbon-neutral.

One key difference between carbon-neutral and green web hosting is that carbon-neutral companies are more reliant on clear metrics. They need to collect and track data on their emissions in order to demonstrate that they are legitimately carbon-neutral.

That doesn’t mean that more generally green web-hosting companies don’t need to provide data to back up their sustainability claims, though. A green web hosting company that claims to use green practices in the workplace should have some way to show that this is the case. For example, they could use IoT devices around their office and server centre to track energy consumption and demonstrate efficient electricity usage.

How to Choose a Carbon-Neutral Web Host

Choosing a carbon-neutral web host allows websites of all sizes to strengthen their sustainability efforts and reduce their carbon footprint. It might seem like a small contribution to emissions reduction, but computing and internet usage can actually be quite carbon-intensive. This is evident in the controversy surrounding cryptocurrencies and NFTs, which rely on large amounts of carbon-emitting computing processes.

Different carbon-neutral web-hosting companies will have different approaches to how they balance out their carbon footprint. Companies aiming to be carbon-neutral will generally say so on their website, along with details about how they are going about reducing emissions. Whatever approach they are taking to carbon offsetting, it should be something that could be measured within reason.

For example, a company might say they are carbon-neutral because they are purchasing carbon-capture services equal to the amount of carbon their operations emit each year. This is a legitimate approach because the amount of carbon the company emits is measurable, so the positive impact of their efforts can be proven.

In addition to choosing a web host with a trustworthy carbon-neutrality strategy, it is also important to consider sustainability value. For instance, a carbon-neutral web host that offers an affordable price coupled with a commitment to 200% carbon offsets would be high-value in terms of sustainability impact.

In addition to carbon-neutrality offerings, anyone shopping for a carbon-neutral web host should also compare the features and hosting options available. The best carbon-neutral web hosting companies will offer genuinely good web hosting with the addition of climate initiatives. For instance, if a web host offers 300% carbon offsetting but only offers shared hosting, they may not be the best fit for someone who needs dedicated web hosting.

Climate-Friendly Web Browsing

Websites are how everyone connects with each other and with businesses, brands, and communities today. However, we need to innovate the way we build and host websites in order to support the fight against climate change.

Carbon-neutral web hosting is a great way for any website owner to accomplish this, from big businesses to freelance bloggers. Choosing the right carbon-neutral web hosting company is about balancing the best service and features with the highest positive climate impact. By opting for a carbon-neutral web host, any website owner can help protect our planet’s climate.

Eleanor is the founder and managing editor of Designerly Magazine. She’s also a web design consultant with a focus on customer experience. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dogs, Bear and Lucy

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