Green Hosting…

Ok, lets get it out of the way. I am going to make some people mad with this post. There is no way around it and I won’t try and wiggle my way out of it. I have been looking at the scenario for “Green” hosting. Green hosting has two definitions. One I agree with, and one I think is hokey marketing BS.

The first method is when a hosting company goes out of its way to generate “green” power for its personal use. This can be done with a variety of techniques. It can be done with solar cells to help offset power costs. Some hosting companies are using wind power coupled with solar cells to generate power for their data centers. I commend these businesses for their efforts to clean up the environment and still provide a business service which is more power hungry every day.

The second method is to buy “green” power certificates. The gist of this argument is that you can use dirty polluting power all you want in your data center, but somewhere else in the world
someone is generating “green” energy on your behalf in the hopes that their good energy production will offset your dirty power consumption. While I don’t think this method causes any harm, I would hardly call it “Green hosting”. This strikes me as paying your pastor in cash to absolve you of your sins? You don’t pay for your sins with cash, you pay for your mistakes by not making the same mistake again!?!

Bluehost is not in a position to do “Green Hosting” at this time. I totally see the positive impact it can have and would encourage every company that can produce and use clean energy to do so, but we will NOT buy these lame “Green Certificates” and post blather on our site that we are now “Green Friendly”. I believe we could get more signups if we did say we are green, but we aren’t and to say that we are is disingenuous.

Many hosting companies that buy these certificates will probably be offended when they read my comments, but as anyone who has read my blog before knows, I simply don’t care. I state what I believe and I don’t change my mind when the wind blows.

Green is great and we will get there as soon as we can!

Thanks,
Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com

26 Responses to “Green Hosting…”

  1. Wes says:

    I think the first method is the best one if one can do that especially with the solar panels. This may be used to generate part of power if you need much power and gradually power from the panels can be increased.

  2. I think you’re right about the hokey marketing BS.

    Thanks for your honesty. I’m definitely not going anywhere else.

  3. bwb says:

    You could always do like dell and others do, and offer users for $2.00 at the end of their purchase the option to buy a tree though one of those many programs, those help scrub the environment and kill CO2 esp when trees are being killed in south america etc so fast.

  4. arum says:

    Matt, I totally agree with your viewpoint and don’t think any less of you or your company for what you said in the post.

    bwb, I don’t see how those ‘buy a tree’ schemes are any less marketing BS than the certificates matt mentions… just MHO.

  5. Scott says:

    I agree with bwb – for those that will sleep better at night knowing they paid more for their carbon-offsets, give ‘em the option. They’ll be happier with Bluehost for it, and if it’s not affecting Bluehost’s income, and thus upping the rates for us users who drive SUV’s and use more than one square of tissue paper to blow our nose with, why not?

    I’d even suggest rounding up a little in the price of those carbon offsets – they’ll sleep even better at night knowing they paid more, and Bluehost will get a bit more $$.

  6. Hi Matt,

    seems like you have missed the whole concept of greening a hosting operation. It is not just about the energy (although that is a good part of it) it is about all apects of the business. For example if you employees driving from far away to arrange car pooling, or taking trasit (or being located in a trasit friendly area). Using 100% post consumer recycled material in print advertising and business cards, re-using paper and recycling within the operation, using energy star rated appliances and CFL bulbs in lights. Turning off lights and computers (workstations) when not in use etc.. etc….

    I think supporting the wind power projects if you are not able to buy green power directly is a good step and while it may not meet your image of what green hosting should be, it definitely is helping to create new renewable energy projects which in turn offsets the amount of non-renewable power needed.

    I certainly think that of the three options , that the “do nothing approach” is the worst option of all.

  7. Patrick says:

    Wow, I really am impressed with a head of a company who doesn’t speak only after filtering things through the PR department. I agree with you on the carbon offsets or green credits being a ridiculous concept.

  8. Simon says:

    I’m very sceptical about “offsetting” as well: it just seems like it’s there to clear the consciences of people who don’t want to change the way they live and do business as usual.

