What is Driving Data Center Sustainability Today?

Organizations across virtually every industry, from energy to healthcare, are doubling down on their efforts to decrease their environmental impacts and make their daily operations cleaner, greener, and less harmful to the planet. 

The trend has worked its way to data centers as well, but the question is, how can you achieve data center sustainability improvements? Join us below as we explore the answer. 

We’ll discuss the key factors to creating a sustainable data center, reducing your environmental footprint, and aligning your management strategies with the demands of the current climate. 


Best Practices for Sustainability in Data Centers

As businesses like yours strive to create more sustainable data centers, it’s important to prioritize these factors: 


Energy Consumption

Naturally, most conversations regarding data center sustainability begin with a focus on power usage effectiveness. After all, the average facility uses a tremendous amount of power to run cooling equipment, water pumps, key systems, and other infrastructure. 

That means decreasing energy consumption, maximizing cooling efficiency, and proactively eliminating waste will all have a tremendous impact on data center sustainability.

As part of the process, you should explore ways to invest in energy-efficient technologies, such as virtualization tools and advanced cooling systems. 

Wherever possible, integrate renewable energy sources like solar and wind power into your infrastructure, as doing so can reduce your reliance on the primary grid. 



The carbon footprint of data centers is another major concern. As these facilitates consume large amounts of energy, they also emit greenhouse gasses, contributing to climate change. In response, consider implementing carbon offset programs and optimizing server usage efforts.

Investing in more robust insulation and better cooling technology can reduce your emissions. That is especially important when managing data centers located in hot and humid environments. 


Waste Generation

Data centers are notorious for producing hard-to-dispose waste, particularly electronic waste (e-waste). 

Packaging materials and cooling water discharge are some other byproducts that your facility likely produces.

There are multiple ways to reduce total waste output and frequency. For instance, you could adopt circular economy principles, which involve refurbishing and recycling old equipment and decreasing packaging waste. 

Water recycling systems should also be implemented to minimize consumption and discharge. 


Resource Use

Even after you’ve addressed the big three (e-waste, energy consumption, and water usage), it’s still important to consider your other resource usage habits. Think of all the different supplies your business consumes, especially those it uses in large volumes. 

Additionally, keep track of your usage trends and consider ways to reduce your total consumption. Making even a few small changes can result in notable savings over the course of a year. 

Some components to track include your routers, firewalls, storage systems, application-delivery controllers, and servers. Work to maximize the lifespan of these pieces of equipment to decrease total consumption. 

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that there aren’t any single solutions to data center sustainability problems. The key is to adopt multiple strategies. 

Each of them can move the needle in the right direction, and cumulatively, they can make a huge change in the environmental impacts of your facility. 

When implemented at scale, data center managers can quite literally change the world by promoting a greener future. 


Key Factors to Consider for Sustainable Data Centers

If you are in the planning stages of a new facility, it’s important to make sustainability an integral part of your data center design and construction processes. 

With that in mind, here are some factors to consider from day one:


Sustainable Site Selection

Data center sustainability begins with the location you choose for your facility. Select an area that is in close proximity to renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar. 

Opting for locations near such installations ensures that you’ll have consistent access to clean power, which will reduce your reliance on fossil fuels and minimize your carbon emissions.

Aim to build your facility in a cool climate if possible, as these regions offer natural temperature-regulation benefits that can help decrease your long-term energy consumption. 

Additionally, you must remember that local environmental regulations must be considered to ensure compliance with sustainability standards. Coordinate with project leaders, environmental agencies, and government leaders to mitigate the ecological effects of your facility. 

Be clear about your desires to create a sustainable data center and seek regulators’ support in your mission. 


Embodied Carbon

Embodied carbon encompasses the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the entire lifecycle of data center infrastructure. 

The concept considers the emissions generated during manufacturing, transportation of materials, construction, and installation of equipment. Each of these phases contributes to the total carbon footprint. 

