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The digital world is growing exponentially by the second. But sadly, the natural world has had to bear the burden of fostering that growth. Environmental sustainability in technology is an ongoing conversation, and the topic on everyone’s mind is the environmental impact of data centers.


Data centers used an estimated 2% of the world’s electricity in 2019 while simultaneously generating nearly the amount of emissions as the airline industry. And since technology continues forward at a breakneck speed, the numbers are expected to skyrocket without some green intervention.


How can the world use what we know about sustainable energy and put it to use in our data centers while still meeting demand? Here’s what we should strive towards to protect our planet without sacrificing technological development or uptime for clients.


Start with Flexible Utility, Strive Towards Green Innovation

Data centers are in a tough spot with energy, as the supply for traditional energy eventually won’t meet the demand. Because of this, data centers should be moving towards green energy solutions. But it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach either; combining green energy with traditional energy can reduce the center’s emissions and environmental impact while guaranteeing some sustainability for clients.


Though green energy is the future of power, there’s still much to learn about companies can use them to their advantage. A company that transitions too quickly to green energy like wind power without doing their homework may experience downtime or succumb to an even less environmentally friendly resource like diesel. By easing the transition while still investing in sustainable options, you’re giving time for some of the more bare-bones green technology to catch up.


Think Outside Emissions

Energy consumption is a major player in the sustainability game, and data centers are responsible for taking that impact seriously. But there’s more to green energy than greenhouse gas emissions.


The concerns are much more nuanced and should be considered when creating a green energy plan for data centers. Data centers often use cooling towers, and generating the necessary electricity can consume large amounts of water. Using recycled or reclaimed water is an excellent green alternative that won’t affect the data center’s operations. And while data centers use a relatively small amount of land, the solar and wind farms built to power them could impact the surrounding land. So it’s not always as simple as going all in on sustainable energy.


Detailed Status Report

Ironically, what data centers need right now is more data—taking note of what works and what doesn’t can help fuel innovation for new solutions. If your data center plans to go green, measure any impacts the switch has made on the environment and the efficiency of the new systems. The more information extrapolated from these changes, the clearer the direction technology should take.


While green energy could answer a data center’s energy needs, many experts still aren’t sure if they’re asking the right questions to help get there. The planet’s decay makes figuring out what to do next a dire situation, and it’s exacerbated by a fear of green energy not meeting the needs of the masses and a disconnect within the data center field about colocation.


In the interim, data centers can slowly, and carefully take steps to become more environmentally friendly. And if they do it responsibly, they won’t lose their client’s trust along the way.