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The Agora

Reducing your email carbon footprint

Written by SWAY

Emails…we all receive too many of them! Between the never ending Cc’s work email loops, the marketing ones, the family ones, newsletters and the ” don’t forget these items in your shopping cart” ones, keeping an empty inbox is virtually (no pun intended) an impossible task. The problem, like all things which live online, our inboxes have a carbon footprint.

The facts

Here’s the carbon footprint of your most received emails in CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent)

An average spam email:  0.3 g CO2e

A standard email: 4 g CO2e

An email with “long and tiresome attachments”: 50 g CO2e

Now let’s put the facts into context

An average office worker receives between 121 to 140 emails per day, roughly half of these will be spam. Emma Charlotte Richards of the Carbon Literacy Trust estimates that the remaining half is almost equally comprised of those with and without attachments (those with attachments predominantly have more than one).

Let’s factor in the CO2e (using here the optimistic value of 121 daily emails) :

60.5 spam emails  x   0.3 g CO2e  =  18.5 g CO2e
30.25 standard emails  x  4 g CO2e  =  121 g CO2e
30.25 emails with attachments  x  50 g CO2e  =  1512.5 g CO2e

This means that a days’ worth of emails received is equal to  1,652 g CO2e.

And that one years’ worth of emails received equals 0.6 tonnes CO2e.

To put this into perspective, the total yearly carbon footprint of the average person living in India is approx 1.5 tonnes CO2e.

So the emails received by 3 office workers in a year surpass the carbon footprint of another human for all their activity for a whole year!

Ok, but how do we limit the damage?

Emails are not going anywhere and even less so now that so many of us are working from home. There are a few thing however we can do to keep our inbox as planet friendly as can be, especially when you know that in total, 80% of emails are never opened.

1. First up, seems obvious but ask yourself: do you really need to communicate via email or can you speak to the person directly? Bonus point: communication will likely be smoother too.

2. Reduce the size of emails by lowering the resolution and compressing images and documents.

3. Regularly update and get rid of subscriptions to any newsletter you don’t want to receive any more.

4. While you are at it, why not Marie Kondo your address book and get rid of any invalid email address ( like the one from your high school crush, although not mine it’s still working…)

5. 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 or you know, an embarrassing moment.

6. Link to files or information online rather than adding an attachment.

And if you want to calculate your email carbon footprint more precisely you can do that HERE

Written by SWAY



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