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Email's Carbon Footprint

image of email icon

Every aspect of life has a carbon footprint – no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. This includes emails.

Below are the average carbon footprints of different emails:

  • An average spam email:  0.3 g CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent)
  • A standard email: 4 g CO2e
  • An email with “long and tiresome attachments”: 50 g CO2e

This information is taken from the book by Mike Berners-Lee: “How Bad are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything“. Mike is the brother of Tim Burners-Lee the inventor of the world wide web.

This might not initially seem like a lot, but when you consider the number of emails sent and received, it’s easy to see how this can add up. This means that a days’ worth of emails received is equal to 1,652 g CO2e and a 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 approximately 1.5 tonnes CO2e and by this account, it takes just three average office workers’ yearly received emails to surpass that of another human’s carbon footprint for all their activity for a whole year.

So what can you do to minimise your impact?

  1. Reduce the size of emails and avoid large messages.
  2. 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.
  3. Share links to files or information from our Office 365 OneDrive rather than adding an attachment.

Based on information supplied by the Carbon Literacy Project in “The Carbon Cost of an Email”

Learn more about Green IT