By prioritizing data center sustainability during the planning phases of facility construction, you can explore ways to reduce your total footprint along each step of the project. 

For instance, you could partner with local manufacturers and carriers, which decreases the total distance the materials must be transported. 

You should also seek to find a green-minded construction partner who takes steps to minimize waste. A builder who uses pre-fabricated components can reduce the risk of project delays and minimize material waste. 

Ensure that building designers use green building practices, such as incorporating recycled materials and energy-saving structure elements. 


Water Management

Despite great strides in data center technology, facilities still require large volumes of water to keep their equipment cool and functional. 

Therefore, water management must be a foundational aspect of your data center sustainability strategy, especially if you are operating in a region that faces water scarcity. 

For example, you could adopt water-efficient cooling technologies, such as air-side economization and evaporative cooling, both of which use less water than traditional systems. 

Additionally, consider installing water recycling systems to reuse water, which minimizes wastewater discharge. 

After you’ve addressed these foundational water management strategies, shift your focus outward. For instance, if you intend to maintain greenery around the facility, implement water-efficient landscaping and irrigation practices. 


Social Value Creation

Achieving your data center sustainability goals will require widespread buy-in and stakeholder mobilization. In other words, you need to get everyone on board. And social value creation can help you do that. 

It is a concept that involves positively impacting local communities through your sustainability efforts, demonstrating why the initiative matters and how to deliver tangible benefits.

To understand community needs and concerns, engage with local residents, businesses, and government entities. Then, tie these concerns into your data center sustainability strategies and showcase how you intend to minimize the impacts of your facility. 

If you are operating in an area with water scarcity concerns, explain the steps you’ve taken to protect local water supplies and reduce consumption.

If possible, invest in community development projects, such as infrastructure improvements or educational programs. Perhaps you could pay to have the road leading to the data center repaved, which would promote accessibility for build crews while also supporting the commuting needs of locals. 


Using Supply Chain to Drive Sustainability 

The path to a sustainable data center starts with your supply chain. By leveraging your trade relationships, you can ensure ethical sourcing practices and reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing processes. 

As such, you need to choose suppliers that prioritize sustainability and understand your commitment to minimizing the environmental footprint of your build project. Goal and mission alignment are paramount to the success of your efforts. 

Apply these same strategies when sourcing hardware and other equipment. Finding partners with practical and client-friendly recycling processes can help you easily offload aging hardware. 


Top Tips for Driving Sustainability in Data Centers

Now that you’re ready to achieve new levels of data center sustainability, start by investing in energy-efficient technologies and best practices that will reduce total power consumption and carbon emissions. 

Remember, power utilization represents the greatest source of facility emissions, so by prioritizing this aspect of your operations, you can make great strides toward greener operations. 

Wherever possible, integrate renewable energy into your infrastructure. If no local renewable sources are available, consider installing solar panels on or adjacent to your facility. 

From there, shift your attention to your facility’s cooling systems. Replacing your existing tech with more advanced options can drastically reduce water consumption. 

Also, consider implementing better racking systems, which can give your servers more room to breathe. 

If you are building a new facility or expanding an existing one, coordinate with stakeholders and designers to incorporate sustainable principles into the building’s infrastructure. Using low-carbon materials and retooling the layout of the facility can promote less waste and better energy efficiency. 

Most importantly, establish quantifiable sustainability goals and track your progress toward them using relevant metrics. Water consumption, energy usage, and carbon emissions are a few data points you should be paying attention to. 


Get More Advice on Data Center Sustainability 

There are countless ways to promote better data center sustainability. 

But there aren’t any generic solutions or “fix-all” approaches to sustainability, either. You must leverage several complementary strategies to promote greener, cleaner operations. 

Understand that the process is a marathon, not a sprint. Instead of throwing your operations into an upheaval, implement incremental changes and consistently work toward your long-term goals.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can achieve your sustainability goals, connect with us today.