Sustainable Hosting: EthicalHost Founder John MacKenzie Details How the Toronto-Based Provider Offsets Its Environmental Impact

Sustainable Hosting: EthicalHost Founder John MacKenzie Details How the Toronto-Based Provider Offsets Its Environmental Impact

TL; DR: In a world where buzzwords like “cloud” are thrown around daily, it’s easy to forget the internet is a tangible thing that has a very real impact on our planet. For EthicalHost, however, there’s no shutting out reality. The company continuously strives to make its hosting solutions eco-friendly through partnerships with renewable energy providers and carbon offsetting organizations. Those efforts, combined with reliable, competitively priced hosting and SEO solutions, create a winning formula for environmentally conscious businesses worldwide.

The paperless revolution is here at last. For the sake of our planet, we’ve traded home libraries for Kindles, filing cabinets for Google Drive, and party invitations for Evites. While the move has helped reduce environmental impact in many ways, the result is not all sunshine and rainbows. Rather than printing content, we now store it in massive datacenters that consume immense amounts of electricity and emit carbon dioxide.

To put things in perspective, consider the 15 datacenters that power Google’s servers worldwide. According to Google’s 2017 Environmental Report, the company’s carbon footprint was 2.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent — a measure used to rank greenhouse gas emissions based on global warming potential — in 2016 alone. That’s just Google: As of 2017, there were an estimated 8.4 million datacenters (albeit of varying sizes) across the globe.

That said, the situation isn’t hopeless. Companies like EthicalHost, a green hosting provider based in Toronto, are making a difference for both the Earth and its inhabitants through partnerships with green energy providers and carbon offset organizations. As consumers increasingly prioritize sustainability in their purchase decisions, businesses that adopt eco-friendly practices have an opportunity to cater to a growing market.

EthicalHost logo

Toronto-based EthicalHost provides eco-friendly hosting solutions through partnerships with renewable energy providers.

EthicalHost Founder John MacKenzie has seen the trend first-hand, especially in locations known to promote an eco-friendly lifestyle. “Our customers are located around the world — in Toronto and British Columbia as well as Australia, Brazil, Spain, and Italy,” John said. “We also serve a fair number of businesses from states like California, Oregon, and Washington.”

Earth-Friendly Partnerships with Bullfrog Power and ClimateCare

EthicalHost partners with Bullfrog Power, an organization working to guide Canada into a future powered by renewable rather than non-renewable energy sources, such as coal, gas and nuclear power. Bullfrog estimates the amount of power a business uses based on size, and then puts the same amount of energy from green sources like wind and water on the power grid.

EthicalHost receives a regular electric bill as well as a separate bill from Bullfrog for the additional cost of green electricity. “Bullfrog Power helps EthicalHost offset power usage in Canada and put money directly into renewable energy projects like solar, hydro, and wind,” John said.

Bullfrog Power and ClimateCare logos

EthicalHost’s partnerships with Bullfrog Power and ClimateCare help the company build a more sustainable future.

The company also works with ClimateCare, a group that helps business who want to operate responsibly to do so in a measured, effective way. ClimateCare evaluates environmental impacts before creating a cost-effective plan to help its partners meet environmental objectives.

“Instead of funding a wind farm or other renewable energy sources, ClimateCare goes a little bit further in terms of helping improve people’s lives in addition to carbon offsetting,” John said. “When I first signed up they were providing cook stoves to help people in Africa prepare meals while reducing emissions at the same time. I thought that seemed like a perfect fit in terms of offsets for server usage.”

In this way, John’s goal is two-pronged: To contribute to a more sustainable future while improving the lives of others. “I’ve always aimed to have a socially responsible business that gives back to the community,” he said.

Competitively Priced Hosting and Domain Registration Services

With EthicalHost, consumers seeking an eco-friendly hosting solution don’t have to sacrifice quality or pay unreasonably high fees. In fact, most of John’s customers are budget-minded SMBs and individuals.

