Green Hosting in 2010!

Go Green CharlestonWe did it in 2010 – we went green! Now Now, I hear the grumbling, “Green is a fad” “Climate change ain’t real”. Hey, I’m not political and I don’t really know if climate change is real or not. But I do understand how saving money on electrical power can translate into cost savings for our customers and (perhaps) bigger profits for our company. In fact, because of green “trend” or “fad”, several of our prospects are asking the question “What are you doing for the environment” “Are you a Green Company?”  In addition, good folks do what they can to make their homes clean and efficient. The planet is our home, so anything we can do along those lines benefits everybody. How???

What most folks don’t realize is that the IT sector is a major consumer of the world’s electricity. In fact, the IT sector consumes about 4-5 percent of all electrical power produced. Would you believe, a typical WebServer used in a data center or server farm consumes as much energy as a 15 mpg Ford Expedition or Chevy Tahoe, and larger data centers may have thousands of servers running 24/7/365. Power consumption equals cost, so anything we could do to cut power consumption would greatly impact the bottom line.

Did we install windmills behind the office and scotch tape solar panels to the south side of the building? How do you cut power consumption on a server farm?

First step:  Replace old and inefficient servers with new servers that operated more efficiently and have greater capacity. The net result is like trading in the Expedition on an Escape (from 15 to 25 mpg) whilst increasing current data capacity. Initial ROI (return on investment), nine months.

Second Step: RECs. Recs (Renewable Energy Credits) are tradable energy credits representing all the environmental benefits of 1 megawatt hour of renewable energy. When you purchase an REC, your are basically paying a Wind Mill Farm to generate renewable energy on your behalf. For each REC you purchase, the WindFarm generates 1 megawatt of wind power and puts it into the general power grid. Then, when you consume electrical energy from the general power grid, you can claim credit for that wind power generated on your behalf. Even though the 2010 tax laws are still in flux, we hoped that REC investments will at lease break-even. We don’t actually own servers on a server farm, but we do lease servers from a server farm that is involved with that program. As such, we receive the benefits too.

Internal Items: But we didn’t stop there. Florescent lighting VS incandescent. Fluorescents use far less power, the ROI is about 2 years. There is a side benefit. Since fluorescents use less power, they generate less heat, resulting in a minor positive impact on air conditioning bills. In addition, fluorescents can be purchased that produce white light, resulting in better color rendition. So much of what we do involves matching colors for Webpages, so that is an important factor. We didn’t need a new law to see that one. (9/9/2011 update) We found that several of our fluorescents failed in less than a year. As they burn out, we are replacing them with LED lights, 4 times more efficient than fluorescents, and you don’t have to deal with the 60 cycle stutter or strobe effect (most folks can’t see it , but I do).

Paperless Project: Our paperless project is also paying dividends. All of are reports are produced and stored in digital format. Ninety percent of our AP invoices are received in digital format (electrical and utility companies are the only holdouts – go figure) and paid online using our bank’s secure bill-pay feature. Eighty percent of our customers receive digital invoices, which not only eliminates paper, but envelops, stamps, and time too, and are paid online using credit card or PayPal. And, much to our surprise, would you believe, digital invoices tend to be paid quicker?

Recycling: By the time we reached this part of the project, I was “on to the next thing”. So to keep it moving forward, I delegated and empowered someone who was passionate about recycling, gave her a few guidelines, then turned her loose to make it happened. The guidelines were simple; effective - non-intrusive – simple, and this is what she came up with:

1. Trash is collect in trash cans the same way it had always been done.

2. Cleaning will collect the trash, separate the glass, metal, paper, cardboard, plastic, other, and place it into appropriate bins.

3. The bins are left at the curb for pickup.

4. Electronics, batteries, are collected on a shelf and taken to a near-by recycle center when the shelf is full.

Over time we found that we could eliminate glass by using plastic bottles for drinks. Then, everyone switch to water and/or coffee in reusable cups (not part of the plan – it just happened). This didn’t eliminate those two bins, but they don’t receive much “action”either. Recycling did not save us any money. Then too, it didn’t cost us anything.

Vendors: It’s interesting that our vendors are in the same stage of green development as we are. We selected our vendors years ago, carefully, based on performance, quality, cost,  and how they could add value to our products and services. As such, it would be difficult for us the make major changes simply based on “how green they are”. But nearly all of our vendors have adopted the same green practices that we have, thus allowing us to provide even a higher level of green content to our product offering. It also allowed us to get fresh ideas and benchmark the results. Our vendors were very pleased to assist.

Consumables: The one area that does not make sense to us is purchasing paper, supplies, and equipment made with recycles materials. We have found that such products cost between 25% to 100% more, and appear to be of inferior quality. Until they reach price/quality parity, well, it simply doesn’t make sense.

Consumables 5/2/2011 Update: Yesterday we found quality recycled printer paper at Target for the same price as regular printer paper. So now the bulk of our printer paper is recycled paper.

Consumables 1/2/2012 Update: We have received permission form 90% of our customers to send PDF invoices instead of paper invoices. This will greatly reduce our need for paper, envelopes, and, of course, stamps.

Consumables 1/23/2012 Update:   We found a supplier of led lighting at a reasonable price. We will replace fluorescent lights with led as the fluorescents burn out. Perhaps by then the price will be even lower.

Conclusion: So we are green, we earned the right to wear the badge, and we will continue to do what we can to maintain or improve our green status as long as it makes dollars and sense. What we didn’t count on was the sense of pride we now have in knowing that we are doing something good.