At this moment, as you read this, how many emails do you have? How many of those emails are spam? How many are emails which you probably won’t read? How many from mailing lists which you never asked to join, emails where you were cc’d unnecessarily? Every single one of these emails generates a carbon footprint. Read, or unread; useful, interesting, spam; cached, archived, junk; it all has some part in the 50 billions tonnes of CO2 emitted, globally, every year.
1. “Sending even a short email is estimated to add about four grammes (0.14 ounces) of CO2 equivalent (gCO2e) to the atmosphere.”
2. “According to Mike Berners-Lee, every spam email – even if we don’t open it – releases an estimated 0.3 grams of CO2 into the atmosphere. An email with a lot of text and an attachment can be responsible for up to 50 grams.”
3. “According to McAfee, 78% of all incoming emails are spam.”
4. Globally, 306.4 billion emails were sent every day in 2020. (Expected to rise to 333.2 billion in 2022).
So, what can you do?
Emails are better than letters; your carrier pigeon has unionised; and your Morse code is rusty at best… We’re not saying it’s time to stop using email; at SOZO, we’re saying it’s time to start using it better! Here’s how:
(i) Unsubscribe. I know it’s tempting to simply hit delete on junk mail, but you know deep down this won’t be the end of it. If you take the extra time to unsubscribe you not only reduce your inbox, but you also reduce your carbon footprint… a win win!
(ii) Don’t send unnecessary emails, or cc unnecessarily. Wait until you have all the information. Avoid sending lots of short emails. This could also make you more productive. Stop and think before you Cc. Ask yourself, do they really need to see this email?
(iii) Remove animations, high-res pictures, or other slow-loading email signatures. On many email interfaces, these elements do not load correctly; on slower browsers or areas with slow internet speeds, or if the signature itself is poorly optimised, they may not load at all. You could use this opportunity for a more interesting and memorable email signature.
(iv) Cloud attachments: emails with attachments generate significantly higher carbon emissions (see 2.). Using cloud services, you can send a link instead. This may be useful for colleagues working together. Contact Shaun at SOZO for information on cloud working and sustainable websites.
5. “80% of this electricity [associated with spam email] is consumed by the reading and deleting of spam and the searching through spam folders to dig out genuine emails that ended up there by accident. Spam filters themselves account for 16%.”
6. Assuming 60.5 spam emails, 30.25 standard emails, and 30.25 emails with attachment, 121 incoming emails equates to 1.625 kg of CO2e.
The point here is this: can you benefit the environment by using your email more efficiently? Yes. Should you? Yes, the benefits are not just environmental; you can increase productivity, output, and work more effectively. How much will this benefit the environment?
As an individual, the significance of your efforts to benefit the planet is in the way you contribute to a collective consciousness, rather than in the practical effects of the emissions reductions themselves that result. If you implemented all the things you could do to benefit the planet, it may only result in an emissions reduction of 3 tonnes, say. This is a significant amount. But, as a percentage of the 50 billion tonnes of CO2 emitted, globally, every year, it might not seem as such.
But in changing the things you buy, and the way you work, you may encourage someone else to do the same, and their actions someone else. And that 3 tonnes may become a million tonnes, and then a billion tonnes.
In conclusion, making your business more sustainable requires a holistic approach that also includes digital communications. By adopting sustainable web design principles and email sustainability best practices, you can reduce your carbon footprint and make a positive impact on the environment, one email at a time
Thinking of going green with your next website? Contact our Founder Shaun on firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss how you can work with SOZO to reduce your online carbon footprint with sustainable web-design and green-hosting.
McAfee, re-reported by The Guardian [https://www.theguardian.com/environment/green-living-blog/2010/oct/21/carbon-footprint-email]