The true effect of unnecessary emails

The true effect of unnecessary emails

One less unnecessary email per day could reduce carbon emissions by 16,433 tonnes – equivalent to a staggering 81,152 flights from London Heathrow to Madrid.

E-mails have become a necessity when using the internet for transactions and social networking.

Time passed and it settled as one of the most important tools of the Internet, setting a solid base of more than 3.8 billion e-mail users worldwide, and it is projected to reach 4.3 billion by 2022.

But in this large amount of emails, how many of them are practically useless? According to EuroNews, over 64 million unnecessary emails are sent by Brits each day, while globally, a staggering 269 billion emails are sent each day and there are currently just over 3.7 billion email users worldwide. The sending of one email is estimated to produce 0.000001 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, it doesn’t seem like much, but if you consider that the average person sends five to ten ‘unnecessary’ emails per week, you very quickly3 have a far larger carbon footprint when looked at on a national scale.

According to Mike Berners-Lee’s book, The Carbon Footprint of Everything, a normal email has a footprint equivalent to 0.3 g of CO2 emissions. This can rise to 50g, however, with the addition of a large attachment. This figure looks at everything from the power in data centres to the computers that send, filter and read the messages.

“Whilst the carbon footprint of an email isn’t huge, it’s a great illustration of the broader principle that cutting out the waste in our lives is good for our wellbeing and good for the environment” (…) “When you are typing, your computer is using electricity, when you press send it goes through the network, and it takes electricity to run the network. And it’s going to end up being stored on the cloud somewhere, and those data centres use a lot of electricity. We don’t think about it because we can’t see the smoke coming out of our computers, but the carbon footprint of IT is huge and growing,” says Mike Berners-Lee, a professor at the Environment Centre in Lancaster University.

According to Martin Armstrong from Statista, adjusting the calculation to people who are employed, you have a pool of 33 million people in the UK. Being even stricter, removing jobs from sectors which largely don’t involve the regular sending of emails leaves you with 19 million people. Let’s add half of the country’s 5 million self-employed to give us a total of 24 million regular emailers. Under this set of ‘lower estimate’ assumptions, the figure still comes to 8,760 tonnes of carbon – equivalent to 43,260 flights to Madrid.


Pollution kills

Finding a global action plan against climate change is as necessary as it is difficult, why? Because people are dying.

The Global Alliance on Health and Pollution warns that pollution kills three times as many people a year as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. It also kills 15 times as many people each year as war and other forms of violence. At least 90 percent of all premature deaths from pollution occur in low and middle-income countries. The US ranks seventh for overall deaths and is the ‘wealthiest’ nation to feature in top 10 with 197,000 lives lost in 2017, it also ranks as the country with the highest per capita CO₂ emissions in the world.


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Mason Davis
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