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The unbelievable & surprising carbon toll of an email

Hi there,

As I told you, I'm trying my best to reduce my personal carbon toll, which, to be quite frankly, is not an easy task. Anyway, I'm a goal getter so I won't give up. As we say; "Where there's a will, there's a way". Keep following my eco-friendly journey right here.

Today, I wanted to share with you a super & easy way to diminish your carbon toll by simply sorting out your emails. Yes, believe or not, it does help!

Photo taken from the top showing a mac displaying a email

How can something as immaterial as a standard email emit some CO2? Are we contributing to the deterioration of the environment by sending a simple email?

According to Mike Berners-Lee (author of “How Bad are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything“), a simple email that you click on, open, forward, or reply to generates 4 grams of CO2. If this email counts a file of 1MB, the carbon emission reaches 19 grams, and if this file is forwarded it emits even more CO2.

How is that even possible that sending, reading, deleting, forwarding, or storing an email generates a carbon footprint?

Not obvious but logical. Processing an email through the internet implies sending, reading, deleting, and storing the email and, consequently, requires energy. In addition, the infrastructure needed to allow this process also demands lots of energy. For instance, last year The United States Department of Energy stated that data centers consumed approximately 3% of electricity worldwide, and this could rise up to 8% by 2030.

Furthermore, based on Global News, we know that office-workers receive approximately 121 emails per day, and that half of them are spams. Considering one spam, one standard email, and one email with attachments generate respectively 0,3 grams, 4 grams, and 50 grams of CO2 we can say that it equals 603 393 grams of CO2 a year. 30 trees will be needed during that year to compensate for your emails. That is compelling.

Luckily, there exist some solutions for helping us reduce our emails’ carbon toll

  • Reduce the size of emails by lowering the resolution and compressing images and avoid large HTML elements.

  • Remove any contacts that unsubscribe.

  • Make sure you do not subscribe to something you do not want to.

  • Check your emails carefully before sending them to ensure they contain all the necessary (and correct) information, to avoid the need for a follow-up email.

  • Link some files or information online rather than adding an attachment.

  • Use “Carbon Capper”, a Google Chrome extension looking at the numbers of words in your email, and which displays a pop-up sensitive message if you send anything under four words.

  • Go the extra mile and be more responsible by using a green data server consuming less energy (ok, I don't do this one yet).

Today, almost everything we undertake has a carbon footprint, even sending a standard email. Understandably, processing an email requires lots of energy. However, there is a wide array of solutions at our disposal for reducing our email’s carbon toll. By taking care of how, why, and when you work with emails, you can make a difference. Little by little, a little becomes a lot.

Did you like this article? Let me know in comment :).



PS: Click here for the French version.


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