Is your company environmentally friendly or "green"? Are you "carbon neutral"?

Our business runs on electricity, which obviously has environmental consequences. We’re concerned about pollution, energy security, and climate change, so we’re taking steps to make sure that our company is as environmentally friendly as possible.

The most important things we do are save energy where possible, support renewable power, and offset our carbon emissions to make sure that our company is carbon neutral. In fact, as we explain below, our business is completely powered by renewable energy. We think this makes Tiger Technologies one of your best choices if you’re concerned about the environment.

First things first: saving energy where possible

Saving energy is an obvious step. We buy only “Energy Star” servers, desktop computers, monitors and printers; we turn off devices that aren’t in use; we configure our desktop computers to save energy by turning off idle monitors. We take it seriously.

Supporting renewable power and offsetting carbon emissions

No matter how much we save, all Web hosting companies use quite a bit of energy. Powering and cooling servers takes lots of electricity. Each year, our business directly consumes about 25,000 kWh (kilowatt hours) of electricity and 850 therms of natural gas, producing more than 20 tons of carbon dioxide. If we include indirect emissions (generated by activities like manufacturing and shipping the servers we use, the occasional business trip, and so forth), the totals are probably over 50 tons of CO₂ annually.

That’s a heavy environmental impact. Instead of ignoring it, we’re doing something about it. Each year, we contribute enough to the Carbonfund.org renewable energy program to offset more than 65 tons of carbon dioxide. That’s equivalent to over 107,000 kWh of renewable electricity.

Carbonfund.org uses the money to fund zero-emission wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass renewable energy programs, either through direct investments or through renewable energy certificates (aka “green tags”). The projects are certified by Environmental Resources Trust or Green-e.

These contributions make our business carbon neutral. In fact, we offset (reduce) more CO₂ than we produce. The offset payments ensure that more new renewable electricity is pumped into the electric grid than we use (even though our servers still receive their actual power from the standard reliable electricity grid).

Why doesn’t Tiger Technologies just put solar panels on its roof or something?

The practical answer is that we don’t have a big enough roof! More generally, though, it makes sense to invest in large-scale projects. As Carbonfund.org puts it, “it’s more cost effective and better for the environment to build a 100 MW wind energy farm in the Midwest than a 5 kW windmill in your backyard.” In terms of greenhouse gases, it doesn’t matter all that much where clean energy is generated.

So we could try to generate 107,000 kWh of solar electricity on our rooftop, or we could buy renewable energy certificates that make it cost-effective for a company to build solar panels in the desert to generate the same 107,000 kWh. Either way, 107,000 kWh of extra renewable electricity is generated and 65 tons of CO₂ are saved.

By the way, we know that some people are skeptical of carbon offsets and energy certificates. They do work, though. The electrical grid operator in California is legally required to buy renewable energy if it’s available at market rates — the problem is that it usually costs more. The certificates pay generators the difference between “dirty” and “clean” power generation costs, making it possible for them to sell clean renewable power at dirty market rates. Every clean kilowatt funded by a renewable energy certificate really does mean one less dirty kilowatt in the grid.

So while we don’t have solar panels or windmills directly on our roof, our Carbonfund.org contributions make sure we’re generating more renewable energy than we use.

Is there anything else I should know about electrical power and Web hosting?

Yes, there is! Occasionally, we’re asked why people should choose us instead of just hosting a Web site on their own home Internet connection. Besides the obvious reasons (setting it up is annoying, you have to become a security expert, the power and connections aren’t as reliable as a proper data center, you’re unlikely to be able to match our gigabit-speed Internet connections, etc.), one thing that’s often overlooked is that the electricity used by hosting it yourself is probably more expensive than we’d charge to host the same site.

Running a Web server requires a dedicated computer left on all the time, which probably consumes at least 50 watts of power even if the monitor is never turned on. That’s 36 kWh per month. That much electricity would cost you $10.05 per month, which is more than we’d charge to host the Web site. (This calculation is based on a Pacific Gas and Electric residential customer using 131% of “baseline” usage, which is $0.279 per kWh including taxes as of this writing. If you use more than 200% of your baseline, which is not uncommon for people with air conditioning, the bill for those extra kWh would be $14.65 a month.)

And that doesn’t include the environmental costs. If that computer hosts a single Web site, the site will use 432 kWh per year and generate about .25 tons of CO₂. Because we host multiple Web sites on each server, the average site uses only about 5 kWh and emits only .003 tons of CO₂ per year (this figure includes all the power we use: servers, desktop computers in our support department, cooling, and so forth). Even if we didn’t fund renewable power and offset our CO₂ emissions, it would still be 80 times more environmentally friendly to have us host the Web site.