When Nikolai Bratkovski learned that the computer industry's carbon footprint had become as large as the aviation industry's, he was in shock. Mr. Bratkovski, a 24-year-old Web entrepreneur, decided to take action.
With his two co-founders - software developer Sasha Baksht, 38, and communications consultant John Carson, 41 - Mr. Bratkovski launched Greenscroll. The Toronto-based non-profit is transforming how the Internet is powered, infusing eco-friendly energy into the grid and providing businesses with a simple, affordable tool for greening their websites.
The Internet is an energy-hungry beast. Electricity runs the servers that host websites, air conditioners that cools the servers and the computers of Web surfers. What many businesses don't consider, Mr. Bratkovski says, is the carbon dioxide indirectly generated by all that energy use. "When we drive a car, you can see the fumes coming out of the exhaust, so you can directly relate that power is polluting the environment."
Computer users don't see fumes, of course. "It's going on in the back end," Mr. Bratkovski says. In North America, much of the energy that powers the Internet comes from non-renewable fuels such as coal or natural gas, which produce carbon dioxide when burned. Greenscroll helps its members green not only the energy that powers their websites but also the energy consumed by visitors to those sites.
Greenscroll members pay a monthly pledge, which the organization invests in eco-friendly renewable energy projects, such as wind farms. By pumping green energy into the grid, Greenscroll reduces the Internet's demand for polluting energy sources and more or less transforms companies' websites from pollution-generating to environmentally friendly. Members can post a Greenscroll certificate on their sites.
The monthly cost depends on how many page-views a website receives. For example, $5 monthly will cover up to 10,000 views. Ten dollars covers between 10,000 and 100,000. "When you get higher traffic, there is higher stress on the server and that means the consumption of electricity goes up," Mr. Bratkovski says.
So far, about 100 businesses have signed up for Greenscroll. Most are small to medium-sized. About a dozen have websites that receive 100,000 to 1 million page views a month. Greenscroll also serves bloggers, who account for about 20 per cent of the organization's members, Mr. Bratkovski says.
Since launching in the summer of 2009, Greenscroll has spread the word about its services through social media and trade shows and by sponsoring events. The result has been a growing number of members, but raising the organization's profile has also brought challenges in the form of skeptical readers posting comments suggesting Greenscroll might be a scam, as if "it's us trying to pocket some money," Mr. Bratkovski says.
The co-founders expected some skepticism. "That's another reason why we actually launched it as a non-profit - to create more trust," Mr. Bratkovski says. Although the founders invested their own money to start Greenscroll, none are drawing a salary from the organization. "We're taking zero for management," he says. Subscribers' money flows directly to green energy projects.
Besides, the point of Greenscroll was never to make money. The organization is a side project for each of its co-founders. Mr. Bratkovski is about to launch HealthKiwi.ca, an online health-care directory. Mr. Baksht runs New Techbridge Inc., a software development company. Mr. Carson is a social media and public relations consultant.
"We decided to do this as a way to give back," Mr. Bratkovski says.
Most of the green energy projects Greenscroll invests in are in the United States, but in the organization also aims to fund and build projects in Canada. "One of the ideas we're looking at is setting up a solar farm on a data centre roof." Now, that would make for some very green websites.