We conducted some research into green web hosting companies in an effort to separate the genuinely eco-friendly providers from those who might simply be using sustainable business buzzwords as a marketing ploy – ie ‘Greenwashing‘. Here’s what we found…
Web hosting is an energy intensive business. Back in 2016, a report from the US Government Energy Technologies Area (ETA) stated that emissions from powering the data servers would exceed those of the airline industry by 2020. Warehouses full of servers need profound amounts of energy to run the servers. This is to prevent overheating, regulate humidity levels, generate electricity back-ups in the event of a power failure, and to be ready to respond to fire and flood.
In response, the race for more environmentally sound web-hosting is on. Claims to renewable energy usage, carbon offsetting and sustainability are all becoming part of the sales vernacular of web hosting companies. But how eco are they, really?
Finding a Green Web Host
Most, if not all, businesses know that there is significant cache in having green credentials but these can too often only be a form of lip service (called ‘greenwashing’) rather than real policies and actions. So how do you spot the difference?
Below is a brief overview of ten popular web hosting companies with claims to greatness through their greenness. We briefly review what they say and give them a star rating. These are: Kualo, A2 Hosting, GreenGeeks, 123.reg, Rackspace, Greenwebhost, iPage, Eco Web Hosting, Dreamhost, and Green Hosting.
We found that Kualo, GreenGeeks and RackSpace are in a five star league of their own, confidently highlighting the environmental problems they create and making solving these part of the fabric of their businesses. All claims are substantiated and referenced for validity.
At the other end of the scale with one star each, 123.reg and iPage hide their greenness, arguably recognising the importance of being ‘green’ to customers but actually preferring to distance the serious everyday business of work from that of the environment.
A2 Hosting, Dreamhost and Greenwebhost have plenty of information on their green approaches but don’t explain or qualify how what they say they are doing to help the environment actually helps. This makes it difficult to judge what is productive and what is marketing speak and compromises their star rating.
Finally, with four stars and working commendably well with the smaller amount of resources at their disposal are Eco Web Hosting and Green Hosting. Great small to medium businesses with a big heart.
Kualo is geared towards smaller businesses that have a small number of sites to host.
They say: that their operations worldwide are powered entirely by renewable energy. The British datacentre, ‘uses 100% green sourced power.’ Their datacentre has an excellent PUE rating of between 1.2 and 1.3. They illustrate the environmental problems of the industry and show how they reuse energy in their server centres. More generally they aim to reduce waste, encourage recycling and avoid energy intensive travel.
We say: Their green information is obvious and hugely informative. They are very open about how much energy their industry emits and use this knowledge to show what they do to make it better. Kualo are based in the UK and indeed powered 100% by renewable energy. In conclusion: a very positive and thoughtful commitment to being green.
Green rating: 5/5
A2 Hosting is all about speed, boasting a service that is 20x faster than other web hosting services and offering packages such as an ‘optimised site accelerator’; the ‘swift’ and the ‘turbo’.
They say: their customer’s host their sites with A2 Hosting because of their ‘green hosting’ initiative. They created a special ‘green hosting’ badge for customers to put on their sites and show their green credentials and their FutureServe Green Hosting company initiative is a partner of Carbonfund.org, supporting reforestation and development of clean, renewable sources of energy since 2007. They implemented their own green policies like streamlining ‘employee telecommuting practices’, re-using older hardware and planting trees.
We say: Their green information is tricky to find and arguably not their primary focus. Their ‘Futureserve Green Hosting’ company initiative page is exactly the same as their other ‘about us’ page until you scroll right down to the bottom. While their intentions of carbon offsetting and planting trees are commendable they are not groundbreaking and more of an add-on rather than policy or immediate action. In conclusion, they are trying but this is not necessarily an option with being green at its heart.
Green rating: 2/5
GreenGeeks aim to keep it simple for beginner to intermediate sized businesses, providing a service that is fast, scalable and supportive of a business’s growth.
