Saturday, May 05, 2007

Green Hosts: David vs. Goliath?

It looks like my recent post on green web hosts has gotten a bit of attention from another green host, Ethical Web Hosting in Canada (which looks like a good company as well. Hi there – thanks for stopping by!). In the comments, Ethical applauds Dreamhost's recent decision to go green, but questions their motivations for doing so:

While i applaud dreamhost's move (well done) I don't feel its actually done in the spirit of caring about reducing their GHG's but rather jumping on it as a marketing ploy before the other large hosts do the same thing. I think it is more important to support the smaller guys that do a lot more in all that they do to reduce their GHG's such as living in an area where you don't NEED a car to get to one fo the 2 offices, but can take the subway, walk or better yet, work from home.

He raises a good point - after all, I started the zen kitchen partially so I could decrease my carbon load by working from home and taking public transport more often. At the same time, however, I always get a bit bothered by arguments like this because they ignore a few key things:

  1. Big business is (and will continue to be) a part of our culture, whether we like it or not.

  2. Big businesses use more resources, and as such, a decision on their part to reduce their GHG's, no matter what spirit it's done in, has the potential to make a huge impact. Can you imagine, for example, what the impact would be if Wal-Mart (which, mind, I still won't buy from until they reform their labor policies) decided that they were going to power all their stores with wind energy? We'd have new turbines up all over the place in a year!

  3. Whether we tree-huggers like it or not, all the high-minded idealism in the world isn't going to sway the leaders of big business until they see how it relates to their bottom line. They move on these things sometimes because it just makes good eco-sense, but usually it's because climate change is on the minds of their shareholders and customers - THAT'S what makes them move.

And honestly, what's wrong with that? In my opinion, a step in the right direction is a step in the right direction, even if it's grudgingly taken. And while I still support many smaller local businesses that are doing the right thing (just ask the folks over at Cambridge Naturals - I'm in there every week!), I do believe that it's also important to support larger businesses that are doing the right thing. Sending them the message that you're going to refuse shopping there because they aren't independently owned only sends a message that you, as a consumer, don't care whether they get involved in the climate change conversation, which makes it less likely that they will make the effort. There's room for everyone, and there has to be - positive change can't occur if we're excluding a large portion of the population.

That's just my 2¢ on the situation - what do you think?


Jessie Jane said...

Dani—I couldn't agree more that DreamHost's decision is a step in the right direction, regardless of their motives. Which, I would argue, really aren't as insidious as some might claim. Just over a month ago, I emailed DH to ask them what steps they were taking to become a more sustainble company. I had a nice exchange with customer service about their recycling etc., but no mention of carbon offsets in the works. I left the exchange disappointed they weren't doing more.

What those who have been fighting for greener business practices need to admit at some point is that we can't have it both ways. We can't demand that businesses go green, but only for the "right" reasons. No, carbon offsets are not a solution in and of themselves. And yes, it is essential that we don't cave to the greenwashing crowd.

But there has to be a balance—we have to allow Big Business (and for what it's worth, I don't even think DH qualifies for this status) to join the conversation, however misguided their initial contribution might be. It is a step in the right direction, and now it's up to the rest of us to help guide these businesses by 1) setting examples, 2) sharing knowledge and information and 3) being willing to take risks ourselves.

I do think the "littler" businesses have as much of a role in this conversation as the Big Boys, and the consumers, and government. So thanks for keeping on about this!


Dani Nordin said...

Thanks, Jessie - it's good to hear from you!

And of course, i just realized that I don't have your blog in the sidebar either - fixing that today!