Cloud Carbon Footprint

How to Measure and Reduce Your Cloud Carbon Footprint

Through tools and best practices, you can ensure that you’re using technology sustainably.

According to the Financial Times, emissions from the technology industry are growing at a rate of 6% annually. This is fueled by rapid digitization, which accelerated over the last couple of years due to COVID-induced remote working and education.

A significant portion of the technology sector’s energy consumption is attributable to the servers housed within data centers. It’s said that the annual electricity consumption of just five tech companies — Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple — is equal to the consumption of the entire nation of New Zealand.


Getting insights on your cloud spend and usage


Due to the threats posed by global warming, it has become vital for everyone to think about sustainability and how we can use resources efficiently. Organizations should monitor energy efficiency metrics and automate regular reporting so that energy efficiency can be factored into procurement decisions. Some key metrics include revenue per kilowatt-hour and metric tons of carbon.

Open source tools such as Cloud Carbon Footprint help you understand how your cloud usage impacts the environment, and what you can do about it. This application pulls usage data (compute, storage, networking, etc.) from major cloud providers like AWS and Google Cloud, then calculates estimated watt-hours (Wh) and greenhouse gas emissions expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents (metric tons CO2e).

AWS recently launched its Customer Carbon Footprint Tool, which provides a data visualization of the emissions from your AWS usage according to Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol standards. The dashboard provides an in-depth view of your current carbon emissions, evaluates emission trends as your use of AWS grows, and helps with predicting and forecasting estimated carbon emissions.

You can also use AWS Athena to monitor cloud usage. Athena is a serverless query service that can be used to analyze and query data from your AWS Cost and Usage Reports in S3 using SQL.


Four ways to reduce your cloud carbon footprint


Architectural decisions and choices drive the development of a sustainable and environmentally friendly IT portfolio. Here are four tips for reducing your cloud carbon footprint and improving your IT sustainability:

  • Cloud-native application modernization: Rearchitect your applications to be cloud native. Well-architected applications can use technologies that produce a smaller carbon footprint, such as containers and serverless.
  • Vertical scaling: Set up load balancers and autoscaling so that as demand for a particular service drops, you can automatically respond. Scaling down unused server resources will reduce energy consumption.
  • SaaS On Demand: Businesses with their cloud architecture running as ‘on-demand’ pay only for their API calls. By utilizing technologies like Lambda, which is a Function-as-a-Service, you don’t have to keep virtual machines running.
  • Switch to better alternatives: Monitor your carbon footprint metrics and switch to services that have lower emissions.


Making Sustainable Business Decisions


The cloud is not the problem when it comes to energy consumption. According to 451 Research, running your applications in AWS public cloud can help lower your carbon footprint by 88% when compared to the enterprise data centers. 451 Research also reported that when factoring in data center facility efficiency, AWS’s data center operations are over 3.6 times more energy efficient than most large enterprises.

Digital transformation is inevitable. The challenge lies in making sustainable business decisions based on how you use technology. Sustainability should influence your choice of IT infrastructure – on-premises, private or public cloud — and your choice of service provider. If monitoring data is showing inefficiencies and wasted energy in your own data center, it might be time to disconnect and to find a more sustainable cloud platform to reach your carbon footprint goals.


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About the Authors

Masoom Tulsiani

Cloud Solution Architect

Masoom Tulsiani

With over six years of experience in DevOps & Cloud Engineering, Masoom Tulsiani has worked across a variety of IT roles and industries in Netherlands, from financial services to telecom and oil and gas. With a background in cloud system engineering, Masoom specializes in landing zone design, building serverless solutions, infrastructure as code (IaC) and container orchestration on AWS. As a Consulting Cloud Architect on the Rackspace Technology Professional Services EMEA Team in Amsterdam, Masoom brings his passion for AWS solution design and experience to drive Kubernetes and Terraform adoption within Rackspace Technology. Outside of work, Masoom enjoys playing tennis, photography and traveling.

Read more about Masoom Tulsiani