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Green Hosting


Before we talk about green hosting, it is necessary to understand the detrimental effect on the environment caused due to industrial activity at large, and due to the web hosting industry in particular. Then only we will be able to appreciate the need for green hosting.

Climate change is a major concern for countries across the world. Due to a high concentration of release of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere, the ozone layer is depleting very fast. This is causing global warming (the world is experiencing a temperature rise of more than 2°C every year) and creating havoc, resulting in unpredictable weather changes, and unexpected storms & drought conditions.

What are greenhouse gases (GHGs)?

GHGs are gases that are emitted from various industrial and agricultural activities. They rise above the earth and stay in the atmosphere. There are 4 main types of gases that are the cause of GHG emissions.

1. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) : CO2 is released when fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and oil, are burnt. This gas is also released by some industries where the manufacturing process entails certain chemical reactions. CO2 accounts for 76% of global GHG emissions and 79% of U.S. GHG emissions, and is the primary contributor toward altering of the carbon cycle.

2. Methane (CH4) : Methane is emitted during the production of coal, natural gas, and oil. This gas is also released by the decay of municipal waste and from livestock and other agricultural practices. Methane accounts for 16% of global GHG emissions.

3. Nitrous Oxide (N2O) : Nitrous oxide is emitted during various industrial and agricultural activities such as combustion of fossil fuels and solid waste, waste water treatment, certain chemical reactions. N2

4. Fluorinated Gases : These are a family of synthetic greenhouse gases that are emitted from a variety of household, commercial, and industrial equipment. These gases account for 2% of global GHG emissions. Although, this is a small percentage, these gases are very potent ozone-depleting chemicals as they trap more heat.

All of these greenhouse gases essentially trap heat and causes ozone layer depletion.

Which countries are impacting the environment the most?

The top 6 countries responsible for more than 50% of GHG emissions are - China, USA, India, Russian Federation, Japan & Brazil. The table below summarizes their contribution toward damaging the environment.

%-tage of global27.8%12.7%7.3%4.7%2.6%2.5%
In million tons per year13,7406,2983,6202,3141,2701,260

These 6 countries together generate 28,500 million tons of GHG, whereas, the UNEP states that in order to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, there is need to cut the global emission by 30,000 million tons.

The sector that is most responsible for GHG emissions is the Electricity and Heat Production sector. This sector alone accounts for 25% of global emissions.

Where are data centers and hosting companies in this picture?

So, what is the impact on the environment by data centers - why do we need green hosting?

It is estimated that data centers worldwide consume 3% of global electricity (around 416 terawatt-hours every year) and emit 2% of total greenhouse gases. It may be noted that this figure is only for data centers - it does not include hosting company offices and computer manufacturers who all form a part of the web hosting industry at large.

If is quite clear that the web hosting industry is a major contributor toward GHG emissions, and due to its exponential growth the contribution is expected to rise to 5-7%. Some environmental experts predict that this figure could become as high as 14% in the next 2 decades. Hence there is a strong need for this industry to turn to clean (green) energy sources and adopt several environment friendly practices in their operations.

The number of data centers worldwide has grown from half a million in 2010 to 8 million+ today, when only 50% of the world population is connected to the web. So, you can easily visualize what will happen when the entire world gets connected. This growth is exponential and every other year data centers are doubling their capacity. Apart from new users coming on-board, newer technologies such as 5G, AI, IoT, excessive use of videos, etc. are compute-intensive and require data centers to increase their capacity.

Also note that electricity is not the only component that data centers consume. They also consume lot of water to cool down their servers, contributing toward depletion of water reserves. Further, this is no ordinary water, it is treated water (i.e., de-mineralized, so that it can flow in cooling tubes without leaving sediments) and requires water treatment plant which are power hungry. Also, the waste water that comes out have to be re-treated before releasing to the nature or recycled.

Data centers also use batteries for power backup. It is well known how badly the battery manufacturing industry is impacting the environment. Additionally, data centers also install backup generators that burn diesel fuel. All these facilities are required to ensure uninterrupted power supply to data centers.

There are three categories of entities who have the responsibility to protect the environment and can play a role in doing so:

  1. The Data Centers
  2. Hosting Companies
  3. Hosting Consumers

What can data centers do to support green hosting?

The hosting industry has a responsibility toward protecting the environment. Data centers form a large part of this industry and hence efforts are required from data centers to implement technologies and methods to reduce their GHG emission and thus their carbon footprint.

It would be an ideal situation if all data centers were built only in cold countries (say in Finland, Sweden, or Siberia) or submerged under the sea. However, this is not practical - it may not be economically feasible. Also, data protection laws of some countries prevent citizen data to be stored in servers outside country borders.

