Sustainability Initiative

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Welcome to the Sustainability Initiative!

The sustainability initiative aims at reducing the environmental impact of the Wikimedia projects. The reason for this is simple and can be found right in Wikipedia: Anthropogenic climate change is a reality and it is our shared responsibility to prevent it, while the Wikimedia projects have a significant carbon footprint, especially through power consumption and air travel.

The initiative currently focuses on three main goals:

  1. renewable energy for the Wikimedia servers
  2. remote participation at Wikimania and other Wikimedia events
  3. a sustainable investment strategy for the Wikimedia endowment

In 2017, the board of trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation adopted a resolution as a result of this initiative, making a commitment to minimize the Foundation's overall environmental impact, especially around servers, operations, travel, offices, and other procurement and through using green energy.

Renewable energy for the Wikimedia servers[edit]

Barely passing: "D" score for Wikipedia in Greenpeace USA's 2015 "Click Green Scorecard".[1]

Why is this important?

The servers hosting Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects have a significant carbon footprint: As of 2016, only 9% of the 222 Kilowatts powering the Wikimedia servers come from renewable sources. Also, as one of the world's most popular websites, Wikipedia could inspire other websites to choose carbon-free hosting as well, while big names like Facebook[2] or Salesforce[3] have already switched to green hosting.

What needs to be done?

The Wikimedia Foundation should ask its data center providers to switch to renewable energy, or choose providers that offer green hosting.

Who is responsible for this?

Victoria Coleman, Chief Technology Officer, Wikimedia Foundation

Only 9% of the electricity powering Wikipedia's servers comes from sustainable energy sources.

What is the current status?

Working Waiting In August 2017, the Wikimedia Foundation sent letters to its colocation providers CyrusOne and Equinix asking about information regarding the servers' energy sources. Equinix responded by pointing to its recent acquisition of a wind farm of Oklahoma – which does not help reach the goal since the Wikimedia servers are located in a different electricity grid in Virginia. CyrusOne has not responded to their letter. A 'green energy roadmap' has been submitted to the Wikimedia Foundation in February 2017 and is currently 'under review'. The Wikimedia Foundation's 2018-2019 annual plan contains an "Environmental Sustainability" program, which is overseen by Erika Bjune.

Remote participation at Wikimania[edit]

Why is this important?

Map showing international flights to Johannesburg – reaching Cape Town, host city of Wikimania 2018, requires an additional two-hour domestic flight.

International travel makes up for the largest share of Wikimedia's carbon footprint. Therefore, we need to look at ways to require fewer flights. Since it would be counterproductive to propose to discontinue Wikimania, we need to encourage remote participation at Wikimania and other Wikimedia events. The main channel for remote participation is offering video streaming.

What needs to be done?

The Wikimedia Foundation should offer video streaming for all sessions at Wikimania and other Wikimedia events.

Who is responsible for this?

Ellie Young, Events Manager, Wikimedia Foundation

What is the current status?

Working Waiting At Wikimania 2016 in Esino Lario, nearly every session was recorded on video. At Wikimania 2017 in Montréal, only a small share of the sessions was streamed online. For Wikimania 2018 in Cape Town, the Wikimedia Foundation is 'planning' to make 'some' sessions available on video.

A sustainable investment strategy for the Wikimedia Endowment[edit]

Why is this important?

By investing in sustainable industries, we are putting our money where our mouth is – the Wikimedia Endowment should not support carbon-intensive industries if we want to reduce our environmental impact.

What needs to be done?

The Wikimedia Foundation should adopt an investment strategy for the Wikimedia Endowment that accounts for the environmental impact of its investments.

Who is responsible for this?

Lisa Seitz-Gruwell, Chief Advancement Officer, Wikimedia Foundation

What is the current status?

Working Waiting The Wikimedia Endowment is currently invested at the Tides Foundation and the preliminary investment policy contains a very basic sustainability measure. In 2019, the Wikimedia Endowment will be moved out of the Tides Foundation and the Wikimedia Foundation is currently 'investigating' how to best reflect sustainability in the definitive investment policy. (The investment policy for the Wikimedia Foundation's own investments which was adopted in April 2018 states that long-term investments should be made in "companies with a superior sustainability profile, particularly relating to environmental factors", without further defining this objective.)

How you can help[edit]

Show your support!

Currently, over 400 community members support the Sustainability Initiative. Please add your name to the list of supporters to express your support!

There are also userboxes on English Wikipedia, German Wikipedia, French Wikipedia, and Italian Wikipedia.

Join the team

Please contact us if you would like to join the team.

Further reading[edit]

Sustainability Initiative slide deck from Wikimania 2017.
  • Resolution:Environmental Impact – a resolution passed by the board of trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation as a result of this initiative, making a commitment to minimize the Foundation's overall environmental impact.
  • Wikimedia servers – for more information about the energy use of the Wikimedia servers.
  • Wikimedia offices – for more information about the energy use of the Wikimedia offices.
  • An old version of this page containing additional information.

Notes[edit]

  1. Greenpeace USA: Click Clean Scorecard: Key Findings & Scores Explained, 2015, page 43.
  2. Adding clean and renewable energy to the grid, Facebook Sustainability,
  3. Mark Hawkins: Why Sustainability is Good for Business, Salesforce blog, 13 April 2017.