Climate Conscious
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Climate Conscious

What’s the Carbon Cost of Your Email on the Climate

Calculate and be aware of it. Delay the iceberg meltdown at least for some time

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Can you please check the number of unread e-mails in your inbox right now? Let me guess, 500+? Or maybe 1k+? Great. Congratulations on increasing your carbon footprint far larger than you think you are.

Before we proceed, let me confess that I am not an ideal person either. My carbon footprint from emails was (until June) at least 1,460 kg of CO2 per year, which is equivalent to driving 3,864.7 km in a car annually (puff!). No wonder I dream of traveling sitting in one place!

How can a simple email that saved the world from paper pollution, in turn saving deforestation to some extent, contribute to this large carbon footprint?

Confused? So was I. Let’s see what the hubbub is all about. And also, let’s calculate your carbon footprint from email.

Carbon Footprint from Emails

When you send an email, it travels through the networks in the world and drops itself in the addressed account, i.e., stored in that particular folder until it is deleted. Electricity and storage are required throughout the entire process, from navigation and recognition of address to find a place in the data center to settle down. According to Data Center Knowledge, data centers account for 1% of all the electricity consumed by the world every year. 1% might seem small, but it is not when you calculate the carbon footprint of electricity. Moreover, data is growing exponentially. Don’t be shocked when Google, Facebook, and Amazon quadruple their data center count in the future.

According to The Good Planet:

The carbon footprint of a spam email: 0.3g CO2e
The carbon footprint of an average (text) email: 4g CO2e
The carbon footprint of an email with attachments: 50g CO2e

Let’s consider you have 2 personal, 1 business and 1 student email account. And, let’s consider you get 30 emails per account, per day. Then,

CO2e of your emails per day = 4*30*4 gCO2e = 480 gCO2e.

According to The Thought experiment by Science Focus:

Sending 65 emails is roughly equivalent to driving 1km in a car. In a year, an average person in the developed world adds 136kg of CO2 to their carbon footprint from the emails they send and receive. This is equivalent to an extra 320km driven in a car. Globally, the world’s email usage generates as much CO2 as having an extra seven million cars on the roads.

For one year, you add = 480*365 grams of CO2 =175.2 kgs of CO2.

Which is huge!

Just imagine, you are producing 175.2 kg of CO2 — equivalent to driving 412.2 km by car — just by sitting in one place and storing damn emails in your phone, which might never be useful again. By the way, how long do you think an average email can be useful? 10 days? 6 months? 1 year?

You can find more about your carbon footprint from emails with this calculator.

How to reduce this?

You may not stop using plastic completely. You may not manage to turn into a vegan. You may not stop deforestation. But you can delete your unnecessary emails, right?

Let’s start small.

  • Delete unnecessary e-mails and manage your inbox regularly.
  • Reduce the size of emails by lowering the resolution and compressing images, and avoid large HTML elements.
  • Link to files or information online rather than adding an attachment.
  • Check your emails thoroughly before sending to ensure they contain all the necessary (and correct) information to avoid the need for a follow-up email.
  • Delete junk or spam.
  • Unsubscribe from the newsletters you don’t read.
  • Try not to send ‘thank you’ emails.
  • Spread the word.

According to The Good Planet, If every person only deleted 10 of those emails, they could save 1,725,00 gigabytes of storage space and around 55.2 million kilowatts of power.

Now, I believe your first action would be checking the number of emails in your inbox and then calculating your carbon footprint from them. And I am sure you are going to clean your inbox. Actually, you should. We don’t want an iceberg to melt just because you are storing a few damn unnecessary emails in your inbox, right?

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