Occasionally, I hear someone ask which shipping company is the most environmentally conscious. Look, the answer is simple. If you want to ship something in a “green” manner, just mail it. Why? Because the mail truck would have gone to the destination regardless.
Mail trucks deliver mail to the destination every day except Sunday, while most delivery services follow the same schedule but only travel to the destination when they have a package to deliver. No matter what kind of fuel they use or how high-tech their trucks are, two trucks will always release more carbon emissions than one truck, so choose the one that already has to visit the destination.
“Cloud” is one of the biggest buzzwords these days. Many services are launching on a distributed cloud-based platform, like file sharing, applications, blogging, even hosting, and there are many advantages to cloud services. The most obvious being that you can access your files and applications from wherever you have an internet connection, and especially in the case of cloud hosting, downtime is almost nonexistent as the entire cloud would have to go offline before you noticed any service interruption.
One of the advantages that I keep hearing about online, from friends, and even from speakers at events is that they are moving to the cloud because it’s green (better for the environment). This is false. Sure, the resources that originally took an entire server to run are now efficiently spread across hundreds of servers (hooray!), but those servers may receive their power generated by coal or other fossil fuels (boo!).
Just because something is energy-efficient does not mean that it is green. Facebook’s Prineville Data Center is a miracle of energy efficiency, but it receives its power from PacifiCorp, who derive 70.6% of their power from coal and natural gas, 22.5% from other supplies, and only 6.9% from water and wind. So, while the Prineville Data Center is a miracle of energy efficiency, its overall operation is not green.
I do feel that the cloud is really the future of software and web-based services, and I use many cloud-based services myself, but make sure that you know the facts before touting the cloud as good for the environment.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the environment and nature, so every year I like to split up the bulk of my charitable donations between two conservation charities; The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy. This year, however, I am dumping all of that into The Conservation Fund and bypassing The Nature Conservancy. The answer to why is one simple question. How is your charity spending your money?
Last year, I made an honest mistake and forgot to donate to both charities. Since then, I have received one mailer, gift, and/or magazine each week from The Nature Conservancy asking me to donate again. By my calculations, the costs of printing, labor, and mailing this year have far exceeded what I donated in the past. In short, everything that I have donated to The Nature Conservancy has been spend trying to get me to donate again. Why should I donate to an organization that spends so much on something other than its core purpose?
To put it plainly, The Conservation Fund does not do that. All I have ever received from them has been a donation receipt at the end of the tax year with a nice little letter about the fund’s progress, and a biannual brochure about some of the fund’s ongoing projects. When I forgot to donate last year, I simply received nothing. In fact, The Conservation Fund only devotes 1% of their budget to fundraising and 2% to administration and other costs. That leaves 97% of their budget to the core purpose that you really care about. This is no doubt why Charity Navigator has awarded The Conservation Fund its top rating for the past 6 years, a rating held by only 4% of the charities they track.
From now on, I’ll make sure that my money only goes to charities that will ensure the majority of my donation is used towards the programs that I intended to fund in the first place.
Update September 2019: I can no longer in good conscience recommend The Conservation Fund. The past few years have been filled with great climate activism, and The Conservation Fund has been silent on all of it. Not a single press release, post, commentary of any kind, not even a retweet. While I hope they’re continuing to do great work, this makes me question their goals enough for 2019 to be the first year I skip donating. Instead, I’ll be focussing my efforts on Trees for the Future, which has almost as good of a Charity Navigator rating, and is very much involved in climate activism.