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What is sustainable web hosting and why is it important?

Darren H

18 Mar 20246 min read • Corporate Social Responsibility, Save the planet, Trees, Web Hosting

Did you know that in 2022 the internet’s carbon footprint amounted to an incredible 1.6 billion annual tons of greenhouse gasses, almost twice the the amount contributed by global aviation before the pandemic?

While the nebulous nature of the internet makes it seem like it shouldn't affect the environment that much, there's actually a lot of energy consumption going on behind the scenes. Every website requires a hosting server, and each server requires significant energy to power and keep cool. It also takes increasing amounts of energy to move data around the world, particularly bandwidth-intensive video and streaming services.

Using sustainable web hosting is a significant positive step you can make to reduce your digital emissions, minimise the carbon impact of your website(s) and consequently, the internet as a whole.

But what does sustainable web hosting mean, and how can you be sure your web host is genuinely green?

What is sustainable web hosting?

Sustainable web hosting, also known as green web hosting, is web hosting that tries to minimise the impact that your websites have on the environment.

There are several different strategies that a web host can pursue to minimise its carbon impact. Here are the main ones…

1. Use renewable energy sources

Every web host relies on data centres to power the servers behind websites. Beyond the energy required to power all of those servers directly, these data centres also consume a ton of energy to power the air conditioning and cooling systems to keep everything from overheating. A sustainable web host will do its best to obtain and generate this energy in an ecologically responsible way.

To achieve this, there are two high-level strategies that hosts will pursue:

  1. Using renewable energy sources directly - this is the best, most sustainable solution because the host is directly reducing the impact of its energy usage.
  2. Buying renewable energy credits (RECs) or carbon offset credits - while the host's data centres might not use clean energy directly, the host does purchase carbon offsets to address its impact. In Europe, these are called guarantees of origin, or GOs.

Sadly, not enough web hosts are switching to the direct use of renewable energy. Many of the biggest ones (with the biggest carbon footprints!) are still not pulling their weight. For example, GoDaddy states in its 2022 Climate Change Position statement “Since 2019, our EMEA data centers and offices use 100% renewable energy through purchasing Guarantees of Origin (GOs).”

However, GOs have met with controversy, being described as a “threat to net zero goals” that could actually undercut efforts to fight climate change.

According to climate experts, “A corporate buyer of these standalone credits may claim to have hit its clean energy goal. But the transaction has little real-world impact: it doesn't necessarily help to displace fossil-based electricity, and it doesn't help much to decarbonize the grid.”

Furthermore, the purchase of these credits "can make it look as if a company's electricity emissions have become zero, when they haven't," says Matthew Brander, senior lecturer of carbon accounting at the University of Edinburgh.

By contrast, all of Krystal’s data centres run on 100% renewable energy. In 2017 we worked together with our main data centre provider Netwise to switch our flagship data facility to renewable energy sourced entirely from the sun, wind and sea. Watch this video to learn more!

2. Improve Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) at data centres

Power Usage Effectiveness helps measure the energy efficiency of data centres.

You can calculate it by comparing the proportion of energy powering the servers themselves to the energy powering other "non-essential" (for creating a website) energy consumers such as cooling and lighting.

An absolutely perfect score would be 1.0, which is impossible with our current technology. However, a quality sustainable web host will be as close to 1.0 as possible (lower is better).

And if a host doesn't publicise its PUE number, that's not a great sign when it comes to their commitment to sustainability.

3. Optimise website performance

Finding a host that optimises your website's performance is great for creating a better user experience and improving your search engine rankings. But optimising your website has another practical benefit, too - improved sustainability.

A lot of website performance optimisation involves reducing the processing work and file size needed to load each page, which has two practical benefits to sustainability:

  • Reduced processing work equals less energy that your hosting server needs to consume for each visit.
  • A smaller file size equals less data that your server needs to transmit for each visit. Because it takes energy to move data around the world, reducing the data that your site requires will reduce its environmental impact.

Performance-optimised web hosting isn't just good for your bottom line - it's good for the environment, too. That's why we never compromise on choosing the best and most reliable technologies for maximum performance and sustainability.

