Did you know the average office worker in the UK receives 121 emails daily and sends around 40? (The Guardian, 2019) Whilst emails are a necessary part of our day-to-day working life, have you ever considered the environmental impact of sending and receiving emails?
Every time we perform an action online, a number of grams of carbon dioxide emits into the atmosphere. With 4.9 billion people currently connected (ITU), the carbon footprint of our gadgets, the internet and the systems supporting them account for about 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions (BBC).
So what can you do?
Avoid unnecessary emails
Reports suggest the carbon footprint of an email ranges from around 0.3g CO2e for spam emails to 4g CO2e for a general email and up to a whopping 50g CO2e for an email that includes a photo or attachment (BBC). With that in mind, here are a few easy changes to consider:
- The simplest and most obvious thing to do is to avoid responding to emails with minimal or unnecessary content. According to OVO Energy, sending one less “thank you” email a day could save 16,433 tonnes of carbon per year – equivalent to taking 3,334 diesel cars off the road! (OVO Energy). Whilst we are all for being polite, will that thankyou be missed?
- Secondly, why not make sending large attachments a thing of the past and share links to files instead? Google Drive allows you to share access to documents quickly and easily via email or chat. Before sharing documents, permissions can be set to restrict or allow editing & commenting. What’s more, collaborating within a document in real-time stops the need for back-and-forth sending of attachments, and reduces CO2e.
- Lastly, most of us will be guilty of needing a mailing list clear out. How often do you receive automated emails from a shop you once bought from in 2015? Or a forum you asked how to fix your iPhone 5? The average user receives 2,850 unwanted emails every year due to mailing lists and subscriptions. Believe it or not, these unwanted emails are responsible for up to 28.5kg of CO2e according to Cleanfox (BBC). So if doing it for a cleaner inbox isn’t enough, why not do it for a cleaner environment?
If your mailing list has gotten out of hand and a selection of automated emails sit in your inbox unread, Gmail is here to help. To filter all unread emails, type ‘is:unread’ into the search bar at the top. From here, you can mass delete using the checkbox or go through and unsubscribe from the accounts that are no longer relevant.
However, if you want to be specific about the emails you wish to unsubscribe from, Gmail filters emails into categories. Therefore if it’s specifically promotional emails clogging up your inbox head to the right-hand side of Gmail and find the promotions label, or use the “promotional” filter. From here, you can unsubscribe, archive or move to trash. This is available for forums, social media, updates and more. So next time you have a spare few minutes, why not make it your mission to unsubscribe from your unwanted emails – you might even feel better for it!
But it doesn’t stop there.
Prioritise video calls
Did you know that the footprint of sending an SMS text message is around 0.014g per message, working out roughly the same as every minute of a phone call? Having a video call is much higher, with an estimate of between 0.8kg and 43kg of CO2e per hour depending on whether the participants are in different countries. However, that being said, when compared to travelling, a video call fairs much better for the environment. It’s believed that a video call produces around 7% of the emissions of a meeting in-person (BBC).
The pandemic has made remote working accessible for many people, with resources such as Google Meet making video calls easier than ever. So whenever possible, why not try hosting your meetings virtually, especially if participants are further than a 20km radius from the meeting point?
What else is Google doing to help?
In its founding decade, Google became the first major company to be carbon neutral. In their second decade, Google was the first major company to match 100% of its annual electricity use with renewable energy. According to Google’s own figures, an average user of its services – someone who performs 25 searches each day, watches 60 minutes of YouTube, has a Gmail account and accesses some of its other services – produces less than 8g (0.28oz) CO2e a day.
Using machine learning capabilities, Google reduced the electricity required to cool servers in their data centres by 30%, meaning they can provide seven times the computational power with the same amount of electrical power.
But efficiency doesn’t stop at the data centres, it’s estimated that Google Workspace users who use applications such as Gmail, Docs, Meet and Drive produced a decrease in carbon emissions of 65-85%.
Making small changes could make a big difference
Slight changes to your daily working schedule might seem small but with the increase in online activity, these changes have a huge impact in the long run. To find out more ways that Google could help you reach your sustainability goals, or for more information on being more environmentally conscious online, contact our team today!