The short version
Running data centers requires a lot of electricity. It’s estimated that data centers alone are responsible for 1% – 2% of the world’s electricity demand. This electricity demand is often met by burning fossil fuels. In 2021, 60% of the world’s electricity came from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are the dirtiest sources of electricity, and are responsible for our deepening climate emergency.
Ensuring your website or digital service is hosted by data centers using clean, green electricity is a way to reduce the carbon emissions associated with it. Switching to a verified green hosting provider supports those hosting companies that are doing the right thing and contributing to a greener, low carbon intensity electricity grid for everyone.
To find out if your website is being hosted by a verified green hosting provider, refer to the Green Domains dataset page, stewarded by us, Green Web Foundation. This dataset is the largest open dataset on verified green hosting providers and websites that run on green electricity in the world.
The longer explanation
Digital uses a lot of electricity
It takes a lot of electricity to make and run digital infrastructure. It’s estimated that data centers alone are responsible for 1% – 2% of the world’s electricity demand [David Mytton’s “How much electricity do data centers use?”]. Digital as an industry, often referred to as ICT (Information Communications Technology), is estimated to cause 1.8% – 2.8% of global greenhouse emissions [Lancaster University, Emissions from computing and ICT could be worse than previously thought].
Dirty electricity is causing a climate emergency
This electricity demand is often met by burning fossil fuels. In 2021, 60% of the world’s electricity came from fossil fuels [Ember, Electricity Data Explorer].
The UN states that “fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – are by far the largest contributor to global climate change, accounting for over 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions” [United Nations, Causes and Effects of Climate Change].
Electricity produced using fossil fuels has a much higher carbon intensity than that produced by renewable sources. Carbon intensity is a way of measuring how clean electricity is, or more precisely how much CO2 is emitted by each unit of electricity produced. The lower the carbon intensity the better.
We are in a climate emergency because we keep creating high carbon intensity electricity through burning fossil fuels, rather than quickly finding credible paths away from them. We need to move as fast as possible because when it comes to climate, speed really is justice. We should be powering our world with low carbon intensity electricity, which we call green electricity.
Hosting providers that run on green electricity are cleaner
To reduce the carbon emissions associated with a website or digital service, in other words to make it greener, one thing we can do is ensure the underlying hosting infrastructure is powered by green electricity.
A verified green hosting provider is a hosting organisation that uses green electricity for the infrastructure it supplies.
Not only that, verified providers are also willing and able to prove it. They do this by supplying evidence that they have taken steps to avoid, reduce or offset 100% of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by using electricity to provide their services.
Find out if your website is running on green electricity
To find out if your website is being hosted by a verified provider refer to the Green Domains dataset, which is stewarded by the Green Web Foundation. This dataset is the largest open dataset of verified green hosting providers and websites that run on green electricity in the world.
Tools and services exist to help you use the dataset. For example, the Green Web Check tool allows you to find out if a specific website URL is being hosted by a verified green provider or not. If you have developer skills, you can use the Green Web Check API to query the dataset manually or automate a service to do this. Website Carbon and Ecograder are two such services that use the API.
Taking steps to reduce your website’s emissions
If you find that your website is not hosted with a verified green hosting provider, you can use the Green Web Directory to find a new hosting company that is verified. Most hosting providers make switching easy.
In making the switch, you’ll know that you’re doing your part to support those hosting companies that are doing the right thing and contributing to a greener, low carbon intensity electricity grid for everyone.
Aside from ensuring your website’s hosting is running on green electricity, there are other things you can do to reduce the carbon emissions associated with your website. The majority of these actions involve making your website smaller and perform better, which is a win/win situation for your user and the climate. Climate Action Tech has a helpful starter guide: Reduce the carbon emissions of your website.