    There’s a funny parody of carbon offsetting at CheatNeutral.com:
    http://www.cheatneutral.com/

    But as Ethical Hosting says, there are plenty of ways to “green” a company other than using renewable power. I’m particularly interested in how servers can be made to consume less power in general, regardless of how that power is generated. CPU-intensive software that requires constant hard disk access doesn’t help…

    The main problem with a lot of organizations, though, is transparency. Even very publicly pro-green companies like Google are notoriously secretive about how much energy their servers consume, and won’t give out data like that because the layout of their infrastructure is a company secret. We just have to trust that they aren’t evil and will make all the right decisions on their own…

    Anyway, keep up the good work. This blog is always refreshing to read!

    Si

  9. ThinkPeopleThink says:

    Great camouflage of your inability to go green!

    Even if a small fraction of what you pay to a certification program will go towards green energy. So if you can not produce your own energy from renewable sources either because you are in the middle of a city or because you can not afford the equipment maintenance, you can pay someone else to generate this energy elsewhere and then provide it back to the power grid. You share the same atmosphere after all.

    Actually I find you dishonest. You want to save yourself money by not participating in a go green certification and you turn this to your advantage by making people think that you are honest.

    Thanks for the great PR lesson!

  10. Thanks for your words on this Matt. I consider myself an environmentalist of sorts, but also find myself at odds with others who claim the same title. Often what they propose it not practical and doesn’t promote personal responsibility.

    The green energy certificates are not an honest option. They don’t harm anything, but people call themselves green, but aren’t actually making changes in their own lifestyle or business – just paying someone else to do it.

    Thanks for your writing on this. I wish your business well. I’m not currently a customer, but I’m thinking about it.

  11. Andy Renals says:

    Good to read that you are thinking green Matt, as a potential customer I would like to know what your next action step will be. It is plain that you operate in a cost conscious environment where anything that adds to the cost overhead has to be considered very seriously. So what will you do? and when will it be done? Andy

  12. Greg Schulz says:

    Matt interesting viewpoints and comments which sound like you are not falling into or jumping on the “Green Wash” bandwagon for the sake of saying that you are green. As you know, there are many aspects to being green and in the case of a data center that for example is a hosting site, there are other issues well beyond carbon offset credits to consider including RoHS, WEEE, floor space, power, cooling, HVAC, performance all of which have a tie and connection to being green, however are important as well on their own.

    Ironically IT data centers including hosting sites in the U.S. only consume an estimated (via the EPA) 1.5% of all electrical power used in the U.S. So while carbon credits are popular to talk about regarding data centers, the bigger issue is that of energy supply and demand on a reliable basis. Thus to support growth, the solution is not simply power down devices to avoid power consumption, rather, a multi-prong focus of 1) looking for and deploying more energy efficient technologies that can do more work (performance) and have more space or capacity with the same or less power and cooling requirements as well as implementing best practices including consolidation and data management among others.

    To learn more check out my analysis and comments on the EPA report to congress on energy usage at http://www.greendatastorage.com/Reports/StorageIO_WP_EPA_Report_Aug1407.pdf . Also at http://www.greendatastorage.com you can find various reports, articles, webcasts and links to various green, power, cooling and related topics, some of which are not just green wash, some such as link to http://www.cdproject.net/ show who’s doing what with carbon offsets if you are interested.

    Cheers
    GS

  13. David says:

    Matt,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. What’s occurring is one marketing ploy is buying into another to use as a marketing ploy, ugh!

    Why not just change your habits, convince your clients & employees to be ‘more green’ and in the end net. a larger scale change. We can all still be conscious of our environment without buying into these silly ‘green schemes’ like carbon credits.

    Think about it, if we can educate our own consumers, family members & site visitors to be ‘friendlier’ to the environment — they’re going to then pass that on to their kids, friends, family & co-workers.

