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Why I Moved to a Green Hosting Service

Disclaimer: My research was comprehensive but not unlimited. Other “green” hosting options are surely available. I only considered U.S. companies. Also, there are affiliate links for AISO.net in this article.

GreenServerRoomA few months ago, my contract for hosting The Mindful Consumer and my other blog, The Geo Factor, came up for renewal. Because I had done some research around green data centers for my professional work, I knew that data centers have options for their energy sources. So I began to investigate the Web site and blog hosting companies that independent businesses and bloggers use, which all of course use their own data centers or outsource to others.

Paying attention to the sustainability practices of the technologies used to convey my messages seems apropos. I figured that others touting environmentalism and sustainable living would share my attitude, so my first inclination was to find green hosting service companies by looking at which hosting companies the other green bloggers use.

logo_epagppartnerUnfortunately, my run through that sustainable living neighborhood yielded few who were using hosting companies generally considered green. Most sites say nothing about their sustainability practices or energy usage policies. So I used WhoIsHostingThis to check several of the big environmental organizations and green bloggers. Some use Amazon Web services, which uses some renewable sources. Several sites appear to use Rackspace Hosting, which doesn’t mention sustainable practices on its Web site, but I dug around to find that its parent Rackspace claims to use 35% renewables.

Such lack of attention amongst the environmental community to its hosting choices is troubling. These organizations and their members are doing important work to improve sustainability and help the earth. So why not pay attention to who is hosting their Web sites? By some estimates cloud computing alone is consuming 1-2 percent of the world’s electricity resources. Others estimate that information technology-related emissions are approximately 2 percent of global emissions, equal to emissions from the global aviation sector. Perhaps the smaller “green” hosting companies can’t support the larger sites. Maybe the organizations did think through the decision, but aren’t communicating their reasons publically. There ought to be clear statements from green bloggers and environmental organizations about their hosting providers, not buried on an obscure CSR page.

PIA03149To end my own hypocrisy, I decided to switch to a hosting provider that like me considers sustainability important. First, I looked into my hosting company at the time, Westhost. I had used Westhost for years, and its services were adequate for my needs. However, there’s no commitment to sustainability through any statement of policy or use of renewable energy. When I asked its support group, they pointed me to its server company, which didn’t mention sustainability. It was time to investigate alternatives.

I found 10 hosting companies that touted their sustainable practices with options oriented to a low-volume user like me. But not all are created equal. Sustainable hosting comes in multiple levels in which the hosting company:

  1. Claims sustainable practices such as recycling and encouraging employee telecommuting. One provider touts that it plants trees.
  2. Claims to purchase and use servers with the best-available energy efficiencies.
  3. Purchases renewable energy credits to offset use of standard energy sources.
  4. Uses renewable energy.

Screenshot 2015-01-22 17.38.56

Only one amongst those I found, AISO.net, actually uses renewable energy. While the renewable energy credits are better than nothing, I decided to support direct use of renewable energy. AISO.net stands distinct from the other providers I found. Its on-site solar panels in Menifee, California power the data center and office. Backup generators use the cleaner propane fuel instead of diesel. AISO.net also uses windows and solar tubes for natural lighting. To maintain temperature, its building is painted white and its cooling system uses latent cooling rather than traditional refrigeration. Another difference is its use of wireless Internet backbones rather than cables, eliminating the digging necessary to add more feeds or bandwidth. Inside, AISO.net uses a mini wind turbine in its ducting to charge batteries. Lastly, the company building has a green roof and rainwater collection system.

There are other factors to consider in selecting a hosting plan, including bandwidth and disk space limits, number of domains and databases allowed, and price. The importance of those variables differs based on your site.

Frankly, no other hosting provider seems to approach the sustainable practices of AISO.net. I worried about support from what looks like a relatively small company. Surely, I thought, I would run into support challenges during the transition but decided they were worth the risk.

So I selected my hosting plan and started the transition from Westhost. There were issues moving my two blogs off Westhost and onto AISO.net. Those issues were the result of me not completely understanding the process and doing some things out of order. AISO.net support people helped me navigate through all of the issues and were very patient with my limited technical knowledge. My timing of transition was around the holidays, yet the support people were always responsive; I heard back usually within hours.

For its part, the Westhost people were also supportive, but its documentation about leaving its service and moving the data elsewhere was non-existent. Of course I can’t yet report on AISO.net’s reliability and ongoing service but based on my installation experiences, expect good things.

AISO-green-data-center1-300x224Finding a “green” hosting service was surprisingly difficult. This a time when climate change is in the news daily, and environmental groups and bloggers are being heard more than ever. Sadly, the community seems behind in its hosting selections. Fortunately, I was able to move my two blogs easily to a hosting provider that aligns with our mindful consumption practices – AISO.net.

