Data Centers and Bees: Loudoun County Hosts First DCs for Bees Event in US

An event in the heart of Data Center Alley helps local families fight food insecurity while giving the local bee population a much-needed boost.

Data Center Knowledge

November 15, 2022

3 Min Read
image of volunteer shoveling soil into a bucket in foreground with other volunteers shoveling in the background
A volunteer shovels soil during the first DC for Bees event in the U.S. Volunteers from the data center industry helped construct raised beds at JK Community Farm, a nonprofit dedicated to helping families overcome food insecurity.Courtesy of JK Community Farm

Last Thursday, volunteers from the data center community in northern Virginia gathered to support some of the area’s vital habitants: bees.

JK Community Farm, 7x24 Exchange, Loudoun County Economic Development, and Host in Ireland organized the DC for Bees event where volunteers shoveled dirt, planted stakes, and set up and filled raised garden beds. These beds will be used to plant vegetation beneficial for the area’s pollinators, JK Community Farm’s executive director Samantha Kuhn told Data Center Knowledge.

The bees, and other pollinators such as butterflies, will increase the yield of JK Community Farm’s operations by 20,000 pounds per year. That extra food goes to feed families facing food insecurity in Loudoun County, Kuhn said. The new raised beds planted by data center industry volunteers will produce 1,000 meals per year, according to Loudoun Now.

This was the first DC for Bees event held in the U.S. Host in Ireland, an organization promoting digital infrastructure coming from Ireland, runs the DC for Bees program and has held several events in Europe to help save Ireland’s declining bee population.

An estimated 70% of the world’s crops depend on bee pollination, says Host in Ireland on its site.

“The bees don't give a bollocks whether you work for Digital Realty or Equinix,” said Garry Connolly, president and founder of Host in Ireland, to Data Centre Magazine. “But, if you can get a gang of people together from all these data centre companies with a single sense of purpose, which is way bigger than the industry they're in itself, that can make a real impact.”

Related:N. Virginia’s Prince William County Approves Data Center Tax Hike

volunteers at DC for Bees event in Loudoun County Virginia - Edited.png

volunteers at DC for Bees event in Loudoun County Virginia - Edited

More than 140 volunteers lent their efforts to fighting food insecurity in Loudoun County, Virginia.

With 145 volunteers who constructed and filled the raised beds, along with $18,000 in donations, Kuhn is optimistic about the event’s success. “It’s nice to see the data center community come together to help families facing food insecurity, the environment, and local pollinators,” Kuhn told Data Center Knowledge.

The money raised will go toward obtaining more raised beds to attract even more pollinators.

Bees, Data Centers, and a Sustainable Future

Stack Infrastructure hosts more than 200,000 bees on the roof of its Milan data center. CyrusOne installed bee hotels and bee-friendly landscaping at its Dublin data center campus. Equinix’s Dublin campus hosts pollinators as part of Host in Ireland’s Orchards in the Community program. In Vienna, NTT has a green roof area at its Vienna 1 data center facility.

Data centers have a positive impact during a time when the industry comes under fire for its carbon footprint. Bloomberg recently released a scathing report of the usage of renewable energy credits to obscure true environmental impact. The report mentioned several data center industry giants including Microsoft (Azure), Equinix, and Digital Realty.

Data centers again came under fire in recent weeks. Prince William County’s Digital Gateway to expand land use regulations to include data center development drew loud critics from the local community. The Prince William County Board of Supervisors voted 5 -2 in favor of the Digital Gateway project, which is on land that is said to be the burial ground of enslaved Africans and their descendants and the indigenous inhabitants of the area. The land is also adjacent to a Civil War-era battleground, Manassas National Battlefield Park, which is now part of the U.S. National Park Service.

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