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Protecting the Climate From Your Desk

November 16th, 2022 | by

Laptop with many flying letters

Source: pixabay.com

At first glance, e-mail seems to be an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional letters: You don’t need paper and the letter doesn’t have to travel halfway around the world to the recipient by car, ship or plane. However, e-mails also cause greenhouse gas emissions in a completely different way – probably more than you think.

In today’s article, we explain why e-mails are also harmful to the environment to a certain extent. With our tips, we are sure you will be able to adopt a more ecological approach to digital communication and make a joint contribution to climate protection.

 

Every Message Consumes Electricity

Digital messages are convenient and popular because an e-mail is sent quickly – and reaches the recipient within seconds. But e-mails also leave an environmental footprint:

  • To compose an e-mail, you use a computer, tablet or smartphone. During use, these devices consume electricity.
  • The e-mail is then transmitted via various servers so that it reaches the recipient. These servers also consume electricity – as does the communication between the servers themselves.
  • Then the e-mail is read by the recipient on a computer, tablet or smartphone. You guessed it: these devices also consume electricity.
  • The most crucial point at this point, however, is that the e-mail remains on a server. This results in constant power consumption.


How Much Greenhouse Gas Does an E-mail Cause?

The actual greenhouse gas emissions of an e-mail can only be roughly estimated. According to the Carbon Literacy Project Organization, the greenhouse gas emissions per e-mail average out as follows:

  • 0.3 grams of CO₂ per spam e-mail
  • 4 grams CO₂ per real e-mail
  • up to 50 grams of CO₂ per real e-mail with attachment

Nevertheless, the ecological footprint of an e-mail is only about 1/5 of that of a classic letter (20 grams of CO₂ on average). However, it is problematic that nowadays many more e-mails are sent than letters used to be. This is a classic example of the rebound effect: A single e-mail saves CO₂ compared to a letter. But if, for example, 100 times as many e-mails are sent as letters, e-mails are still more harmful to the climate than letters used to be. So here, too, climate protection means making sacrifices or behaving more consciously with regard to our resources.

Tips & Hints

To reduce our environmental footprint, we should rethink our digital communications and adapt them accordingly. In doing so, simple steps can help us produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions:

  • Write fewer emails:
    In 2018, over 848 billion emails were sent in Germany alone (source: Statista). These mainly include short messages such as “Thank you” or “Have a nice weekend.” Our recommendation: Check before sending any email whether it is really necessary.
  • Don’t send e-mails with attachments:
    E-mails with attachments generate up to 12 times as much CO₂ as e-mails without attachments – quite a lot, isn’t it? But there’s a simple solution: Upload the files you would otherwise send as attachments to a data storage platform. Then simply send the link to the recipient. Attachments are also often used to spread malware. In this way, you not only protect the climate, but also contribute to IT security. We have summarized more information and tips on the topic of “E-Mail Attachments and Their Challenges” for you here in the blog.
  • Delete e-mails:
    Regularly check your e-mail account for messages that you no longer need. Move them to the recycle bin and don’t forget to empty it afterwards. You should pay particular attention to large e-mails with file attachments. Sort your messages in your e-mail account by size, then you can find them faster and remove them accordingly.
  • Delete spam e-mails:
    You should also empty the junk mail folder at regular intervals. Depending on the provider, the deletion takes place automatically after a certain period of time – you can also set a shorter period of time. An e-mail provider with a good spam filter is also recommended at this point.
  • Unsubscribe from newsletter:
    “10% discount when subscribing to a newsletter” – and bang you’ve signed up for the next newsletter. And then you regularly receive countless e-mails that you never read anyway. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Then cancel your subscription today. At the end of each newsletter you will find a link to unsubscribe. It will save you time and you will also save the environment.
  • Turn off notifications from social media networks:
    Social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and others also send regular emails with the latest notifications and news to their followers. However, you can easily unsubscribe from these in the settings of the respective network.

Do you have any other tips on how we can contribute to climate protection by adapting our digital communication?
Feel free to write them in our comments 🙂

Responsible for the content of this article is Nicole Kaminski.

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