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Earth Day 2012 – Appreciate First

It’s Earth Day. You can get a free reusable bag at Target. There’s activities commemorating our planet. Many of us are thinking about what we can and should do to help better our home.

There is so much to do. Climate change. Pollution. Energy depletion. Population growth. But step one is to appreciate. The sounds of birds chirping and waves sloshing the sands of the beach. The colors of the sunsets and feel of raindrops on your head. The glory of mountain peaks and the miracle of the tiny flower.

A mindful consumer thinks about what they eat, where it comes from, where the packaging ends up. Are the lights on in rooms where no one is? Does the temperature inside need to be that warm/cold? Do I really need to take that trip or can I combine it with another? All small stuff that we can each do.

Yet as important is to be aware that the Earth is a closed system with limited resources. As we enjoy its fruits and its beauty, we can show our appreciation every day, not just today.

And remember to use those free reusable bags!

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Listen Up! Living Green Podcasts

Like many people, I spend a lot of time in the car. Which means lots of time to listen to things, if I so choose. Sometimes that’s radio or music on my MP3 player. I’ve also grown fond of podcasts, and listen to a lot of them around the topic of sustainability, green living, and environmental science. So when I’m not anxious to hear the latest weather or my favorite Aerosmith classics, I’m likely listening to a discussion of organic farming or the latest energy projects. But finding podcasts that aired regularly and had substance took time!

If you haven’t listened to podcasts, it’s fairly easy whether on your smart-phone, audio file player (iPod), tablet, or computer; a good overview is “How Podcasting Works.” I use my smart-phone, which like an MP3 or iPod player does better with a podcast player application. You can use iTunes or the standard media players on the devises they support. I’ve tried the media players and several of the free podcast applications for my Galaxy S phone and prefer Car Cast. It’s easy to use and I appreciate the big buttons when driving.

Some of the podcast directories are a waste of time – I found much of their material dated, so that many of the search results are discontinued podcasts. All of those listed here have ongoing content, with regular episodes ranging from weekly to periodically on a less frequent schedule. If you want more, look at your favorite Web sites to see whether they cover your interests with podcasts. They are interesting and fun!

I listen to these Podcasts

Earth Eats

Earth Eats is a weekly program of real food and green living hosted by Chef Daniel Orr. The program explores local food and sustainable agriculture with recipes you can make at home, interviews with local farmers and Chef Orr’s musings on food, history and culture.” From Indiana Public Media.

If you like food and care how it gets to your table, this podcast offers interesting discussions.

Quick reports on the science of the environment and the future of energy from Scientific American.

 

More Hip Than Hippie

Dori and Val tell you everything you wanted to know about living a green lifestyle that is more hip than hippie. It’s upbeat, informative, and at times rather funny. (Yes, we shave).” Recent topics include food swapping and how to be car-free. This is one of the longest running podcasts I found around living green. Podcasters Dori and Val might appeal more to a female audience, but the content is interesting to all. Of course this is two women talking, so some might think there is some extraneous banter, but it’s all in fun 🙂 Besides a green lifestyle, they review beer and chocolate, thus adding some flavor for listeners. There is regular mention of the greenfeet.com online store, which Val founded. It’s a fun listen and educational too.

Here on Earth

Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders is a live one-hour weekday global cultural affairs program with a focus on the future. We offer breakthrough stories that entertain, inspire, and provide insight to people who are genuinely fascinated by the breadth, difference, and complexity in the world.” From Wisconsin Public Radio.

This podcast offers a wide range of topics, some of which are related to sustainability.

 

 

Podcasts I don’t yet listen to but appear to be promising

Living Green Podcast

Texas Public Radio’s Dan Skinner explores a wide range green activities and issues in San Antonio and beyond. Topics include alternative energy, energy conservation, environmental conservation, community gardens, parks, transportation, and more.

TreeHugger Radio
“TreeHugger is the leading media outlet dedicated to driving sustainability mainstream. Partial to a modern aesthetic, we strive to be a one-stop shop for green news, solutions, and product information. We publish an up to the minute blog, weekly anddaily newsletters, weekly radio interviews, and regularly updated Twitter and Facebook pages.”

The EnvironMinute
Each EnvironMinute feature contains solutions-oriented information that encourages listeners to make informed choices about their health and the health of their environment. The EnvironMinute has been a success since its launch in 1991.

The Organic View
The Organic View Radio Show” is a unique, live, interactive, internet talk-radio show that features key leaders, innovators and educators who work within industries that involve organics, environment, politics, living green and sustainability. Host, June Stoyer, explores the background and mission of each guest. Questions are taken by the audience via Twitter, Skype, Facebook and email. Listeners are encouraged to call (917) 932-1068 to ask questions or send an email to questions (at)theorganicview.com”

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Precycling: What the heck is it?

