E-mail becomes the end of the world

Aimee Lastrella

We all get e-mail and we all get spam. It clutters our inbox-from upcoming concerts, to store coupons and to prescription pills over the Internet- and eats up the valuable space of our inboxes.

But that’s not the only thing that it eats up; e-mails eat up the environment too.

Believe it or not, e-mails have a carbon footprint. Even though they don’t use paper, ink, postage, or gas to get to the recipient- they still have their own negative effect on the world, besides the majority of their empty content.

Recently, The Guardian’s Green Living Blog took the task to do the math, after their coverage on the carbon footprint of the Internet. Which left me to imagine my Gmail, Yahoo! and Hotmail accounts with an exhaust pipe.

I know you’re thinking, how the heck is e-mail producing a carbon footprint?

The answer is that e-mail itself isn’t releasing the CO2, but the amount of energy used to actually send the message and the amount of energy it takes for an inbox to retain and hold the messages adds up.

According to The Guardian’s math, every single spam sent generates about 0.3 grams of CO2-equivalent emissions, which is like driving about 3 feet in a car.

Thank goodness for the creation of spam filters. They instantly delete majority of my pointless e-mails, but sadly some still get through. I instantly delete spam from my inbox though when I see it, don’t care for the subject line or I don’t recognize the sender.

I did the math and about 32 percent of my email’s carbon footprint is created by spam. As discouraging as this is for me to digest, I have come to terms that in this world spam e-mails are something that I cannot change.

But then it got me thinking. What about all my other e-mails? What about all the other e-mails I receive and actually read and respond to the sender.

Those e-mails are referred to as “proper e-mails” and they generate about 4 grams of CO2 equivalent emissions, which equals to driving about 40 feet.

What’s worse is that if you have a long e-mail or send one with attachments that bumps up your emission equivalent to so much more, a whopping 50 grams of CO2 equivalent of emissions.

After understanding those facts, I wanted to break down one of my e-mail accounts. I chose my Gmail account because it is the most frequently used among the three that I have.

I received in one day a total of 76 “proper e-mails”, totaling to 220 grams of CO2 equivalent emissions. But if that wasn’t bad enough about 21 of those e-mails had an attachment of some sort, which added about 1,050 grams to that “proper e-mail” total. And with my 37 spam e-mails, I hurt the environment with about 11 more grams.

55 “proper e-mails” x 4 g CO2 equivalent emissions= 220 g CO2e
21 “proper e-mails” with attachments x 50 g CO2 equivalent emissions= 1,050 g CO2e
37 spam e-mails x 0.3 CO2 equivalent emissions= 11.1 g CO2e

220 CO2e + 1,050 CO2e + 11.1 CO2e = 1,281.1 g CO2e

I’m totaling out to about 1,281.1 grams of CO2 equivalent emissions just based on yesterday’s inbox. I did not even want to go through the stuff that I sent out, but I did anyway.

I sent out a total of 17 “proper e-mails” and of those five of them were either lengthy or had an attachment. That’s 318 grams, just on me typing and hitting send.

With all these numbers it is bringing yesterday’s total to, drum roll please, about 1,599.1 grams of CO2 equivalent emissions. That is like me driving almost 14,000 feet in one day- in just e-mails, that’s almost three miles!

Now to think about this on a daily makes me rethink how important an e-mail is to send. It’s letting me think of ways to cut down on how many e-mails I send each day. Also I have to rethink on how many of my multiple accounts are really that necessary.

Got any ideas on how to cut down on the e-mail? Share them in the comments.