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Green Web Hosting

An Interview with Trey Gardner, CEO Green Geeks

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When I learned about Green Geeks, I was intrigued. Most hosting providers are very similar in their offerings, but Green Geeks claims to be "300% green hosting". To find out more about this, I teamed up with Marc Lallanilla, the About.com Guide to Green Living to interview Trey Gardner, CEO of Green Geeks.

About.com: Why is being a green hosting provider important?

Trey Gardner: As the owner of Green Geeks it was important for me personally and professionally to build an eco-friendly company. Personally I have small children and I wanted to make sure that I did right by their future and to give them the opportunity to grow up in a world of positive rather than negative environmental change.

Professionally I saw a rare opportunity to help make a substantial change in the Web hosting marketplace and in the way that environmentally friendly messaging was distributed online.

I have been involved in the Web hosting industry for over 10 years and I have had great success over the years. I have been able to work closely with some of the most influential companies in the hosting industry and I knew that I could further work with them to try to move the industry into becoming greener.

I had two goals for moving the Web hosting industry into becoming greener. The first is that there are studies that show that the aggregate energy consumption of website servers will make the Web hosting industry as big of a polluter as the airline industry by the year 2020.

My second goal was a thought that if people saw more green websites or more sites hosted green that they would more often think about what they could do in their daily lives to become eco friendly. In many countries the Internet has become the dominant medium and if we could collectively shift people's paradigms through online green messaging on multiple individual websites then we could create a more substantial reaction to the environmental crisis we face from decades of negative impact.

A: Your Website says your company is "300% Green Hosting", what does that mean? And how do you become 300% green?

TG: In our industry we have to have our servers hooked up to the grid for a power source because individuals, businesses and organizations expect that their sites and emails should be running 24x7x365 and the only way to maintain that is power from the grid.

What we do to balance this is we purchase wind energy credits for all of our servers and work stations. We work with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation which is a non profit group which works with wind, solar and other environmentally friendly energy producers.

The Bonneville Environmental Foundation estimates the amount of energy consumption based on known factors and allows us to purchase credits to have the energy consumed by our company put back into the grid having been produced by wind energy companies. Bonneville in turn pays the wind farms we pull energy from with the credits we have purchased. We purchase three times the amount of credits needed so in effect we pull 1x from the grid and put back into the grid 3x of energy having been produced by wind farms, effectively making us 300% green.

A: There seems to be a lot of focus on the data center as a pollution source, but do your other offices meet these green standards? How does your support center, for example, stay green?

TG: The data center is by far the largest energy consuming factor of our business but we also offset our employees' work stations. In addition we allow some employees to work remotely so that they do not have to drive to work, saving gas consumption. Our paper consumption is reduced by electronic records and we aggressively recycle all non essential documents. Any computer, monitor, printer or fax we replace are recycled with local e-Waste companies to make sure that they are recycled properly.

A: What are your energy sources and are any of your energy sources "green" or alternative sources (geothermal, solar, wind, etc.)?

TG: We currently purchase energy produced by the wind however we are looking at adding alternatives like solar and landfill gas to our purchases.

A: In your facilities, what energy-conserving strategies do you use?

TG: The data center is the primary area we focus on lowering energy consumption. We purchase high end state of the art servers which are modified to allow they to run efficiently with less energy. This allows the servers to run cooler so that they need less fans to keep them cool. Server collocation facilities are cooled by industrial fans to keep the servers from over heating and breaking down. This is another area of energy management with the modified servers that we focus on.

In the offices we make sure that we use as much natural light as possible and ask that every employee minimize unnecessary lighting.

A: What sort of waste stream do your facilities create (including water, wastewater and other by-products)?

TG: We really do not have any waste stream from our offices that we negatively contribute to.

A: What makes your facility carbon-negative?

TG: The carbon negative effect comes from purchasing 3 times the amount of energy that we use with wind powered energy.

A: Are there any facilities worldwide that are employing different/experimental strategies to address energy consumption and waste streams?

TG: I have read a number of articles about different collocation facilities which are employing various techniques and strategies to make their facilities greener. We will always be looking at all the viable options available to continue to become more eco friendly.

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