One hazard of being an eco-blogger: You get a lot of e-mails every day. The time my inbox eats up is an obvious problem — but the constant flow of e-mail also creates a green issue, since each e-mail does have a carbon footprint.
The Guardian’s Green Living Blog did the math
— and now I’m imagining my Gmail account with a tailpipe spewing greenhouse gases. Did you just spam me? Well then you created 0.3 grams worth of CO2-equivalent emissions — about the same amount as driving three feet in a car.
Luckily, though I get hundreds of spam e-mails a day, I don't spend much time on them before deleting them, thanks to Gmail’s spam filter. My quick, automated reactions to exterminate spam means that only about 22 percent of my e-mail inbox’s carbon footprint is created by spam. While I’d like to nix that completely unnecessary waste, there’s obviously little I can do about spam — besides report it and delete it — so I’m going to accept the spam as something I can’t change.
Which brings me to the rest of my inbox — that honestly, often includes a lot of spam-esque e-mails thanks to misguided PR people who include me on badly targeted mass e-mails. According to the Guardian, each “proper e-mail” creates 4 grams of CO2-equivalent emissions — equivalent to driving 40 feet.
So I thought I’d figure out the daily carbon footprint of my Gmail inbox. Now I did not major in math, so if you see a miscalculation, please let me know. Here goes: I got 131 “proper e-mails” yesterday — with the CO2-equivalent emissions of driving 5,240 feet — almost a mile! That plus the spam — roughly equivalent to driving 1,480 feet, assuming Guardian’s 22 percent figure) — means I emitted the CO2 equivalent emissions of driving 6,720 feet!
Except it doesn’t end there. Send me an e-mail with a long and tiresome attachment, and you’ve burned through a whopping 50 grams of CO2-equivalent emissions. Of the 131 “proper e-mails” I got yesterday, 13 had onerous attachments. Which brought my e-mail calculations to this:
118 “proper e-mails” sans attachments X 4g CO2e = 472 g CO2e
13 e-mails with attachments X 50g CO2 = 650 g CO2e
So from “proper e-mails” both with and without attachments, I get 1122 g CO2e — which with spam swells up to 1438g CO2e — or the equivalent to driving 14,380 feet, or 2.72 miles!
I was gnashing my teeth over this when I remembered that I had forgotten to include the e-mails I sent. I sent 14 — one with an attachment — which brings the total to 1569g CO2e — or the equivalent to driving 15,690 feet, or 2.97 miles!
Good thing I took the bus when I went out to dinner last night! The Guardian flirts with the idea of charging a cent per e-mail — which seems rather drastic to me. On the other hand, I’d get a lot less spam and spam-esque e-mails — neither of which I feel I have much control over at the moment.
Got any brilliant ideas for reducing e-mail? Share them in the comments.