17 February 2019
Is there somewhere in the world where you feel most at peace? For me it’s walking through the trees of Beddgelert Forest in North Wales or the snowy mountains of Verbier, Switzerland.
A couple of weeks ago I found myself back in Verbier. We experienced the biggest snowfall we’ve seen here in some time, followed by bluebird skies. Nature at its finest.
Looking across the valley to the incredible peaks of the Alps with no phone signal, away from the concrete of the modern world, you realise just how precious nature actually is.
It’s terrifying to think that in the US, emissions grew 3.4% last year. That’s the largest annual jump since 2010 – the second largest increase in more than 20 years. Many are reporting that climate change progress continues to stall as President Trump pushes back on key legislation.
Our impact on the environment is a constant focus, particularly for me as the CEO of a business in an incredibly power-hungry industry. I am proud that we only use green energy and are 100% carbon neutral at UKFast. We offset every part of our carbon footprint, including our team’s commute to work.
Our newest data centre, MaNOC 8, is our greenest data centre yet, with super-efficient UPS AC power supply and generators. Every detail is taken into consideration from the types of servers we install, right down to smallest of detail with the lighting in the facility, which is the most energy-efficient LED we could find.
To further reduce our impact, the data centre team is working hard to remove hundreds of unused servers from our first data centre, MaNOC 4.
But the biggest impact we have scheduled for 2019 is a green initiative where we have teamed up with Cisco to remove and replace all of our traditional Cisco dedicated firewalls with their latest Cisco software ones. We literally have thousands.
Back in the mid 2000’s we made it mandatory that all of our customers were placed behind Cisco firewalls. Over the years we have given every single client firewalls with their solutions. It was a sizeable investment but a necessary one.
This latest initiative is a big one, but I firmly believe that applying a ‘green mindset’ to your business decisions, drives innovation and eventually profit. It’s also important to provide our customers with the very best that is available too.
Our RnD team have been working for some time with the Cisco IOS Firewall. It not only gives us and our clients at UKFast more capacity at their fingertips, it also has some significant security improvements. My favourite benefit of course though is the speed it takes to deploy. Instead of it being a manual job, the entire launch process for a dedicated server and Cisco firewall is done in a matter of minutes at the touch of a button. We have even created a dedicated Cisco Firewall management console in our client control panel so you can manage the features yourself.
It turns out that reducing your carbon footprint does save money too. When planning for our future data centres, we’re now factoring in the extra space we get back with every firewall we remove. Because we are talking large numbers here, it actually increases the amount of available power we have left in our data centres. Ultimately that means we have a little bit longer before needing to build our next one.
An ongoing commitment
We have a few certifications to confirm our commitment to environment at UKFast. We have achieved the carbon neutral PAS 2060 standard. Alongside this, we’ve achieved our ISO 14001:2015 certification showing that we adhere to its environmental standards too. And we have gained CCA (Climate Change Agreement) accreditation for three data centres (MaNOC 5,6 and 7).
These highlight our energy efficiency and we’re government accredited for this. To add to this more than 70% of our waste is recycled. It is collected, sorted and recycled by a waste collection company off site, so whilst we don’t have separated waste bins at our campus, it is still recycled.Any other waste is converted into energy, our waste management company recently confirmed that none of our waste goes into landfill.
However, there is always more we can all do to reduce our impact on the environment.
I often refer back to how small, 1% changes accumulate to have a huge impact. Changing our habits to be better for the environment follows this principle too. Starting by cutting out plastic straws or remembering to turn off monitors at the end of the day, collectively can save a huge amount of waste.
Think about whether you really need to print out a document or email. Do you need to start a new notebook or do you still have pages to use in an existing one? These are small changes but can have a huge impact on the overall amount of waste we create.
According to Action Energy, if a monitor is left switched on overnight it uses the energy equivalent of a laser printer producing 800 A4 printouts!
We’ve made these small adjustments at UKFast replacing the kettles in the kitchens with water heaters. Not only does this mean the team have hot water literally on tap, it’s significantly more energy efficient.
We have also designed an intelligent lighting system that allows us to control all the electrical devices, lights, computers, alarms, cameras, literally everything electrical via remote computers and mobile telephones. This guarantees at night we can go into a power save mode without relying on us humans!
A collective responsibility
I am currently sitting on a swing, writing away on a tiny island in the Maldives. I have been coming to the Maldives for 18 years, since our honeymoon. This year we decided to try somewhere new. We chose Soneva Fushi because of their commitment to their recycling and green approach to life.
They certainly walk the walk too. When getting to know the owners, Eva and Sonu, it’s immediately apparent why they do what they do. It doesn’t just stop there either, they have reduced the wifi on the island which reduces the impact it’s having on our brains, but also means we get to work less too. I was a bit sceptical about this at first, but wow! What a difference it’s making. And yes, I am writing my blog, but afterwards, my laptop goes off and it’s back to relaxing again.
I will do a separate blog on Soneva and their way of life, as there is too much to cram into this one post and I really want to do it justice.
Making conscious choices about how you consume, from where you buy and who you choose to do business with is the first step to making a big change.
That being said, the media is constantly bombarding us with messaging encouraging us to change our personal practices to tackle the overall impact we have on the environment. But really, the big change will come from huge corporations changing their practices. It’s hard for consumers to cut single-use plastics from their lives. It’s even more difficult when the big retailers are covering everything in plastic packaging, for example.
It’s positive to see that social change is driving commercial change across the rest of the world. In 2018 we saw McDonalds, Starbucks, Pret, Costa, and many pub chains all committing to removing the use of plastic straws immediately or within the near future. We did it too in the Farinet Hotel. Much to my amazement, our biggest challenge there was the sheer amount of plastic cups we go through in Apres, our ski venue. Because it’s technically outside even though it has a glass roof, we aren’t allowed to use glass.
This year Scotty proudly handed me a plastic looking cup and said “What do you think?”
He saw I was a bit confused, he then explained they are made out of corn. They’re 100% recyclable. We go through hundreds of thousands of these, so this is a huge improvement, and only made possible because someone, somewhere, has made a conservative effort to innovate because they care.
Small changes make a big difference. The plastic bag charge has seen the use of plastic bags in the big seven supermarkets drop 86% since it was introduced in 2015.
At the end of 2018, we saw supermarket Iceland take a real stand on their commitment to the environment. Not only are they committed to reducing waste, they’re also cutting palm oil from their own-brand ranges. It is estimated that the palm oil industry has caused the death of 100,000 orang-utans in the past 16 years. Iceland are certainly leading the charge. But what about the big energy providers? The oil companies?
I hope that 2019 is the year that the focus shifts. That big businesses start to focus on the small things that have a big consequential knock-on effect and impact on the environment. With more and more consumers making their purchasing decisions based on ethical buying, it pays to start innovating.
Personally I won’t build or invest in a business that isn’t focussed on sustainability of some sort. My best friend has a share in a business that recycles carbon fibre for example. I had no idea that it is hard to do and that there is so much waste from the airline industry. An investment feels a whole lot easier to do knowing that they are thinking about the future.
What do you think? Are big businesses and governments doing enough? Can we all make a difference when we all try to reduce our footprint personally?