What exactly is the carbon footprint of an email?
Whilst we’re now familiar with the idea that each of the objects in our homes has a carbon footprint, the energy to send and store an email is elusive. It’s not surprising that almost three-quarters of the UK (72%) are completely unaware of the carbon footprint attached to their inbox.
Here’s a little ‘behind the scenes’: an email travels an average of 15,000 km before getting to your screen, there’s a huge amount of power that data centres and computers need to use to send, filter, and store messages. The most recent research suggests that 64 million unnecessary emails are sent every day in the UK, contributing to 23,475 tonnes of carbon a year. That’s 115,931 flights from Heathrow to Madrid.
Mike Berners-Lee, researcher and author of ‘There is no Planet B’ and ‘How Bad are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything’, says: “Whilst the carbon footprint of an email isn’t huge, it’s a great illustration of the broader principle that cutting the waste out of our lives is good for our wellbeing and good for the environment. Every time we take a small step towards changing our behaviour, be that sending fewer emails or carrying a reusable coffee cup, we need to treat it as a reminder to ourselves and others that we care even more about the really big carbon decisions”
Going back to the advice ‘don’t be a slave to your inbox’, I’ve listed a few ways to alleviate your inbox dread and digital footprint; It’s not dissimilar giving your sock drawer the full Marie Kondo makeover.