There are multiple ways in which data centers can go green. Broadly these can be classified under three categories:

1. By moving to green sources of energy. While it may not be feasible to go for a complete switch to green or renewable energy sources (as they may not be adequately available in close proximity of a data center), a gradual approach can be adopted. Here are a few ways in which this can be done:

  1. Begin sourcing a percentage of power consumption from green sources such as - hydro-electric power, wind power, wave energy, geothermal energy & bio fuels.
  2. Install solar panels on data center buildings and in the campus.
  3. Purchase renewable energy certificates (RECs) to cover the gap and remain compliant. This will help encourage those who generate renewable energy.

2. Through use of technology to make their equipment more efficient.

  1. Use servers housed with efficient CPUs, solid-state drives, efficient heat sinks & cooling fans, etc. that enable the server to provide same computing power at lower power consumption.
  2. Use modern cooling techniques that entail a blend of ambient air and coolant flow system. Upgrade to efficient air-flow and air-conditioning equipment & systems.
  3. Use AI techniques to monitor the ambient conditions (temperature & humidity) inside the data center and give feedback to the air-conditioning system so that they can operate efficiently.
  4. Use energy efficient lights (such as LED lights) in and around the data center. Additionally, install sensor based switches to automatically switch off the lights when no one is around and switch on only those areas where people are working.

3. Through other qualitative measures to save the environment, such as -

  1. Plant more trees. Trees help reduce CO2 level in the atmosphere. Some companies have made it a mandate for themselves to plant one tree for every server sold.
  2. Ensure proper disposal of electronic waste and re-cycle them effectively.
  3. Tie-up with local heating service provider who can utilize the waste heat generated from the data center to heat apartments and offices nearby.
  4. Implement a zero-paper policy.

Tech. giants such as Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook have expressed their commitment toward going 100% green. Google has taken lot of initiatives and have adopted efficient methods - their data centers claim to be using 50% less energy than the industry average.

Newer data centers should consider an energy-efficient design at the inception stage itself, by adopting modern building technology, leveraging new technologies for equipment, and sourcing all their supplies only from green companies.

What can hosting companies do to support Green Hosting?

Hosting companies do not consume much power as they are essentially offices. Their servers are all rented or co-located in data centers. However, they do have the responsibility toward the environment.

Apart from implementing the standard methods in their offices to protect the environment - something that all offices would/should do, they can also contribute by giving preference to data centers that are more green.

What can you do as a user of hosting products?

As a consumer, you can do your bit by preferring hosting companies or data centers that carry a green certificate. However, beware of unscrupulous entities who may falsely claim to be green.

What is Green Hosting?

Having read this far, you would have already got the answer to this question. At the cost of repetition - Green Hosting in the true sense, is a hosting service provided by a hosting company that is 100% green and also their data center is 100% green.

A truly green web hosting has zero carbon emission.

Due to the high costs entailed in staying green, green hosting plans are priced on the higher side as compared to equivalent non-green hosting plans. With more acceptance and adoption, over a period of time, green hosting may become affordable and perhaps cheaper than the non-green option.

Where to buy green hosting from?

There are very few hosting companies out there who are truly green. Most of these few are buying RECs to portray a green image. I could come across only one company that appears to be more green than the others.

This company is According to their website they have their own data center and are doing much more to stay green by using solar power to power their hosting servers. They are covering the gap via carbon offsetting (VERs).

The second company that I have come across is They claim to be maintaining a green image primarily by purchasing 3 credits for every 1 unit of power they consume.

I would not like to recommend any specific hosting company and leave it to your own research and judgement. My objective in this article was to equip you with the required knowledge to enable you make a prudent decision.


The figures quoted in this article have been arrived at after studying the information provided by concerned apex bodies. Therefore, I give credit for this article to - UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), EPA (US Environment Protection Agency), Environmental Research Letters.The quoted environmental figures are mostly based on surveys conducted in 2018.

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About the Author
Rajeev Kumar
CEO, Computer Solutions
Jamshedpur, India

Rajeev Kumar is the primary author of How2Lab. He is a B.Tech. from IIT Kanpur with several years of experience in IT education and Software development. He has taught a wide spectrum of people including fresh young talents, students of premier engineering colleges & management institutes, and IT professionals.

Rajeev has founded Computer Solutions & Web Services Worldwide. He has hands-on experience of building variety of websites and business applications, that include - SaaS based erp & e-commerce systems, and cloud deployed operations management software for health-care, manufacturing and other industries.

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