Are Emails Bad for the Environment

Are Emails Bad for the Environment?

Last Updated on August 27, 2023 by Krystine

Email is an essential modern communication tool, but sending and storing messages takes energy and contributes to carbon emissions.

As climate change accelerates, understanding the environmental footprint of our inboxes is important.

With global email usage generating rising CO2, we must weigh convenience against ecological impact.

Are Emails Bad for the Environment?

Carbon footprint of the digital age
Image Credit: The Good Planet

Yes, emails do have a negative environmental impact due to the energy required to transmit and store the over 300 billion messages sent daily.

However, simple steps like reducing unnecessary emails and enabling eco-settings can significantly lower emissions.

Key Points

  • Email’s carbon footprint comes from electricity used to power data servers.
  • Adding large attachments drastically increases an email’s emissions.
  • Choosing a renewable energy email provider reduces impact.

How much energy does it take to send an email?

Sending a basic email requires relatively little energy – around 0.3 grams of CO2 per message.

However, this adds up significantly given over 300 billion emails are sent daily.

Email’s carbon footprint stems from operating the infrastructure needed to transmit and store messages.

Servers consume electricity around the clock.

While an individual email’s footprint seems trivial, the collective impact is estimated at over 29 million tons of CO2 per year globally.

Reducing unnecessary emails limits energy demand.

Shortening recipient lists, unsubscribing from commercial lists, and reconsidering need all help decrease emissions.

Simple steps multiplied by billions of users make a measurable difference.

Do emails contribute to climate change?

When sending off emails or using ChatGPT, you don’t really think of the consequences these actions have on the environment.

Yes, the volume of emails sent worldwide emits greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, especially from data server electricity usage.

Most messages have a carbon footprint of around 4 grams of CO2e.

Servers generate an estimated 0.6% of global CO2 emissions – a share that’s growing.

Email’s emissions seem negligible for individuals but scale significantly.

There are over 3.9 billion email users globally.

The fossil fuels burned for electricity release heat-trapping gases driving global warming.

Transitioning data centers to renewable energy sources like solar power reduces email’s carbon impact.

How can you reduce the carbon footprint of email?

carbon footprint of emails
Image Credit: Our Environment

Send fewer emails by questioning if each one is necessary.

Consolidate ideas into fewer messages.

Shorten recipient lists to essential contacts only.

Unsubscribe from commercial email lists you don’t read.

Delete and archive old messages to limit storage needs.

Use brief subject lines to enable recipients to assess relevance.

Avoid large file attachments; use cloud sharing instead.

Enable eco settings like sleep mode on devices.

Support companies that operate energy-efficient data centers.

Small individual actions to reduce and optimize emails contribute to significant global emission reductions when adopted widely.

Do images and attachments increase email footprint?

Yes, adding large images and media attachments increases an email’s carbon footprint.

Text-only emails have footprints of around 0.3-4 grams of CO2e.

But an email with a 1MB attachment has a footprint of around 50 grams CO2e – over 10 times higher.

This is because transmitting and storing media requires vastly more data server resources than plain text.

Limiting attachments only to essential ones reduces footprint.

Using cloud-sharing services rather than direct attachments prevents the redundant storing of files.

Compressing attachments also minimizes their size and energy consumption.

Evaluating if an attachment enhances or distracts from the message’s purpose helps minimize its use.

Should companies limit internal emails?

Organizations can significantly reduce their carbon footprint by limiting internal emails.

Workplace email generates over 100 million tons of CO2 annually.

Discouraging unnecessary threads and notifications, using chat apps instead, and hosting meetings rather than long threads are examples of corporate emission reduction policies.

Top-down policies that discourage frequent emails change company culture around communication norms.

Transitioning messaging onto renewable energy-powered platforms also helps reduce impact.

Reminding employees that their inboxes have climate consequences fosters sustainability.

Are emails going extinct?

Despite social media’s growth, email remains widely used, especially professionally.

In 2022, over 306 billion emails were sent daily.

However, among youth, services like WhatsApp are eroding email relevance.