They say: GreenGeeks is a ‘blazing fast, secure, eco-friendly’ web hosting provider. Their USP is in their green-drive, culminating in the fact that they put three times the power they consume back into the grid in the form of renewable energy (via the Bonneville Foundation). This means customers can feel good in not only being carbon neutral but actually ‘carbon-reducing’. Their hosting platform has been designed with a maximum use, no waste mind-set whereby every aspect of their business is built to be energy efficient.
We say: GreenGeeks wear their eco-credentials on their sleeve, from their logo to strapline to branding colours. They have a page on their site clearly outlining the environmental problems posed by the industry and explaining how they are helping, providing tangible real-world examples.
They are a United States EPA Green Power Partner, which means that they purchase wind energy credits for the energy they consume. In conclusion, they provide an excellent, transparent eco-friendly web hosting service that offers full refunds if you are at all dissatisfied – what’s not to like?!
Green rating: 5/5
123 Reg are based in the UK, providing simple, low cost solutions to help small businesses develop their online presence.
They say: They state that they are ‘eco-friendly’ and that they use the latest ‘low-energy systems’ to power their ‘green’ data centres to minimise their carbon footprint. They directly link the greenness of their data centres with their high security and saving customers money.
We say: There is only one paragraph on their eco-friendly status and no explanation of what ‘low energy systems’ are used. Rather than seeing greenness as an asset they are also keen to reassure readers that despite any commitments to being eco-friendly they still have high levels of security and performance.
In conclusion, it would seem that 123.reg see being eco-friendly as an ‘add-on’ rather than an asset and provide no proof or explanation of the real-world benefits of their ‘eco-friendly’ approaches.
Green rating: 1/5
Rackspace focus on helping customers secure their sites using the cloud. They aim to provide a very hands-on, supportive relationship with their customers based on trust, openness and accountability.
They say: Their environmental strategy is at their core. They aim to give more than they take; to support innovative technologies; and help positively influence their industry. They are guided by global frameworks such as the Global Reporting Index (GRI) and the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) protocol. Being transparent and accountable as they make plans and policies and work towards their commitments are core values. They work with environmental non-profits; charities; peer organisations like the Green Grid; and founded OpenStack and the Open Compute Project.
We say: Wow. They wear their commitment to the environment on their sleeve and use their green successes to support their ethos of openness, transparency and intellectual and professional thoroughness. Information and reports on their environmental work and building partnerships with ASHREA.org and BREEAM is readily available and referenced. They have their PUE statistic of 1.15 easily to hand along with other, referenced accolades. In conclusion, this is a very serious green business indeed with the statistics and real-world results to match.
Green rating: 5/5
A small, somewhat rough and ready not-for-profit web hosting service based in the UK offering carbon offset, solar powered and hydro geothermal powered shared web hosting, dedicated / hybrid and VPS server options.
They say: They describe themselves as ‘environmentally guided hosting’ and the first internet service provider in the UK to take sustainability ‘seriously’. They support environmentally friendly practices by travelling to their carbon neutral, solar powered offices in Yorkshire, UK on public transport and planting a tree for each new customer to offset CO2 emissions. They offer solar and hydrothermal powered web hosting options using data centres in California and Iceland respectively.
We say: This is not as slick a branding operation as some of the other web hosting companies on our list; however they are cheap, not-for-profit, and if they link their customers to environmentally sound datacentres then that can only be positive. The issue with this site is the poor presentation and content which presents random definitions of sustainable development and photosynthesis as if this is explaining something, which it definitely isn’t.
What we do need to see is why they are a not-for-profit; how they can claim to be carbon neutral; and what the relationship is between them and the datacentres they use. In conclusion: an interesting, possibly great ethical little UK business, but more information and better presentation is needed to bolster their viability.
Green rating: 2/5
iPage provide a one-size fits all service with customer-focused support to help new businesses build, market and grow their websites.