We all know by now what recycling is. We hear the term “reuse” and can deduce it
means using things over and over. But what’s precycling? It is reducing the waste before it even gets in to your house. Cloth shopping bags, less disposable items (we switched to all cloth napkins in the house, and not only are we precycling, but we are impressing our friends who think we are extra fancy). Precycling can also mean not buying something in the first place. Another example of precycling is buying in bulk.Ingredients is a new grocery store opening soon in Austin, TX. It’s one of the first package-free and zero waste grocery stores in the U.S. I heard about it on the PRI podcast, “Living on Earth.” The concept behind the store is simple: shoppers bring their own containers and fill them up with food they want. Cashiers weigh the groceries and customers pay according to the prices of the goods (subtracting the weights of the containers). It’s like using the bulk items section of a grocery store plus using your own containers. No plastic bags on a roll. No wasteful packaging. If you forget your container they have free compostable ones for you to use.So this sounds feasible for dry goods but what about drinks? It turns out the original idea
for the Ingredients store concept was beer and wine. So shoppers can eat, drink, and be
green – all in one shopping venue.If you think this seems too “new age” for you, think about the old general store from the turn of the last century. It carried bulk items, not packaged individually, and one could get what one needed, in the amounts wanted. Packaging lasts longer and has more impacts on the environment than most things sold at the store, and long after the granola bar has been happily eaten, the foil wrapper, and paper box remain.

Precycling is perhaps the most effective way to reduce our footprint on the Earth. For U.S. consumers it is a mostly unfamiliar concept and practice that will take time and education to catch on. However, the benefits are tremendous and come at relatively low cost; so time to change behavior where we can!

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How We Made our Wedding Green!

Our Wedding Color is GREEN…
The two creators of The Mindful Consumer, Sara and Ron, are tying the (local, organic, undyed cotton) knot! We wanted to share with you a few of the decisions we made to make our wedding a more sustainable event, and to reflect who we are…  we want to share with you some of the ways this wedding is a little different (and a little greener) than some other events.
-Invitations. Instead of using traditionally mailed invitations, we used electronic invitations, a YouTube video, and a web site to announce our wedding and enable RSVPs. Not only do we avoid needless paper production, stamps, energy and we save money.. it’s also EASY! Instead of sending out the little RSVP card back to us, you can just click, and it’s done. See? Your guests have no excuse not to RSVP. 

-Reception. We are having our reception at an organic, vegetarian restaurant. Instead of having the event catered, where oftentimes food goes to waste, the guests will be able to order what they like, there will be less waste, and we can support a local, organic business. Plus the food is really good, and if we were going out on a romantic date, this is where we’d pick.

-Rings. We bought an antique ring for Sara instead of new, and titanium for Ron. Gold and diamond production is some of the most ecologically and socially damaging productions on earth. Instead of putting our money towards that industry, by buying antique and titanium we do not create new demand for that product, plus it’s just beautiful. Let Sara show off her ring to you, you’ll never want to buy a “new” diamond again.

– Clothing. We are planning on renting a tux for Ron (which is so much more friendly than buying it for 1 event) and Sara plans on donating her dress to an organization that loans wedding dresses out to low income brides. We aren’t asking anyone else to buy special clothing for the event. Less waste.

-Honeymoon. We are spending a few days at a close by B&B. Although many couples travel (we plan on traveling this year for the second leg of our wedding extravaganza) by doing something local, and privately owned, we can put some money back in to our economy.

– Party favors. I know, when a guest leaves a wedding the first thing they say is how much they loved the little party favors left on the tables… okay, not really. Instead of spending the money on party favors which will no doubt be tossed, lost, or forgotten, we are donating to our favorite charity the money we would have otherwise used to buy the little made-in-china baubles. The guests will hardly remember the favor, but they may remember the idea that there was some money donated in their name.

-Flowers. For Sara’s bouquet, we are picking local flowers at a nearby pick-your-own farm. Peonies are beautiful, in bloom, and local- what can be better than that?

 

Whenever your wedding is, we wish you the best of luck, happiness, and mindful consuming. Cheers!

 

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Mindful Consumption is a Mindset

As I walk around, observing, I notice. Some people pick up litter on the sidewalk. Some are careful when they pump gas to not drip any on the pavement. Some bring a reusable cup into the coffee place. It seems some people just weave mindful consumption habits into their daily lives. Earth Day is soon, it’s a huge world, and trying to make it “greener” seems overwhelming. But is it? Like diets, a sudden change to become green could backfire. However, all of us can take some little steps. Combine car trips. Precycle. Recycle. What one little behavior will you change today?
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