Zen Blog

How big is your digital carbon footprint?

In response to significant commitments by the UK government to curb the nation's impact on climate change many companies large and small are now following suit with their own measures. While there are obvious amendments to practise and policy where improvements can be made by going paperless, reducing waste and recycling wherever possible, how can you ensure your digital presence is sustainable as well?

How big is your digital carbon footprint?

Can you be green with digital?

There’s a lot to consider here. For one, despite removing as much physical paper/products/packaging from your business as possible, you’ll still have to work on some form of computer. There are two things to consider here which somewhat contradict each other. Having more modern machines which (in most scenarios) will increase your energy efficiency meaning you use less electricity. This is especially important if you're not using 100% renewable suppliers. However, upgrading your workstations every single year will produce a lot of e-waste and that’s before you even consider the energy required for the manufacture of the new devices.

At this point it becomes somewhat of a balancing act and each business will have its own unique requirements, however we would strongly recommend looking at all your business equipment every 12 months to make . However that doesn’t mean you can’t still take simple and practical steps to improve your overall energy efficiency. Having useful power down procedures for all employees can quickly add up to big gains. For example making sure all screens go into standby after 5 minutes of inactivity and all machines go to sleep after 15. This is a simple setting change on MacOS and Windows and doesn’t require any effort on the part of the user to be more energy efficient.

But what about online? It’s something that many may not think about but having an online presence, whether that be just a simple website or an online intranet for your employees to log on to requires having servers running round the clock with zero downtime. This means your business is potentially going to be expending a lot of energy over an extended period of time. Indeed between manufacture, transport and being on 24/7 year after year a single rack server can be responsible for tonnes of CO2 equivalent over its lifetime. Of Course this is heavily dependent on usage and load.

How can your online presence be sustainable?

For many the simplest and easiest option would be to just make sure that you have a green hosting package available through your provider. However as you may have guessed that might not be as straight-forward as you think. Many providers suggest their commitment to sustainability yet do not have clear goals and roadmaps towards said goals. This makes it hard to definitely know what “sustainable” means and when it will be achieved. Add to this the questionable green credentials of some carbon credit schemes suddenly “green” becomes just a bit of unsubstantiated marketing that might not be what it seems. There are good options out there however.

At the Zen Agency we utilise Microsoft’s Azure platform for hosting. This is because of all hosting service providers we believe Microsoft is the most progressive and ambitious when it comes to sustainability.

Is Azure Hosting Green?

Microsoft as a whole has been carbon-neutral for a decade. Through various efforts Microsoft has driven down their overall carbon footprint whilst also balancing out emissions with offset initiatives. However they have committed to much more ambitious sustainability goals in the near future to continue to improve their green credentials. These include:

  • Utilising 100% renewable energy by 2025
  • Being water positive by 2030 (i.e. replenishing more than they use)
  • Be Zero-Waste certified by 2030
  • Net-zero deforestation from new construction

Sustainability and being “green” means different things to different people depending on how it is being measured as part of a businesses overall objectives. With that being said Microsoft is being pretty comprehensive when it comes to its targets covering, energy, waste, water and deforestation. If they meet all those targets you’ll be hard pushed to find another business with Microsoft's global reach that has similar standards. You can read more about Microsoft's efforts here.

For more information about Zen’s hosting packages, contact us today.

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