Thinking of Reducing your Footprint? Deleting Emails Can Help

Friday, February 12, 2016

In an Internet-dependent world, most people are yet to realize that massive email storage might have perverse consequences on the environment. Seems environmental conscience goes beyond veganism or paper saving. Transitioning to digital storage is leading to major increases in energy consumption. Google itself acknowledges it is “as much of an energy glutton as heavy industry”. But just how much energy are we using up by not keeping our inboxes in order? Aside what that colossal number might be, acquiring the habit of deleting old or no longer needed emails can certainly make a difference.

On the fringes of COP21, the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) launched an eye-opening study which revealed that communications and social media have increased annual power consumption by over 10% in the last decade. The ADEME study, C4, evidenced that an email with an attachment of a megaoctect read by multiple users for a five-minute period on their respective computers can produce the equivalent of 19 grams of CO2. Moreover, ADEME estimates that nearly 250 billion emails were sent daily in 2012, and over 500 billion in 2013.

As an alternative to mitigate this situation, the C4 study started the #ecleaningdays initiative, or “days of electronic cleansing”, inviting all email users to periodically clean their inboxes. It turns out that each email takes up space in a server so our information is always available on the Internet. Those servers are lit 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To give a better example of how modern energy consumption levels have risen, ADEME representatives indicated that deleting 50 emails will equal to the energy savings of 2.7 billion fewer light bulbs! ADEME also commented that if 100,000 French citizens deleted 50 emails each, the energy saved could lit the Eiffel Tower every evening for an entire year.

Additionally to endless digital servers, another quite pollutant modern life element that demands large amounts of energy is, of course, the mobile phone. Mail and chat storage requires vast amounts of energy. Although technology is saving energy through energy-efficient devices and electronic equipment, recent evidence supports that energy use has risen abruptly over the past 10 years with the use of electronic gadgets. There are over two billion television sets in the world, close to one billion personal computers by the end of the year 2016, and over half the global population subscribes to a mobile telephone service. And these figures will only continue to rise. Reinforcing energy-efficiency standards on consumer devices should be considered in order to reduce personal electrical energy usage.