2020 marks the year of coronavirus attack, where people all around the planet has to limit their activities outside their home. During this coronavirus era, many people are forced to work from home for safety measure.
Working from home means we must be able to perform what we usually do in office without being there. But working from home is surely different from working in the office where we can easily talk to our co-workers to communicate work stuffs.
One of the most used media for long distance communication between co-workers is email. This method is also still the most used mean to send files between people, including work files, personal letters, newsletters and even marketing mails with various attachments.
But don’t you know that emails are not that friendly to our nature, especially when we hoard it in our inbox? Here in this article we will explain why emails are not friendly to the nature if we store it in our inbox.
Paperless And Inkless Email
Many people would think that email is a technology made to reduce the use of paper for mails. In this case, we would need to cut down less trees and use less ink too. Let alone we also don’t have to think about the carbon footprint of delivering it into the recipients.
Visually, email is eco-friendlier because it doesn’t require any of those things mentioned above to deliver the message. However, emails are not as eco-friendly as we thought. In real life, emails contribute to huge amount of carbon emission.
How can? Emails are accessed from electronic devices, and electronic devices consume electricity. Electricity we get from solar panels is a cleaner version of coal-powered power plants, but sadly we still rely so much on fossil fuel for it.
Even though checking on emails takes around let’s say 10 seconds for each mail, but the background process of delivering and receiving emails is actually an energy-intensive process. Since it happens undercover, most people don’t realize it.
Emails have so much influence to our carbon emission, that emptying your inbox is sometimes a better move to protect this planet than rallying on the street. Rallying on the street require energy and resources, while deleting your inbox means you stop something consuming energy.
Let’s list the things we need to deliver an email. Obviously, firstly we need the electricity as we have mentioned above. And we must already be familiar with how electricity harvested from fossil-fueled power plants is polluting this planet.
The electricity generated is used to power electronic devices, which is the second thing we require to send an email. Electronic devices clearly have its own carbon footprints, even though we don’t use it specifically only for delivering email.
The third thing we need is infrastructures to send electronic signals. Infrastructures we are talking about include communication towers, fiber optic or any other kind of infrastructure functioning as highway for data, even satellites.
And finally, the thing we need to deliver an email is server. Server is the term used to mention a facility to store transmitted data from emails. The reason why we can still access emails in our inbox which was sent years ago is because it is still saved in the servers.
Servers are usually stored in huge data centers, and data centers consume insane amount of energy to operate every day. The problem is, even though you have forgotten the emails at the bottom of your inbox, it is still being stored in the server until you finally delete it.
Talking About Email In Servers
Yes, to just store the email that you have forgotten, servers consume energy in any case someday you access it again. By that, it includes the emails in your old accounts that even you have forgotten the password and never accessed it anymore.
Greenpeace calculated that in 2012, global data centers consumed around 382 billion kWh. Remember that 2012 was the beginning of smartphone era? Because of that, since then the number keeps on increasing significantly.
Fast forward 4 years later when most people already have smartphones, the consumption of energy by data centers exceeded the amount of electricity consumed by United Kingdom by 40%. Greenpeace calculated that in 2016 roughly 416 TWh of electricity was consumed for it.
A study done by McAfee calculated that storing 1 gigabytes of emails for a year consumes around 32 kWh. Now, can you calculate how much energy you have consumed this year alone? What if we multiply it with the number of email accounts?
Well if it surprises you enough, then try to imagine how much energy we consume for exchanging information through emails during our work from home period. We are currently in a period of time where online communication is like bread and butter to our daily lives, thanks to coronavirus.
Importance Of Emptying Your Inbox
The study by McAfee also calculated that average email contributes 0.3 grams of carbon dioxide per message. Emptying an inbox with 1000 email will prevent the release of 300 grams of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every day.
We should also talk about unnecessary emails and spam that we can find a bunch in our inbox, and also outbox. Some unnecessary emails are “Thanks”, “Thank you”, “Got it”, “LOL”, and other things that would not change anything even if it is not sent to your colleagues.
Every day, a research found, around 64 million such unnecessary mails are sent. From those tens of millions mail sent, there is no positive breakthrough have emerged. On the other hand, it contributed to more than 16,000 tons of carbon.
Deleting spam emails, either from unnecessary subscription or marketing promotions will also help to prevent huge release of carbon. Yes, emptying our inbox is a small act, but even the smallest act can buy us more time to prevent total disaster to this planet.
“Every time we take a small step towards changing our behavior, be that sending fewer emails or carrying a reusable coffee cup, we need to treat it as a reminder to ourselves and others that we care even more about the really big carbon decisions,” said Prof. Mike Berners-Lee of Lancaster University in Lancashire.