The company’s plans are tiered in three levels — bronze, silver, and gold — and vary in terms of disk space, bandwidth, email accounts, domains allowed, MySQL databases, and eCommerce features. All hosting packages include a 60-day money-back guarantee, free transfer assistance, and instant backups.

Photo of a server

The company’s bronze, silver, and gold hosting plans all include a money-back guarantee and free transfer assistance.

John told us EthicalHost stands up to competition from industry giants. “The main challenge is competing with sellers that offer unlimited this, unlimited that — but when you read the fine print, it’s not really unlimited,” he said. “I recently had a customer say they were going to switch to GoDaddy, and I had to lay it out — ‘I can’t match GoDaddy’s cheap intro prices, but know that you’re getting a lot more server resources, better security, and cheaper renewal rates with my plans.”

According to John, the other factor that sets EthicalHost apart from its competitors is that he offers automatic backups. “I actually back up all customers’ sites every few hours regardless if they pay for it or not,” he said. “Most big hosts charge several dollars a month for host-based backups. I charge a small, one-time fee if customer wants access to those backups within cPanel.”

EthicalHost also offers cheap domain name registration services, including competitively priced domain privacy for users who wish to omit their personal information — such as name, address, phone, email, and business — from the public ICANN WHOIS database. Domain privacy ensures that the information displayed is generic.

“If you’re looking for domain privacy, I’m actually quite a bit cheaper than some other providers,” John said. “ A lot of the big registrars try to hit you up with a $10 or $12 fee, whereas I only charge $4 Canadian for the privacy. Not a lot of people realize that.”

Weekly WordPress Upgrades, Updates, and Security Monitoring

It’s a well-known fact that WordPress is the most popular CMS around, powering more than 30% of the web. John told us EthicalHost designed its new WordPress Update and Security Monitoring service specifically to serve the platform’s many users.

“This is important because most people don’t keep their WordPress sites or plugins updated properly, making them very vulnerable to hacking,” he said. “I have a scanner on my server that quarantines known exploits automatically on all sites, but it can’t catch everything.”

For 55 Canadian dollars annually or a one-time lifetime fee of 220 Canadian dollars, EthicalHost will provide WordPress upgrades, updates, and security audits on a weekly basis. Users with multiple WordPress blogs will receive a 25% discount on all subsequent sites. According to John, this rate is quite competitive, as similar WordPress tune-ups cost anywhere from 20 to 100 Canadian dollars per month.

Features include an initial security analysis, security modifications, weekly plugin monitoring, and regular updates to the WordPress platform itself. In the rare case that updates cause WordPress or any of the site’s plugins to fail, EthicalHost will fix those errors at no cost. This service is not available for customized themes due to their high-risk nature, but John told us he is happy to provide custom quotes in such cases.

Corporate Donations to Charities and Nonprofit Organizations

In addition to its environmentally conscious platform, EthicalHost strives to give back to the community by donating 10% of pre-tax profits to charities and non-profit organizations. Best of all, customers can get in on the action.

“I ask for customer suggestions regarding which organizations we should support when they sign up,” John said. “I look through those each year and place them into one of three categories: economic and social justice, the environment and biodiversity, and world poverty and human rights.”

Photos of the Wakefield Grannies organization at various events

EthicalHost supports the Wakefield Grannies, who provide financial assistance to women caring for AIDS orphans.

From the customer recommendations, John selects three organizations within each category and allows customers to choose their top pick. “I try to include organizations that are not necessarily well-known, but do really great work,” he said.

One such organization is the Wakefield Grannies, a group of women in Wakefield, Quebec, who provide financial assistance to women in South Africa caring for AIDS-orphaned grandchildren. They do so through fundraising events including concerts, quilt sales, and plays.

“I enjoy finding neat charities like the Wakefield Grannies — the different little organizations a lot of people may not have heard of,” John said. “They get a donation, and my customer base gets to learn about them as well. It might turn them on to something they never would have found otherwise.”

In this way, EthicalHost is truly creating a service that benefits both the Earth and its human inhabitants — and we think that’s a win-win situation.

Christine Preusler

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