Email penetration is declining among Gen Z versus millennials and Gen X.

Spam proliferation has also diminished email’s core utility.

Still, email facilitates essential tasks like organizing and sharing information.

Technological upgrades enabling automated communication will sustain demand.

Energy efficiency improvements in data storage can also limit climate impact.

Rather than email disappearing, adapting both cultural email habits and technical systems to promote responsible use will be key.

Should we tax emails like plastic bags?

Some experts propose taxing emails like plastic bag fees to deter overuse and fund the decarbonization of IT infrastructure.

A small levy on non-essential emails could offset emissions while promoting mindfulness about unnecessary messages.

Variable rates based on content length and attachments could further incentivize footprint reductions.

However, opponents argue that an email tax places an undue burden on the public to solve a problem caused by tech companies.

Regulations requiring renewable energy procurement may be more fair and effective solutions.

A tax also raises concerns about privacy infringement.

While the idea has merits, implementing an email tax would face numerous legal and ethical challenges.

What are the most eco-friendly email providers?

Email services committed to 100% renewable energy and efficiency help minimize footprint.

Green providers include GMX,, and Runbox.

Eco-friendly features include bundled emails instead of individual messages, renewable energy sources for data centers, emissions tracking tools for users, and defaults like not auto-loading images to reduce data demands.

When choosing a provider, look for transparency about sustainability practices.

Policies like avoiding subscriptions unless a user opts in also help curb spam volume.

Using a search engine that plants trees or offsets emissions with each query enhances climate benefits too.

How many emails are sent every day in 2022?

In 2022, over 300 billion emails were sent and received daily.

Despite social media’s growth, email remains the most ubiquitous messaging platform, especially in workplace contexts.

This extreme volume of daily emails contributes significantly to carbon emissions from electricity used to transmit and store messages on servers.

While an individual email has a negligible footprint, the aggregate global impact is substantial at over 100 million tons of CO2 per year.

The number of worldwide email users currently exceeds 3.9 billion.

Projections estimate over 333 billion emails will be sent daily by 2025 as more individuals and businesses adopt email across the globe.

Continuing to optimize efficiency and transition server infrastructure to renewable energy sources is crucial to limit the climate impact of soaring email volumes.

Why you should stop sending unnecessary emails?

Sending fewer unnecessary emails reduces energy usage and carbon emissions given email’s massive global volumes.

Questioning if each message is essential and culling recipient lists to vital contacts only optimizes email habits.

Each sent email contributes incrementally to resource demands on data centers.

Servers consuming fossil fuel-powered electricity 24/7 facilitate ever-rising email loads.

Even small individual emission reductions multiply into a collective global impact when adopted widely.

In addition to curbing emissions, limiting trivial emails enhances productivity.

Email overload decreases workplace efficiency as workers sort through excessive inboxes.

Email reduction policies in companies improve communication norms and culture.

By being more mindful of email necessity on an individual level, we can derive climate and productivity benefits.

Key Takeaways:

  • Email generates significant CO2 emissions due to massive global usage and energy-intensive networks.
  • But steps like limiting unnecessary emails, deleting old messages, and choosing green providers significantly reduce impact.
  • With informed use, email can remain an environmentally responsible communication tool.


How does paper mail compare to email environmentally?

Paper mail has over 4 times the carbon footprint of email due to raw materials, printing, and transportation. However, physical mail can be more memorable. Using 100% recycled paper and carbon-neutral delivery services reduces its impact.

Should I unsubscribe from marketing mailing lists?

Yes, unsubscribing reduces unnecessary emissions and clutter. It also decreases storage and bandwidth resource demands on servers. Be sure to actually open and click unsubscribe links rather than just deleting them.

Do social media messages have lower footprints than email?

It varies, but text-based social media messages likely have marginally lower footprints given their simpler data requirements. However, social media’s broader infrastructure still has sizeable emissions. Avoiding redundant posts on multiple platforms minimizes impact.

At GreenChiCafe, we are passionate about the environment and our natural world.

Please check out our website for more great content on important environmental topics.

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