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Sustainability Report 2016: Did Our Data Centers Get Greener?

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Green House Data released our first Sustainability Report last year, covering the calendar year of 2015. Our goal for this initial report was largely to set a baseline by which we can measure our environmental impact from year to year, as well as to maintain our goal of transparency as a company.

As we’ve written about many times before, the data center industry is not particularly environmentally friendly. We consume millions and billions of kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, which is our biggest contributor to emissions. But computing equipment also has a significant toll on the environment. We also consume quite a bit of water.

By focusing on energy-efficient design and operation methods like free cooling and aisle containment, data centers can reduce consumption. Green House Data goes beyond low PUE ratings and tries to be as green as possible throughout our operations.

How did we fare in 2016? Let’s take a look at some Sustainability Report highlights to find out.


Increased Growth = Increased Renewable Investment

Green House Data continues to grow and expand in each of our facilities. We also have added additional staff and customers. This all contributes to a larger carbon footprint year-over-year. Looking at the graph of our electric consumption, it appears that we’ve become bigger energy hogs.

But in truth we have added efficiency gains throughout facilities. This includes new containment systems in the Seattle data center, which will help reduce the air conditioning load and by extension electric consumption (more on this in a future blog post).

We also purchased more renewable energy credits (RECs) than ever before this year. Because our growth outpaced our projections, we had to add a one-time purchase in early 2017 to true up our REC totals with the actual electric consumption from calendar year 2016.

In 2016, the company purchased 20,270,000 kWh worth of RECs, an increase of 4,595,000 kWh over 2015. You can read more about our philosophy regarding the purchase of RECs on the blog or in the full report below.

Electricity Consumption by Location

Energy Consumption by Location
data center electricity consumption by month

Electricity Consumption, 2015 vs. 2016

Data center facility electricity consumption, 2015 compared to 2016

New Sustainability Initiatives

2016 brought several new sustainability initiatives to Green House Data. Additional tracking for this year’s sustainability report included flight mileage and associated carbon emissions, as well as refrigerant emissions from air conditioning units. This added to our overall carbon footprint, but the company remained below net zero due to REC and carbon credit investments. These metrics in particular should be a primary goal for improvement moving forward, as they are more controllable than electricity consumption.

Total Emissions for 2016 by Type

total data center emissions by type for 2016

The company purchased a Chevy Volt as part of its service fleet, allowing managed services staff to commute to and from jobs with far less environmental impact. Another new program is the One-for-One initiative, for which Green House Data purchases a tree for every promotional item we buy and give away. These trees come with certified carbon credits from the Arbor Day Foundation and will help rejuvenate the Mississippi Alluvial Valley.

Within the company, we implemented a new training deck to encourage green practices throughout all office locations, including increased recycling, careful water consumption, and the purchase of environmentally friendly cleaning materials. Employees may also receive a reimbursement of up to $50 to plant a tree or bushes on their own home property.


B Corp Recertification

Green House Data recertified as B Corp in 2016, improving our overall B Score from 82 to a 90 (the median score for all those who take the Impact Report is a 55). Areas that helped boost the score included equal pay for male and female employees, our environmental commitment, and investment in employee training and professional development.


What’s Next?

We achieved the majority of our goals for 2016. The most glaring item missing is the improvement of containment systems in Bellingham and Everett, although Seattle did receive new containment.

For 2017, the company will continue to improve efficiency throughout our facilities. With the acquisition of Cirracore, we have new locations to audit and bring up to our high standards, should we find them to be lacking in efficient design. We also will add more REC purchases for these locations.

We aim to climb further up the EPA Green Power Partner Top 30 Tech & Telecom list, which ranks the largest purchasers of green energy within the technology realm. In 2016, Green House Data was 27th on the list.

For more details, you can read the entire sustainability report below.

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