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Determining the Carbon Footprint of a Webserver

It is amazing how many hosting facilities do not know their own carbon footprint information. This means if you run a web server and care about your carbon footprint information, you often have to determine that carbon footprint data yourself. That is the case with us at BellaOnline. Our hosting company had no idea what their carbon footprint information was.

Here is how we determined the carbon footprint of our webservers. You should be able to use this same information to determine the carbon footprint of any web servers you host data on.

BellaOnline runs on three web servers which are hosted in a facility in North Carolina. These servers draw about 65 watts of power each. In our case we lease the entire server so we can remote terminal into the server itself and see what its statistics are, to know its power usage. If you are running on a shared machine, you would want to look up the statistics of your machine and see what its power usage is, and then divide that by how many other people are sharing with you. Your hosting company should at least be able to tell you the general type of machine you're on and the average number of accounts on a given machine.

So for BellaOnline, we are the only people on our machines, and we take on the full carbon footprint burden for each one. We have three machines, 65 watts of power each. To round up, let's assume that is 200 watts total of power usage for the three servers. The watts values given for servers are per hour.

Then we'll multiply that 200 watts by 2.5 to account for the energy the hosting facility has to use to cool down the servers (servers get warm when they are running) and to share in other power related activities (having the lights on, etc). Our servers are very dependable - they rarely if ever need to be handled by a human being there - so there are little to no other server side costs or activities to take into account. If you are in a situation where you are frequently calling in and talking with facility people to help with changes, you may want to account for their carbon usage in your calculations - their office space, their average commute, and so on.

In our case, with no people in the equation, we calculate 200 watts x 2.5 for facility related additional load = 500 watts an hour for the three servers.

Multiplying that times 24 hours a day is 12,000 watts. Multiplying that one day x 365 days in a year is 4,380,000 watts. Electricity is normally measred in kilowatt hours - not in basic watts - so then we divide by 1,000 (kilo) to get 4380 KWH for the year for the three servers.

Next comes determining how this electricity is likely to be supplied in North Carolina. According to the Institute for Energy Research, North Carolina's energy is provided on average by 55.3% coal, 34.3% nuclear, 4.1% natural gas, 4.1% hydroelectric, and 1.6% wood. You would want to look up the figures for the state or country that your servers are hosted in - it varies greatly by location.

So far so good. So we have 4,380 KWH that we want to proportionally divide up amongst these percentages. Then we want to figure out the CO2 created for each one. We used Wikipedia to determine the Carbon Footprint by Energy Type. That gets us this table:

Source
Percent
KWH
CO2 per KWH
Total CO2
Coal
55.3%
2,422
955
2,313,010
Nuclear
34.3%
1,502
65
97630
Natural Gas
4.1%
180
599
107,820
Hydroelectric
4.1%
180
15
2,700
Wood
1.6%
70
180
12,600
total
100%
4,380
-
2,533,760


That gives us a total carbon dioxide (CO2) footprint of 2,533,760 grams for the kilowatt hours of server use. CO2 usage is normally measured in kilograms, so dividing that by 1000 gives you 2,533kg of carbon dioxide. Converting that into tons gives you 2.8 tons per year.

So that is how we determined that our three BellaOnline webservers have a carbon footprint of 2.8 tons of CO2 per year.

Green Living and Carbon Footprints
BellaOnline Green Living Carbon Footprints main page
How to Calculate your Carbon Footprint
Ways to Offset your Carbon Footprint
Reduce your Carbon Footprint
Carbon Footprint Statistics
Determining the Carbon Footprint of a Webserver
FREE Green Living Ebook Series

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