How to reduce our email carbon footprint

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Here are some tips on how to start off the year taking care of our planet from our computers.

New year, new beginnings. Now that we’re gradually returning to work and are met by our inboxes full of emails, it is time to remember what we can do to reduce the carbon footprint generated by technology. Sending and receiving, filtering, visualization and, especially, storing of emails have an environmental impact.

According to an article in The Guardian, a single spam email is equivalent to emitting 0.3 grams of CO2 and if they contain an attachment, this figure rises to 50 grams. So, in one year managing our work email would mean the equivalent of 135 kg, the same emissions as a car driven for 322 km.

Each year, almost 62 trillion spam messages are sent, requiring the use of 33 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and generating around 20 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year.  

Let’s take a look at some tips to manage our email in a more sustainable way:

1. Filtering

Pangea's guide to an eco-friendly Internet, which works to foster a more ethical and solidarity-based use of the Internet by organisations, suggests having a good spam filter to keep our inbox uncluttered. This can be done from our email settings adding the subject and sender you wish to filter and/or marking unwanted emails as spam so the manager can identify them.

2. Plain text

We can adjust our email settings to receive and send emails using plain text instead of html.

3. Minimising images

Images are heavy and require more energy and storage space. So, it’s best if we avoid them and minimise the use of signatures and logos, or only use them for external emails.

4. Only adding ASCII art style images

Being sustainable does not mean being boring. You can use your creativity with these images developed with characters that don’t take up as much space. You can use this resource to turn conventional images into ASCII.

5. Avoid attachments

Avoiding heavy attachments can greatly reduce our carbon footprint. It’s always better to upload a file onto the cloud and sending a link so everyone can get it.

6. Turn off automated notifications

Turning off automated notifications on social media and unsubscribing from mailing lists and other promotions that we don’t even read can help us avoid a great deal of spam.

7. Avoid emails for irrelevant comments

We often answer an email with an “OK” or a “Thanks” and this may be unnecessary or we may even be able to answer in person. If we all did this, the amount of energy used to send, receive and accumulate emails containing little to no information would grow exponentially, and the amount of energy would be much less.

8. Getting used to cleaning up

Email maintenance, just as home chores, should be a habit to avoid overcrowded email accounts. Each week we should delete emails we don’t need to cut down on the energy that goes to waste.

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