So, how much does an email really weigh? If this question was addressed to me, my initial reaction would probably be to smile and say “good one”. The correct answer though would be “it depends”. An average spam email equals 0.3g CO2e; a standard email equals 4g CO2e; and an email with “long and tiresome attachments” an alarming 50g CO2e. 50g CO2 is the equivalent of 6.4 smartphones being charged. Not that funny anymore, is it?

While they are not actually the most energy consuming ones per se, spam emails represent an astonishing 78% of all incoming emails; that is a volume of around 62 trillion emails per year, causing approximately 20 million tonnes of CO2e according to McAfee. That’s the carbon sequestered from 26,119,072 acres of forest in a whole year! Definitely not a laughing matter.

The next question would be, can we do something to reduce our email footprint? And the answer here is simple: yes, we can. I will focus on two things that can be done easily and rapidly: Recipient Validation, and a minor cultural change.

Recipient Validation

On top of the obvious benefit of protecting and enhancing the sender’s reputation, Recipient Validation can help organizations dramatically reduce their email carbon footprint, by improving the health of their recipients’ base. The best part is that it can be done easily, by uploading the recipients’ list for checking. Recipient Validation can help identify common issues, such as typos or non-existent mailboxes, and reduce bounces. This handy tool helps lower the number of emails that are sent purposelessly, ensuring that senders are adopting a more environmentally friendly approach with their email programs. With the majority of validations being completed in less than 30 milliseconds, there’s no excuse really!

A Minor Cultural Change

The second thing is a minor cultural change pertaining to people and our fundamental need for communication. Being social animals, we tend to obey common social rules, e.g. if someone sends an email with information that will help us do our job better, we’ll politely express our gratitude with a “Thank you” email. Nothing wrong with that!

Actually, there is something wrong. These emails, together with all the brief “Received”, “Approved”, or “How funny!” emails, account for the biggest proportion of our daily “unnecessary” emails, and they do carry a lot of weight (both literally and metaphorically). While us Britons pride ourselves in being one of the most polite and well-behaved nations on Earth, if each UK adult sent just one less “thank you” email a day, we would save over 16,433 tonnes of carbon a year. That’s the equivalent of 81,1522 flights to Madrid, or taking 3,334 diesel cars off the road. Perhaps it’s time we became a little bit “ruder”, a little less “social”, and a lot more “green”.

~ Sam