They say: iPage is an EPA Green Power Partner having its data centres and web servers completely powered by wind energy. The company purchases Renewable Energy Certificates to offset their energy usage with wind energy by 200%. They are proud to pay the same level of dedication to reliable hosting as to environmental responsibility.
We say: There is nothing to be found on their website about their green efforts and those that can be found on the internet are about their commitment to buying wind energy credits. While this is commendable it isn’t as proactive, immediate or necessarily effective as the measures other web hosting companies are taking. Being green is not a priority for these guys.
Green rating: 1/5
Eco Web Hosting
Eco Web Hosting is based in the UK and provides web hosting services that are kind to the environment.
They say: The IT industry creates 10% of the UKs energy bill and they want to offer a ‘carbon-positive’ web hosting service. They offset their business’s carbon contribution by planting oak trees which absorb 3x as much carbon as their servers produce, arguing that this is better than using renewable energy.
They have made their data centres more efficient by using high efficiency fans and processers and improving their cooling system’s energy usage by 40% and improved the workplace by making all communications paperless and encouraging staff to choose green travel to work.
We say: They are a small, independent business in Cambridge, UK working hard to do what they can to improve their impact on the environment. They are not in league with companies that build their own carbon positive data centres, buy energy credits or start their own eco/IT charities. However, the efforts they are making are locally immediate, consistent and tangible and their information and ethos is easy to find. In conclusion, they clearly take their eco-commitments seriously and have woven this into their everyday business life.
Green rating: 4/5
Dreamhost provide simple and supported web hosting solutions for small and large businesses alike.
They say: Looking after their effect on the environment is essential as their business grows. They have motion sensor lights in their restrooms; solar filtering screens on windows; recycling bins, minimum paper usage; composting; no single-use plastics in the office. Their data centres use new and grey water in the cooling plants; power efficient processors where possible; are powered by grids that use renewable energies; and they are partners in ‘state-level ‘clean wind’ programs’.
We say: The information is accessible under the link ‘green hosting’ and it all sounds positive. However, saying ‘single use coffee pods’ are put in the recycling at the same time as saying single use plastics are not used at all in the office highlights a lack of coherence at best, and understanding at worst.
The claims for data centre greenness also sound really positive but are not substantiated by any qualifying metrics, certification or names for further referencing. In conclusion, they could do with more transparency to improve their actual, rather than marketed, credibility.
Green rating: 2/5
A UK company with a friendly, ethical, green ethos to their web hosting.
They say: Their energy is sourced from 100% wind power. They are a partner of the Green Web Foundation, a non-profit organisation working to help the IT industry green. Their datacentre has been designed to naturally cool the hot air from inside before returning it, reducing the energy needed to cool the servers. They moved from the US to the UK as soon as they found a green, reliable data centre; support local charities and green organisations; use suppliers with positive green credentials; recycle and use renewable energy for their offices.
We say: They are a small web hosting company that are an offshoot of an ethical web design company called Make Hay. Their eco-credential information runs throughout the website and is clearly at the core of their business identity, value and practice. They explain clearly how they have made decisions regarding their energy usage and suppliers and unapologetically qualify why these are the best decisions for them.
They do provide a level of openness in naming their datacentre and their partnerships, but for true transparency they could do with some statistics showing exactly how they are neutralising or improving their business’s environmental impact. In conclusion, this is a thoughtful, eloquent, eco-aware business based in the UK.
Green rating: 4/5
Kualo, GreenGeeks and RackSpace are in a five-star league of their own, elucidating the international environmental problems and making them part of the fabric of their businesses. All claims are substantiated and referenced for validity. At the other end of the scale with one star each, 123.reg and iPage hide their green credentials, arguably preferring to draw a line between the serious everyday business of work and that of the environment.
A2 Hosting, Dreamhost and Greenwebhost have information on their green approaches but don’t explain or qualify how what they say they are doing to help the environment actually helps, making it difficult to judge what is productive and what is marketing. Finally, with four stars working commendably well with the smaller amount of resources at their disposal are the smaller businesses Eco Web Hosting and Green Hosting.