    I wrote about a similar thing on my blog a few months earlier, although I got a bit more in depth:

    http://www.fusednetwork.com/blog/index.php/2007/08/08/fused-network-will-never-be-green/

    Anywhom, take care Matt! :)

  14. [...] Update: See Matt Heaton of BlueHost’s comments on Green Web Hosting. Share this news:These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. [...]

  15. tahir says:

    The green energy certificates are not an honest option. They do not harm anything, but people call themselves green, but aren’t actually making changes in their own lifestyle or business – just paying someone else to do it.

    I’d even suggest rounding up a little in the price of those carbon offsets – they will sleep even better at night knowing they paid more, and Bluehost will get a bit more ££.
    Thanks for Great PR Lesson

  16. Kudos to Matt for his frankness and honesty,

    Yes, there is a real difference between a hosting company that uses conventional energy, buy carbon credits, and then claims to be “green” and a company that actually uses solar energy to power it’s servers. We have done the latter, it is much more expensive, but make a real difference in reducing the environmental footprint of the Internet.

    Solar Energy Host

  17. Hanna says:

    Do you think it matters to the atmosphere whether you build your own solar or purchase offsets elsewhere? Either way, the bottom line is that both actions reduce your carbon load. And for a pollutant like carbon that’s well-mixed in the atmosphere, it really doesn’t make a difference where the reductions take place.

    You’re right that we should be suspicious of greenwashing. You’re right that it’s better to not pollute in the first place than to try to clean it up. And it’s true that carbon offset programs aren’t always as transparent or reliable as they should be.

    But buying offsets represents a huge step in the right direction. I think it’s a huge cop out to say “well, we can do the best option (own solar), so we’ll do nothing.”

  18. [...] a marketing ploy and “not in a position to do “Green Hosting” at this time”. Read bluehost’s ceo’s comments about green web hosting and greenwashing. What’s your take on [...]

  19. Tom S says:

    Funny! Every chance I get, I cut down a tree and make firewood, or fence boards, or barn boards, or if I don’t need any of those, I make mulch, or I allow mother nature to turn it into rich compost in about 20 years. I keep my heat on 72, and my air conditioning goes on once it hits 80 outside. I drive the biggest Ford Excursion at about 8 miles a gallon, and I literally bought a decade’s supply of incandescent light bulbs, which are hard to find nowadays. And, I don’t give a rats pa-tootie if I offend someone while standing firm on my Christian American traditional values. When did it become more important to avoid offending someone than it is to be steadfast on values? I go green every chance I get. Some of the greenies have pictures of Andrew Jackson, and some other presidential figures from the past on them. The more the wackos push us towards anti-Christian traditional values, the bigger the engine gets in my next truck. I’ll make up for at least a dozen Prius’!

  20. Hi you are right, I am going for the first option a host that is green themselves instead of a host that buys of it’s guilt of polluting the environment.

  21. Susanna says:

    I am currently using bluehost and love everything about it. I advertise it to all my clients… when I heard about greenhosting I was really interested and saddened that bluehost is not yet green, but I agree that those green certificates are just greenwashing marketing ploys. I want to hang around and wait for bluehost to turn green! :D

  22. So it’s been several years since this post. What are you doing now in 2010 to be more environmentally friendly?

  23. it is some thing we all should think seriously and make sure we contribute towords envoirnment which we are living now and our generation will live in future. Thanks for a wonderful post

  24. Marek says:

    The first method is good, but probably second method would be cheaper for more companies. I am afraid more hosting companies will choose second way…

  25. I understand where you are coming from Matt, it does seem like the lazy way out, to just buy certificates. But, I have to agree with Ethical Hosting here, where doing SOMETHING is better than nothing. No, it’s not the ideal solution. But, this isn’t an all or nothing situation. The purchase of these certificates supports green facilities and is a step in the right direction. It is a good TEMPORARY solution until you are ready to make changes on your own.

    Admit it… you just don’t want to spend any money or any of your valuable time on this because it’s a nuisance.

  26. Great to see an MD being so frank on such an important issue – it’s transparent dialogue prompted by posts such as Matt’s that will move the green hosting agenda forward.

Leave a Reply