The next time you send an email, maybe you should consider the fact your send button would add a few extra grams of carbon dioxide to your carbon footprint. An average person contributes 136 kilograms of carbon dioxide to your which is equal to an incredible 320 kilometers driven in a car.
Each email consumes electricity to display it, and even more is used when the network connection transfers the email adding to the carbon footprint. And even as the mail traverses the internet, every server uses some server to temporarily store it before they are passed on. While an email consumes only 1.7% of the energy required to send a paper mail, the volume of emails we send adds considerably to the carbon footprint.
From 4 grams of carbon dioxide emission for sending a normal mail, the carbon footprint goes up when we attach a picture to it. That can go up to as much as 50 grams. It is a little less for spam mails as they are deleted almost automatically without being seen, but still, they produce 0.3 grams each.
Spam Email Does Not Only Waste Your Inbox Space
It has been calculated that if every British citizen cut back their thank-you email by just one for each day, it could have a dramatic effect in reducing the carbon footprint and save 16,433 tons of carbon in a year. That would be equal to the energy needed for over 80,000 flights to Madrid in Spain, or 3,334 fewer cars on the road.
The UK alone emitted 479.7 million tons of greenhouse gases in 2019. And we are taking into account 0.0037% of the reduction in carbon footprint by reducing that single email. It brings into sharp relief the enormity of the carbon emission problem.
Professor Mike Berners-Lee of Lancaster University vouches for the amount of energy spent. He said that electricity is consumed at every step involved in sending an email. It includes our computer, the network through which it moves, the data centers where it is stored, and they all add up to create a giant carbon footprint. And this carbon footprint involving the IT industry is growing fast with each passing day.
The data centers in particular consume a huge amount of electricity. But Professor Berners-Lee concedes that the numbers being quoted are crude figures. Ultimately it is for us to make incremental cuts in our electricity usage by whatever means we deem possible.
He says that while a lot of good things have come out of the web, which his brother, Tim, invented. But we need to realize that every gift has to be used selectively.
The Carbon Footprint Of The Internet
An estimated 4.1 billion people around the world are hooked to the internet. That is around 53.6% of the planet’s population. That can add up to some mean figures when you add up the bits and pieces. It has been estimated that the carbon footprints of the gadgets we use, the internet, and its supporting systems together make up 3.7% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. That is equal to the carbon footprints of the airline industry, according to Mike Hazas of Lancaster University. And that could double by 2025.
The individual figures come to around 912 pounds (414 kilograms) of CO2 emitted by each of us every year. But it is also necessary to consider that the internet saves an enormous amount of energy when it enables virtual meetings that save travel. It has been found that video conference has just 7% of the footprint of an actual meeting.
Google has released figures which say that an average user produces around 8 grams of carbon dioxide every day, while Microsoft plans to become carbon negative by the end of the decade.