How to store your data without CO2 emission

Posted on 2021-02-25 by ungleich

When we talk about climate change or sustainability, we usually think about things we can see such as factories, cars, or plastic waste. What we don't notice though is how much we actually contribute to climate change by our digital behaviour.

Even when we don't notice, we are still respopnsible for the consequences of our action. So what is the current state of digital data storage, and what can we do to change things for the better?

How data is stored

Your data is usually stored in one of the many data centers in the world. To save your data, multiple disks or even multiple servers are used to ensure that your data is safely stored.

That means When you open up your mobile phone to browse pictures or to read your email, you access the servers to retrieve your data.

How data centers operate

For servers to run they need electricity, on one hand for actually running the servers that store your data and on cooling on the other hand. The amount of energy used for cooling is quite significant, too. And this is an imoprtant question for the environment: how is the electricity for running and cooling the servers produced, with what source?

Unfortunately, most of datacenters don't run only on renewable energy. Most of them use energy from the grid, and this energy can be produced by coal, nuclear power or renewable energy.

On better cases datacenters use a mix of energy sources, making their energy source portfolio somewhat green. Some datacenters do buy CO2 certificates to compensate for this fact.

So this is the current state, even if you are living a very green and sustainable way by saying no to plastic, meat, and recycle as much as you can, you can still be contributing to CO2 emissions by using your default data storage. Because the default energy source of digital world is not green, at better cases it is somewhat green by mixed source or a bit green by offsetting the CO2 emission.

An alternative: the sustainable way of saving data

So how can we tackle this situation? Our project of Data Center Light came into the world by questioning the status quo.

And this is how it is done:

  • instead of buying energy, we produce it locally (using PV and a local hydropower plant)
  • instead of offsetting by buying certificates, we use 100% renewable energy
  • instead of building new data centers, we reuse existing factory halls
  • instead of buying new servers, we buy 2nd hand (with new disks/ssds)

The sustainable alternative

This way we want to set the new default that is as little energy as popssible, and as green as energy as possible. By redesigning how our servers operate there is practically no CO2 emission from power consumption and also the grey energy is minimised.

With this setting, we are creating a place where everybody can make a sustainable choice in storing their data. Where one can save the data in a green storage at our Zero Carbon Cloud, or run Virtual Private Servers at our Data Center Light, back up their data with green energy, talk to each other via sustainable chat such as Zero Carbon Matrix or Zero Carbon Mattermost.

Since the beginning of our journey we have received a lot of love and support from the tech and sustainability community. Our team at ungleich is very proud of our growing range of products, because it was not only the result of our own effort that added a new product on the list. It was very much reflecting the need of the community that supported us, that demanded greener, more sustainable choices to be available.

Call to action

We are a team of people who believe that there are really a lot of things that can be done better. You can make big changes by simply start caring for things that you did not before. That's why we urge everybody to think about the digital data we're using daily - how and which energy is it using, and is it sustainable.

If it is based on sustainable sources, support it, give it love so it can continue. If it is not based on sustainable sources, demand it to do better. We already have solutions, we just need everybody to do their part.

If you have any thoughts to share, you can reach us at sustainability at or in the ungleich chat.