4. Help make the world more green

Finally, quality sustainable web hosts will go beyond just minimising consumption and also take proactive steps to maximise their positive impact on the environment.

For example, a host might have a commitment to plant a certain number of trees or take other positive actions to improve or protect the environment.

By minimising the environmental impact of hosting while also improving the environment, web hosts can play a positive role in reducing the impact that the internet has on the world's environment.

Why it's important to choose sustainable web hosting

There's a clear trend in terms of the internet's energy consumption…and it's not a downward one.

As time goes on, technological improvements actually lead to more usage rather than less. For example, in the past, streaming 4K HDR content wasn't something that was an option. Now, it's something that all the major streaming services support, which requires a lot more energy.

Along with an increase in internet users, these trends mean that the internet's energy consumption (and greenhouse gas emissions) is only projected to grow. And with everyone being stuck at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, these trends have actually sped up.

Because people are unlikely to give up the internet any time soon (there's an understatement!), choosing more sustainable web hosting is one of the best tools to combat this trend.

How Krystal is making web hosting more sustainable

If you want to get started with green web hosting, we've got you covered at Krystal. In fact, protecting the planet is one of our reasons for existing.

All of our hosting plans use 100% renewable energy, powered by Ecotricity. There are no vague carbon offsets to try to greenwash dirty energy sources - we directly use renewable energy for all of our data centres. In fact, in 2017 we personally funded the switch of our flagship data centre to renewable energy, becoming one of the first website hosts to be powered by 100% renewable electricity.

We're also proud that Krystal's data centres achieve a PUE of 1.2, whereas the average PUE rating of a data centre across the industry is 1.58 (remember - lower is better and the theoretical perfect score is 1.0). All Krystal’s data centres have a PUE of 1.2 or less, and our flagship data centre, Netwise East, has a PUE of 1.05, making it one of the most efficient in the world!

Krystal also uses LiteSpeed Web Server on all hosting plans, which lets your site benefit from all of the performance-boosting features that LiteSpeed offers. By optimising your site's performance, your hosting needs to do less work for each visit, which shrinks its energy usage.

For example, Krystal's integrated WordPress caching from LiteSpeed means your server can serve static HTML pages from the cache instead of needing to process PHP for each visit. That not only makes your site load a lot faster, but it also reduces the energy that your server needs to consume.

Putting purpose before profit

Finally, Krystal is focused on more than just minimising the impact of your hosting's energy usage.

In February 2023 we became the world's first (and currently only!) B Corp certified web host and public cloud provider, joining businesses such as Patagonia, The Body Shop and Abel & Cole. To achieve B Corp Certification we've undergone a rigorous accreditation process to meet exceptionally high standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. Becoming a certified B Corporation further enshrines our purpose as a company that exists to make a difference.

As a regenerative business, we give back more to society and the environment than we use. As well as our B Corp certification, we’re members of 1% for the planet and we sponsor environmental initiatives such as People, Planet, Pint. We’ve also go a bit of a thing for planting and protecting trees! (we’re currently on 5.38 million and counting!)

As a Krystal client, you get carbon-capturing, habitat-restoring trees planted on your behalf every single month. You'll even get your own virtual forest in your Krystal client area so that you can see it grow!

1 krystal-tree-pledge

Get started with sustainable web hosting today

With sustainable web hosting, you can lessen the environmental impact of your website without losing out on features and performance.

To find green web hosting, look for hosts that use renewable energy in their data centres and have a good Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) rating. Beyond that, you'll also want a host that optimises your site's performance and takes proactive steps to improve the environment.

If you want to get started, head to Krystal's green energy page to learn how Krystal aims to offer the best eco-friendly UK web hosting, all without sacrificing on features or performance. We call it being "conscious without compromise”.

About the author

Darren H

I'm Darren and I'm the Senior Copywriter at Krystal. Words are what I do. Aside from writing, I play guitar and sing in my band Machineries Of Joy, work on getting my 2nd Dan in Taekwondo and seek adventure with my wife and daughter.

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