Cloudflare is proud to announce the first 25,000 trees from our commitment to help clean up bad bots (and the climate) have been planted.
Working with our partners at One Tree Planted (OTP), Cloudflare was able to support the restoration of 20 hectares of land at Victoria Park in Nova Scotia, Canada. The 130-year-old natural woodland park is located in the heart of Truro, NS, and includes over 3,000 acres of hiking and biking trails through natural gorges, rivers, and waterfalls, as well as an old-growth eastern hemlock forest.
The planting projects added red spruce, black spruce, eastern white pine, eastern larch, northern red oak, sugar maple, yellow birch, and jack pine to two areas of the park. The first area was a section of the park that recently lost a number of old conifers due to insect attacks. The second was an area previously used as a municipal dump, which has since been covered by a clay cap and topsoil.
Our tree commitment began far from the Canadian woodlands. In 2019, we launched an ambitious tool called Bot Fight Mode, which for the first time fought back against bots, targeting scrapers and other automated actors.
Our idea was simple: preoccupy bad bots with nonsense tasks, so they cannot attack real sites. Even better, make these tasks computationally expensive to engage with. This approach is effective, but it forces bad actors to consume more energy and likely emit more greenhouse gasses (GHG). So in addition to launching Bot Fight Mode, we also committed to supporting tree planting projects to account for any potential environmental impact.
What is Bot Fight Mode?
When Bot Fight Mode identifies a bot, it issues a computationally expensive challenge to exhaust it (also called “tarpitting"). Our aim is to disincentivize attackers, so they have to find a new hobby altogether. When we tarpit a bot, we require a significant amount of compute time that will stall its progress and result in a hefty server bill. Sorry not sorry.
We do this because bots are leeches. They draw resources, slow down sites, and abuse online platforms. They also hack into accounts and steal personal data. Of course, we allowlist a small number of bots that are well-behaved, like Slack and Google. And Bot Fight Mode only acts on traffic from cloud and hosting providers (because that is where bots usually originate from).
Over 550,000 sites use Bot Fight Mode today! We believe this makes it the most widely deployed bot management solution in the world (though this is impossible to validate). Free customers can enable the tool from the dashboard and paid customers can use a special version, known as Super Bot Fight Mode.
How many trees? Let's do the math ?
Now, the hard part: how can we translate bot challenges into a specific number of trees that should be planted? Fortunately, we can use a series of unit conversions, similar to those we use to calculate Cloudflare’s total GHG emissions.
We started with the following assumptions.
|Energy used by a standard server
|1,760.3 kWh / year
|To hours (0.2 kWh / hour)
|0.33852 kgCO2e / kWh
|To grams (338.52 gCO2e / kWh)
|CO2 absorbed by a mature tree
|48 lbsCO2e / year
|To kilograms (21 kgCO2e / year)
|One Tree Planted
Next, we selected a high-traffic day to model the rate and duration of bot challenges on our network. On May 23, 2021, Bot Fight Mode issued 2,878,622 challenges, which lasted an average of 50 seconds each. In total, bots spent 39,981 hours engaging with our network defenses, or more than four years of challenges in a single day!
We then converted that time value into kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy based on the rate of power consumed by our generic server listed in Table 1 above.
39,981 (hours) x .2 (kWh/hour) = 7,996 (kWh)
Once we knew the total amount of energy consumed by bad bot servers, we used an emissions factor (the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted per unit of energy consumed) to determine total emissions.
7,996 (kwh) x 338.52 (gCO2e/kwh) = 2,706,805 (gCO2e)
If you have made it this far, clearly you like to geek out like we do, so for the sake of completeness, the unit commonly used in emissions calculations is carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), which is a composite unit for all six GHGs listed in the Kyoto Protocol weighted by Global Warming Potential.
The last conversion we needed was from emissions to trees. Our partners at OTP found that a mature tree absorbs roughly 21 kgCO2e per year. Based on our total emissions that translates to roughly 47,000 trees per server, or 840 trees per CPU core. However, in our original post, we also noted that given the time it takes for a newly planted tree to reach maturity, we would multiply our donation by a factor of 25.
In the end, over the first two years of the program, we calculated that we would need approximately 42,000 trees to account for all the individual CPU cores engaged in Bot Fight Mode. For good measure, we rounded up to an even 50,000.
We are proud that most of these trees are already in the ground, and we look forward to providing an update when the final 25,000 are planted.
A piece of the puzzle
"Planting trees will benefit species diversity of the existing forest, animal habitat, greening of reclamation areas as well as community recreation areas, and visual benefits along popular hiking/biking trail networks."
- Stephanie Clement, One Tree Planted, Project Manager North America
Reforestation is an important part of protecting healthy ecosystems and promoting biodiversity. Trees and forests are also a fundamental part of helping to slow the growth of global GHG emissions.
However, we recognize there is no single solution to the climate crisis. As part of our mission to help build a better, more sustainable Internet, Cloudflare is investing in renewable energy, tools that help our customers understand and mitigate their own carbon footprints on our network, and projects that will help offset or remove historical emissions associated with powering our network by 2025.
Want to be part of our bots & trees effort? Enable Bot Fight Mode today! It’s available on our free plan and takes only a few seconds. By the time we made our first donation to OTP in 2021, Bot Fight Mode had already spent more than 3,000 years distracting bots. That is enough time to watch Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining more than 10 million times.
Help us defeat bad bots and improve our planet today!
For more information on Victoria Park, please visit https://www.victoriaparktruro.ca
For more information on One Tree Planted, please visit https://onetreeplanted.org
For more information on sustainability at Cloudflare, please visit www.cloudflare.com/impact