Here’s something you may not know: the IT sector has a huge climate impact. At present, between 3 and 4 percent of all electricity (and the associated carbon emissions) used in the world goes to running data centers. If you’re one of the four and a half million registered users of Second Life, consider this: the average Second Life avatar consumes 1,752 kWh of electricity per year, or about two thirds that of an actual person (globally averaged). One server alone has roughly the same climate impact as a 15mpg SUV!
Climate change is real, it’s happening now, and we as a planet desperately need to reduce our IT emissions. And if we wait for the government to solve the problem, we’ll be waiting for a long, long, LONG time.
HostGator has gone green, and it’s gone green in a BIG way.
We at Integrated Ecosystem Market Services are very proud to have worked with HostGator to develop a sector-leading program.
What makes HostGator’s program so special?
If you’re thinking about switching to green hosting, good for you! Green hosting is an important step in dealing with climate change. But be aware- once you start asking some questions you’ll find that not all of the .green. hosting options out there are nearly as green as they claim to be. HostGator’s program stands out from the pack for a number of reasons . . .
One, HostGator is using renewable energy to both power and cool their servers, whereas a number of green hosts only offset the electricity used to power their servers. That represents a big difference, because servers generate a lot of heat. For every watt of electricity that a server uses, 1-2 watts of electricity are typically required to cool it. What that means is that HostGator is investing in about twice as much renewable energy, on a per server basis, as those green hosts only using renewable energy to power their servers.
Two, HostGator has invested in Green -e certified Renewable Energy Credits (RECs). That means that all of HostGator’s RECs are verified, tracked and monitored. Sure, there are cheaper carbon credits out there, but HostGator wanted to go green the right way. HostGator can’t very well build a windfarm in downtown Houston, so it’s doing the next best thing and greening its energy at the source with rock solid RECs.
Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) are tradeable credits representing all the environmental benefits of 1 megawatt hour of renewable energy. So when HostGator purchases 4,009 Texas wind RECs, it’s basically paying a Texas windfarm to generate renewable energy on HostGator’s behalf. HostGator doesn’t own the windfarm, but for every REC purchased by HostGator, that windfarm generates 1 megawatt of Texas wind power and puts it into the grid. When HostGator draws power from the grid, it can then claim credit for that wind power generated on its behalf.
Three, HostGator has purchased RECs for 130% of the electricity used to power and cool its shared and reseller servers. Good luck finding another green host that has gone this far. Believe me- if they had, they’d let you know it.
Four, HostGator has invested entirely in wind RECs generated in their home state of Texas. Even those green hosts that have opted for certified RECs are generally sourcing them from wherever is cheapest.
HostGator, on the other hand, is thinking globally and acting locally. By insisting on 100% Texas wind RECs HostGator had to pay more for their credits, but they (and you) can rest easy knowing that they’re doing their part for the environment and the local green economy.
So how did we develop and implement the greening program?
First, we calculated the total amount of electricity used by HostGator’s shared and reseller servers. Based on the total number of servers and the average amount of electricity used in a year to power and cool them, we estimated that HostGator would need 4,009 MWh of electricity to offset 130% of the electricity used to power and cool all of HostGator’s shared and reseller servers
Second, we looked at HostGator’s carbon offsetting options. We considered RECs, Certified Emission Reductions and Verified Emission reductions, as well as a number of offset providers. Ultimately, HostGator chose to go with RECs, and to purchase them from one of the best REC providers around: 3Degrees.
RECs and CERs and VERs, Oh My!
RECs aren’t the only offsetting option out there, there are also Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) and Voluntary/Verified Emission Reductions (VERs). The main difference between the three is this: each REC represents 1 additional megawatt of North American wind power, whereas each CER or VER represents one metric ton of reduced or avoided carbon dioxide emissions. CERs and VERs can be generated from a whole range of projects (fuel switching, forestry, changes in industrial processes, etc.), but RECs can only be created by the production of renewable energy.
So why do RECs make the most sense for HostGator? RECs enable HostGator to green its energy right at the source and support the development of clean power, rather than simply paying another company to not pollute.
Finally, I should emphasize that the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits only represents HostGator’s most recent step toward sustainability. Prior to the REC purchase, HostGator had already begun the process of reducing their environmental impact at the office (recycling, minimizing paper use, etc.), and recently switched to higher efficiency servers.
What can you do to minimize your impact on the climate?
Well, for one thing you can switch your hosting company to HostGator, if you’re not already a customer of theirs! You can choose from one of their great shared or reseller plans.
Beyond that, there are myriad ways to go green in your personal life. Most of them are totally painless, for example turning off your computer at night, rather than leaving it in sleep mode. Many of them will save you money in the long run, for example using compact fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescents.
For a quick start, check out CarbonTracker.com’s list of 11 simple steps you can take to minimize your impact on the climate. For even more information, the Environmental Protection Agency has a ton of info on the subject:
Help us spread the word!
Show the world you are GREEN too! You can place any of the images on any of the sites hosted with HostGator.
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<a href="http://www.hostgator.com/green-web-hosting.shtml"><img src="http://blog.hostgator.com/images/83x72reseller.gif"></a>
1. Choose from one of the images above.
2. Highlight the code under the under number of the image you would like to use.
3. Right click the highlighted text.
4. Left click copy.
5. Paste the code inside of the html of your site.
Note about the author:
Matthew Collins is president and CEO of Integrated Ecosystem Market Services (http://www.iemarketservices.com), a carbon consulting firm based in Chicago, IL.