Sustainability Tip #14

Time to clean up your in-box.

Composing, sending, receiving, and storing emails leaves a carbon footprint.

Even though email energy usage is 1/60th of paper mail, we send many more emails. If you take a long time to compose or read your emails or send pictures and videos, these all take additional energy.

In a year, for example, say you send and or receive 100 emails daily. This estimate includes spam and all those work emails you are cc’ed on. This level of emailing per day is equivalent to the CO2e* of driving a gasoline-powered 2020 Camry 260 miles or 1% of your total annual CO2e production.

According to The Good Planet, “nearly 107 billion spam emails were sent and received a day in 2019. 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”. 

Checking my own situation, I have several different email addresses, each serving an assigned purpose. I had to separate incoming emails to various addresses. There were so many every day that, if not categorized, important emails were easily overlooked amongst the multitude of spam. I have an email address dedicated to personal emails from friends and family, another for personal business like health, banking, bills, etc., one for shopping and politics and finally, several for work.

Summing up my many years of undeleted emails, I am embarrassed to admit, that I have 100,000+ unread emails. It is impossible to keep up with my emails; literally out of control. Since learning about emails having a carbon footprint, I have been reviewing old emails and then deleting them if they no longer serve a purpose. If I delete 20 a day, it will take more than 13 years to clean up my in-boxes! Plus, more spam comes in every day. I feel like I will never catch up in my lifetime and, in the interim, will likely develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Lucky, I can offset my email carbon footprint by not consuming beef or dairy.

Each year, a single cow will belch about 220 pounds of methane. This amount is approximately 3.3 tons of CO2e, equivalent to driving 2020 Camry 7000 miles. In contrast, my 100,000 emails represent 70 miles of driving and hoping for less each day.

Additionally, we need to

  1. Produce electricity using sustainable technology
  2. Clean out our in-boxes by deleting read or unnecessary emails
  3. Unsubscribe and report and block spam emails
  4. Tech companies need to make #2 and 3 easier to complete
  5. Stop consuming cattle-related products
You’ve Got Mail To Delete
2020 Camry CO2e

*CO₂ equivalent (CO₂e) is a unit of measurement that is used to standardize the climate effects of various greenhouse gases.

Calculate the carbon dioxide equivalent quantity of an F gas › guidance › calculate-the-carbon-dio…

 How do you calculate CO2 equivalent?

kilogram of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilogram – Wikidata › wiki