Are emails bad for the Environnement ?

Are emails bad for the Environnement ? 

Many newspapers started discussing not a long time ago about emails which are not as eco-friendly as we might think.

Indeed, the energy that you use at your office to write your email, might seems insignificant. However, it’s actually much bigger than we initially believed. The French authorities RTE started to alert companies in France. They also demanded  “to cut back on email in order to save energy” according to the Independent.

As the French regulators and the Independent indicates from its article, “there’s a whole infrastructure behind every message, which includes not only the electricity you use but also the energy it takes to store and transmit that information through data centres.”

In fact, scientifics started to investigate on the carbon footprint of emailing in order to understand the impact it may cause on our environment. To measure this issue, the researcher has to calculate the amount of greenhouse made when someone send an email for instance to his co-worker.     

A normal email, has a footprint of 4g of CO2e
A normal email, has a footprint of 4g of CO2e

It came out that a spam email for instance, has a footprint of 0.3g of carbon dioxide emissions (CO2e), according to Mike Berners-Lee’s 2010 book How Bad are Bananas: The Carbon Footprint of Everything. Still according to Mike Berners-Lee, a normal email, has a footprint of 4g of CO2e. This is because it counts the power used of computers and the data centers in which the email is being store, as well as the sending process, the filtering and finally the receiving and reading process. Moreover, a long email with an attachment can have a carbon footprint that goes beyond 50g CO2e.

The Ademe (a French company) estimated that each of the French workers receive in average 58 emails per day and send 33 of them. In fact the process of sending 33 emails to two co-workers per day with an attachment of 1 Mo generates around 180 kg of CO2, the equivalent of 1 000 km drove with your car.   

The first question that rose at our mind at TheFiveCOM AGENCY is how come emailing has become that bad for the environment ? One of the reason has already partly been answered. It’s because of the energy that has been used to process the email. However, where does energy is being used ?

It’s in fact the data centers that uses by their own, 30 billion watts each year, or 4% of global energy consumption. The reason is that in data centers the temperature rises very quickly. This is due to the servers that never stop functioning. To avoid any problems with the servers and the high temperature, we had to start using air conditioner. In fact, 30% to 50% of the consumption of the data center are made up because it the AC. Therefore, many data centers started to use new and free techniques to cool systems. They are based on cold outdoor air (known as free-cooling, or free-chiling) or groundwater ( also name geo-cooling).

In addition to these solutions, the big Net brands are relocating their data center in cold area. For instance, Google has settled in Finland, Facebook in Sweden, while Microsoft is actually according to some French article considering the seabed.

Greenpeace brand reporting
Greenpeace brand reporting

Is this a good solution ?

According to Greenpeace the idea is not bad and might be the most eco-friendly so far. However, every big Net brand has to do it. In a fascinating report named “CLICKING CLEAN: WHO IS WINNING THE RACE TO BUILD A GREEN INTERNET?” by Greenpeace published in 2017, the NGO denounced the brands not eco-friendly enough such as Netflix, Amazon and Samsung.

We invite you to comment below about this issue. Did you know about it ? Do you have any good habits at work to avoid CO2e ?

We can also read more articles of ours!


written by: Lilou D

4 thoughts on “Are emails bad for the Environnement ?”

    1. Thank you for your comment! If you are really interested, I recommend you to read the report “CLICKING CLEAN: WHO IS WINNING THE RACE TO BUILD A GREEN INTERNET?” by Greenpeace.

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