Becoming a Climate Positive Business

Written by Jo Stonehouse 0 Comments
If ever I mention to someone that each year the Internet contributes more CO2e than the entire aviation industry, I am often met with total surprise. Most people will be genuinely unaware that the Internet is one of the leading contributors to the climate emergency we are facing today, emitting over a billion tons of CO2e every year.

Every time we catch up on our favourite websites, watch goofy videos or shop online, data travels across vast distances from web servers to our computer and back again, passing through the many different independent networks that form the Internet. Across the globe, millions, upon millions of these servers run around the clock to deliver the online experiences we each now take for granted. Those servers are all stored in vast datacentres, and they consume enormous amounts of electricity - not just to keep them switched on, but often nearly as much again just to keep them cool.

It is not at all surprising that few people are aware of this.

Everything we do online happens so instantly, and seems so innocent, that few people really appreciate the physical mechanics that go on behind the scenes.

The environmental impact of internet datacentres

The first time that I entered a datacentre, now nearly two decades ago, I was completely unprepared for the deafening noise made by thousands of servers all whirring relentlessly in harmony, each one sucking in cool, chilled air and expelling hot air from the other side. The building itself, massive in scale, also contained a network of colourful pipes, leading to separate rooms dedicated to air conditioning or fire suppression systems. Yet more rooms were filled with banks of batteries, diesel backup generators and even its own dedicated power sub-station, a crowning symbol of the sheer energy that was being consumed.

This is the industrial heart of the Internet that very few people get to see, but witnessing it first hand was an awakening moment for me.

For the first time, I really started to understand what lay beyond the click of my mouse.

a montage of a large internet data center showing its industrial nature
A montage of a large internet data center showing its industrial nature.

This was the beginning of my journey with Kualo, but as we grew, and the number of servers that we used started to increase, we became ever more aware of the harmful impact we were contributing to.

We therefore made a conscious decision to focus on ensuring that our tiny corner of the web would be as green as we could make it, becoming one of the first hosting companies to do so.

A trailer for the BBC documentary: "Dirty Streaming: The Internet's big secret"

Making energy efficient choices

Today we aim to be as energy efficient as we can be, employing technologies such as hot aisle containment and free air cooling, choosing modern, low-power servers and making extensive use of virtualisation so we make the most out of every amp of power. The electricity we consume in our datacentres comes from renewable generation, as regulated by Ofgem in the UK, and as certified by Green-E in the US. Our policies encourage waste reduction and recyling, and for many years before it became trendy, we have been completely equipped to make remote working not just possible, but normal.

However, we know that this is not enough. Combatting the climate emergency requires governments, companies and individuals to do even more.

Though our corner of the web may be greener than most, we cannot account for the myriad of networks and datacentres our customers’ data passes through after it leaves our network.

Our business is also not only powered by servers - but by humans. Lovely humans. Humans who work tirelessly to ensure those servers keep humming, and our customers' questions are answered in record time.

And although these lovely humans might each be environmentally conscientious and minimise their individual impact, they all travel, they all consume, they all create waste, and so they all have their own CO2e footprint.

As a company we additionally consume CO2e through the supply chains we use and the products we buy, which must be manufactured and transported, and disposed of.

This has been the state of affairs for the two decades that we have been fortunate enough to be in business.

We are now on a mission to be climate positive.


How are we doing this?

We've partnered with Ecologi, and with their help, each month we will be supporting a range of carbon offset projects which have been certified by Gold Standard to verifiably remove CO2e, and which are also in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Ecologi Climate Positive Workforce

Our support will mean that each month we make investments in projects that remove substantially more CO2e than we consume as a company, including the personal consumption of our workforce in their daily lives.

However, to become truly climate positive, we must not forget our past. To that end over the next 5 years, we will also "pay back" our historic CO2e consumption, and that of our workforce, back to the day we were founded.

To achieve this, we'll be purchasing offsets that remove over many tons of CO2e, each and every month, as well as 1.2 tons for every one of our team.

a montage of a wind turbine and solar array
Wind Energy in Andhra Pradesh and Solar Power in Maharashtra are two of the certified carbon offset projects we've supported so far.

We must also plan for the future, and we will be by supporting responsible reforestation projects that will not only help remove CO2e for years to come, but also support the surrounding ecosystem. Reforestation is widely understood as a major natural climate solution - from an ecological point of view we’re only just grasping the cost of what life is like without trees.

We are setting ourselves an initial target to plant 100,000 trees, which will be distributed across various reforestation projects that Ecologi support.

So far, we've planted more than 50,000 trees, and will be adding to this every single month.

Up until now, Ecologi have largely focused on Mangrove reforestation, since Mangroves have incredible CO2 munching properties which allows them to sequester four times as much carbon per acre than tropical rainforests. Ecologi have recently added several new reforestation projects, including restoring tropical rainforest in Nicaragua, and we will also be supporting local reforestation efforts in the United Kingdom and United States.

mangrove planting in madagascar and reforesting baron land in dalry scotland
Mangrove Planting in Madagascar (credit to Eden Reforestation) and Reforesting Baron Degraded Land in Dalry, Scotland (credit to The Future Forest Company).

The trees that are planted will of course go on to remove carbon emissions from the environment, but, importantly, they do not form any part of our CO2e reduction totals.

The carbon sequestered by these reforestation projects will happen in the future over many decades. It is this combination of making reductions today, and planning reductions in the future, that helps create a comprehensive strategy to limit climate change.

Help us reach our goal!

Kualo’s Ecologi profilescreenshot of kualo's ecologi profile details the trees we’ve planted (which in some cases include photos of the trees themselves) along with which CO2e reduction projects we’ve helped fund.

From here we can track our progress and see the impact we've made.

Help us reach our goal of planting 100,000 trees by making your own contribution to the Kualo forest!

Just visit our Ecologi profile, and click the “Gift more impact” button.

You'll be able to make your own tree donation, and any trees you contibute can include your name which will appear when someone clicks on those trees.

Or, you can link to your donation from your own website and your specific tree donation will appear.


5 Quick Tips to Help Your Business Become Climate Positive

If you're looking to become a climate positive business, here are 5 quick tips:

  1. Use renewable electricity. Powering your business (and home) with a renewable energy contract is one of the simplest changes you can make towards climate positivity. In some cases if you haven't changed tarrifs in a while you might even save money by doing so.
  2. Drive electric. There are more and more electric car and van choices coming on the market. Electric vehicles are also often extremely tax efficient for a business to buy compared to traditional petrol or diesel cars.
  3. Plant trees and offset carbon emissions. There are many ways to do this but as you can tell, we're big fans of what the folks at Ecologi are doing. It's super easy to get started with a meaningful monthly contribution and you can always go further based on your own goals. Here's the kicker: sign up via Kualo's Ecologi profile and we'll each get 30 trees planted for free.
  4. Green your website. Switch your website to a green web hosting service that runs on renewable energy, and when you next overhaul your website, ask your designer about sustainable web design.
  5. Make eco conscious supplier choices. Choose to work with businesses who are climate positive, or who at least have strong public environmental policies. The more that people make this a part of their supply chain process, the faster we'll collectively be able to combat climate change.

We really could go on!

There are so many more ways to start becoming climate positive, but it's important to start somewhere. With these 5 tips yo can start your journey towards climate positivity TODAY!





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About the Author

Jo Stonehouse is the Founder and Managing Director at Kualo. He loves helping businesses succeed online, and is based in London were he lives with his wife, Sali, daughter Seren, son Griff and dog, Milo.