Sustainability Initiative

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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.

Welcome to the Sustainability Initiative!

The initiative currently focuses on three main goals:

  1. green 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 data centres, operations, travel, offices, and other procurement and through using green energy. The 2020 Wikimedia movement strategy implementation recommendations pledge to "align our practices to support the environmental sustainability of our planet."

Green energy for the Wikimedia serversEdit

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

Why is this important?

The data centres hosting Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects have a significant carbon footprint: In 2018, only 6% of the 2.8 gigawatt hours powering the Wikimedia servers came from green sources, resulting in a carbon footprint of 1.2 kilotonnes.[2] The 2018 Wikimedia Foundation sustainability assessment states that "moving servers to renewable energy options is the single most impactful thing to reduce the organization's carbon footprint".[3] Also, as one of the world's most popular websites, Wikipedia could inspire other websites to choose carbon-free hosting as well,[4] while big names like Facebook[5] or Salesforce[6] have already switched to green hosting.

What needs to be done?

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

Who is the responsible for this?

Lydia Hamilton, Director of Operations, Wikimedia Foundation

What is the current status?

  Waiting In August 2017, the Wikimedia Foundation sent letters to its colocation providers CyrusOne and Equinix asking about information regarding the data centres' 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 data centres are located in a different electricity grid in Virginia. CyrusOne has not responded to their letter. In 2019, the Wikimedia Foundation published a strategic roadmap to "identify carbon-reduction opportunities" in its operations.[7] In November 2020, the Wikimedia Foundation was "looking into several options for a new data center that uses sustainable energy".[8]

Remote participation at WikimaniaEdit

Why is this important?

 
Suvarnabhumi international airport, Bangkok, Thailand.

International travel makes up for a large share of Wikimedia's carbon footprint: In 2019, WMF-funded flights stays caused the emission of 1,600 tonnes of CO2.[9] 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 recordings or streams.

What needs to be done?

The Wikimedia Foundation should offer video recordings or streams for all sessions at Wikimania and other Wikimedia events, and clearly communicate this well before the events.

Who is responsible for this?

Joël Letang, Events Team Manager, Wikimedia Foundation

What is the current status?

  Waiting At Wikimania 2016 in Esino Lario, nearly every session was recorded on video. At Wikimania 2017 in Montréal and Wikimania 2018 in Cape Town, only a small share of the sessions was streamed online.

At Wikimania 2019 in Stockholm, some video recordings were created. Emission certificates were purchased for the estimated carbon footprint of the conference.[10]

In 2019, the Wikimedia Foundation published a strategic roadmap to "develop guidelines for remote vs. in-person participation of events, including meeting options to accommodate virtual participation".[11]

Wikimania 2020 was cancelled due to the pandemic; Wikimania 2021 will be entirely virtual.

A sustainable investment strategy for the Wikimedia EndowmentEdit

Why is this important?

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

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?

  Waiting The Wikimedia Endowment is currently invested at the Tides Foundation and the preliminary investment policy contains a very basic sustainability measure. In 2021, 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 helpEdit

Show your support!

Currently, over 730 community members support the Sustainability Initiative. Please add your name to the list of supporters to express your support!

You can also show your support on your userpage: Userboxes are available on Meta, English Wikipedia, German Wikipedia, French Wikipedia and Italian Wikipedia.

Further readingEdit

 
Sustainability Initiative slide deck from Wikimania 2017.

NotesEdit