Carbon Footprint of Emails: What Are They + Can We Reduce Them?

Last Updated on May 2, 2023

Ever puzzled what the carbon footprint of emails have been? Truth is, our emails have an environmental influence we’d not concentrate on. 

However, not all emails are created equal: The footprint of the e-mail you obtain varies based mostly on the way it was despatched. For instance, a spam e mail could have a decrease carbon footprint than one with an image hooked up to it.  

Even what machine you ship an e mail on could impact its carbon footprint.  

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t ship emails anymore. In reality, they’re nonetheless higher for the atmosphere than mailing a letter in most situations (extra on that later). But I hope this opens a dialogue and will get us fascinated about our digital influence. 

Here’s what it’s worthwhile to know in regards to the carbon footprint of emails and a few options.   

what’s the carbon footprint of e mail vs letter? 

The carbon footprint of e mail vs letter is a bit diversified. Comparing the 2 is determined by what kind of e mail you’ll be sending out. 

According to The Carbon Footprint of Everything, the footprint of an e mail varies dramatically: 

  • Spam e mail: 0.3g CO2
  • Regular e mail: 4g CO2 
  • Photo or hefty attachment: 50g CO2 

Mike Berners-Lee, a fellow at Lancaster University, researchers carbon footprints. However, it is very important word these figures have been created ~13 years in the past.  

Since then, Charlotte Freitag, a carbon footprint knowledgeable at Small World Consulting based by Berners-Lee, says the influence of emails could have gone up.  

The cause? People are utilizing greater telephones. 

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Researchers discovered that smartphones with bigger screens have a measurably worse carbon footprint than their smaller ancestors. Even Apple has admitted constructing an iPhone 7 Plus creates roughly 10% extra CO2 than the iPhone 6s. 

With this in thoughts, based mostly off the previous figures, we are able to now evaluate this to a bodily letter. 

A letter can produce as much as 29 grams of CO2 from the method of normal delivery.  

So, when you should ship a photograph, necessary doc, or an invitation, it could be extra eco-friendly to ship it the old school means. Not to say the USPS intends to deploy over 66,000 electrical automobiles by 2028, which can solely cut back the emissions of transporting these letters. 

However, an alternative choice is to attempt to shrink the dimensions of your attachment. If you compress e mail attachments, undertake lighter file codecs or exchange the attachments with a hyperlink it makes use of much less vitality. 

does deleting emails cut back carbon footprint? 

Yes, deleting emails reduces their carbon footprint. In reality, in response to The Good Planet, if everybody around the globe deleted simply 10 emails (spam or not spam), that might save 1,725,000 gigabytes of cupboard space, which is round 55.2 million kilowatts of energy. 

To put this into perspective, simply 33 billion kilowatt-hours is the equal of: 

  • Electricity in 2.4 million houses 
  • Greenhouse gasoline emissions of three.1 million passenger automobiles 
  • 2 billion U.S. gallons of gasoline 

So, you possibly can think about the nice saving 55.2 million kilowatts of energy would do.  

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While deleting emails is one answer, one other is just unsubscribing from newsletters within the first place. This means, you’ll obtain much less emails general. 

Be certain to check out your inbox and determine which newsletters are now not serving you (this is not going to solely cut back your carbon footprint, but in addition clear the noise in your inbox! Win-win).  

is retaining emails unhealthy for atmosphere? 

Keeping emails can hurt the atmosphere, just because it’s a matter of saved (and wasted) vitality.  

It takes vitality to energy your pc, cellphone, and web. And it takes much more vitality for web suppliers and e mail providers to repeatedly retailer all the info.

And the place is that vitality coming from? Fossil fuels. Let me elaborate.

It all boils right down to knowledge centres, aka a giant group of networked pc servers sometimes utilized by organizations for the distant storage, processing, or distribution of huge quantities of information. 

These knowledge facilities are storing all our inboxed emails. They’re additionally powered on principally fossil fuels, that are carbon intensive and contribute to local weather change.

Data facilities additionally want 24/7 air con to maintain the computer systems cool, creating much more emissions and consuming extra vitality. A 2015 study discovered web use ends in as a lot CO2 emissions because the aviation business. 

When we go away our emails alone to amass, that knowledge should be saved someplace, aka in a knowledge heart. But after we select to delete that e mail, we’re liberating up area in knowledge facilities, making them work extra effectively with out over-consuming energy. 

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Ultimately, knowledge facilities should shift in direction of being powered by renewable vitality. Blame can’t be put solely on people: the system should change. That is the final word answer to an e mail’s carbon footprint, in spite of everything.   

RELATED: Is An Internet Search Bad For The Environment? 

So, what are your ideas on the carbon footprint of emails? Let me know within the feedback beneath! 

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