Low carbon switch
Similar to the Secure Core switch, a Low carbon switch that would allow to filter VPN servers to restrict the selection to countries where power generation is less carbon-intensive. The list of countries could be either derived of yearly averaged, or refreshed real-time based on e.g. electricitymap data.
Not a bad idea, but to my recall each email stored in servers generates something like 4g of carbon a year.
So cleaning up one's inboxes (decluttering) is one user-end solution that's both easy to implement and immediately - ecologically and mentally - rewarding.
This is not useless and I would like this too. I want the ability to use technology in a greener way.
If this leads to more load on certain servers, they just have to be upgraded like any server with increased load would be upgraded anyway.
The person saying it's useless really don't get it. People who care about this will do it themselves? Definitely not. I care a lot but I'm not going to sit down and research where the servers are located and make a spreadsheet before connecting to VPN... Most people wouldn't do this despite caring about the carbon impact. Most people don't research these things and that's part of the reason people have a worse impact on the environment than they could have.
I didn't think of this before I saw this idea, tbh. For people to change their ways, it needs to be easy and not get in the way of life. It's busy enough already. If this is made easy, then people will use it. Just like in the Uber app where you can search for green cars. Nobody would do that if they had to spend time searching manually for this. Reduce friction. Just like electricity, people take the route with the least resistance.
This is a great suggestion and there's not much reason not to do it!
As far as I know, Proton own their own physical servers in each VPN location [https://protonvpn.com/blog/vpn-servers-high-risk-countries], so this would be part of a Co-location service offered by Datacentre's to Proton Technologies AG.
Proton, however cannot control where the power comes from in each datacentre or how it's distributed.
Their maybe times of loss of power from the grid that will make the UPS's kick in (batteries) and if it's over a certain period of time, like more than 30 mins, a generator would kick in, which is likely to be a big diesel generator, which will increase the CO2 impact significantly.
However, saying that, use API's from electricitymap.org. To get an idea of the power source from the Grid to the datacentre at a high level overview.
This will give you the CO2 impact of a countries power grid.
So in order to do this, the ProtonVPN apps could integrate the API's from electricitymap.org to enable a feature within the Profiles to include "Lowest CO2 Impact", which will communicate to electricitymap.org to get the data.
electricitymap.org is an Open Source project, so it should be fully auditable and clear how the data gets to the user, this is something Proton would have to dig into.
So with this, Proton could employ the API feed from electricitymap.org to do the following:
1. Use of electricitymap.org's API to find the lowest CO2 impact country
2. Find the fastest server within that country
3. connect to the server
However, electricitymap.org's data doesn't seem to cover the whole world, most European countries are on the platform, but there's a lot of countries that aren't on there, so it might not be a feasible thing for Proton to do.
That and the fact that users would probably want to find a specfic Datacentre with the lowest carbon footprint.. which isn't really possible.
The other solution to this, is if Proton employ a Enviromental Policy (which I cannot find on their website) and put in the policy that they will move to Datacentres that offer 100% renewable electricy from the likes of Ecotricity (in the UK)... basically a energy provider that will match the power usage with PPA's Power Purchasing Agreements, to directly buy energy from electric generators to put back into the grid, thereby investing in renewable energy.
I think the latter solution would be the better way to go for Proton overall, not just for the VPN business but for Protonmail too!
Adding a feature like you suggested wouldn't solve the issue of the CO2 footprint added by using VPN's, as, unless all their Datacentre providers have some way of measuring their CO2 footprint and posting that to their customers in real time, it won't work.
The datacentres would also need offering customers the option to buy 100% renewable energy as part of the co-location services, which I don't think that many Datacentres offer this.
However, there are some Datacentres that give the option of using a energy provider that uses 100% renewable energy with their Co-location packages, I am aware in the UK that Telehouse North gives this option to buy from N-Power with 100% renewable energy, I am not sure about other, global datacentres.[https://www.telehouse.net/about-telehouse/environmentally-responsible-colocation/]
Only then, Proton could list servers that use 100% renewable energy, but then like I said before, if there is an outage, will Proton update the list to exclude the DC on Generator power?
This is a good suggestion though, I would really like to see if Proton will go ahead with this.
I don't think it's useless: people tend to not think about power consumption from data centers, let alone its carbon footprint, but if all it takes is one click to use a "clean" data center I think a lot of users would just have that on by default when they don't need to connect to a specific country.
Would put more strain on servers in those countries (Iceland, Sweden, Norway, France) so it would probably require shifting investments a bit in advance though.
It's useless, because people who really care about this will just do it themselves without the help of the app. I think your idea is nice, but nobody cares and thinks of that.