Think twice before you fire off that “thanks” email. Pointless exchanges are contributing to carbon emissions and climate change, energy supplier OVO has revealed.
Most of us (72%) are completely unaware of the carbon footprint of our inboxes, research commissioned by the challenger energy supplier has found. Perhaps that’s why we send 64 million unnecessary emails a day, including brief dispatches like “thank you”, “received”, and “LOL”, including to colleagues within talking distance of us.
All that unnecessary emailing isn’t just cluttering our inboxes. It’s contributing 23.475 tonnes of carbon each year to the atmosphere.
OVO is urging Britons to ‘Think Before You Thank,’ claiming that if every adult sent just one less email a day, we’d reduce our national carbon output by more than 16,443 tonnes a year. That’s the equivalent of skipping 81,152 flights to Madrid (looking at you, super-commuters) and taking 3,334 diesel cars off the road.
Worried about offending tetchy British sensibilities by not sending back that “thanks” email? Don’t be. OVO’s research also found that 71% of Brits wouldn’t mind not receiving a ‘thank you’ email in order to protect the environment. 87% would be happy to reduce overall email traffic to cut emissions.
But how does a simple email contribute to climate change? First, there’s the electricity powering your computer, much of it still generated using fossil fuels. Electricity is also powering the network that carries your “Have a good weekend” missive to your coworker two desks over. And then that innocuous email ends up stored in the cloud somewhere, along with all your other digital correspondence, and maintaining the data centres that support the cloud is energy-intensive.
“Whilst the carbon footprint of an email isn’t huge, it’s a great illustration of the broader principle that cutting the waste out of our lives is good for our wellbeing and good for the environment,” said Mike Berners-Lee, author of How Bad are Bananas: The Carbon Footprint of Everything. (He’s also the brother of Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the internet and perhaps the only reason we’re all emailing in the first place. But we won’t hold it against him.)
“Every time we take a small step towards changing our behaviour, be that sending fewer emails or carrying a reusable coffee cup, we need to treat it as a reminder to ourselves and others that we care even more about the really big carbon decisions,” he added.
Katie Russell, OVO’s Head of Data and Analytics, said: “At OVO Energy we believe we can fight the climate crisis together, making everyday changes that cut carbon – whilst making life better. We want to show people how every action has a carbon impact, even a simple email. We need to change our behaviour at every level, and help people make a start with the easy first steps.”
Of course, the most annoying emails we receive aren’t those from colleagues and friends. They’re from spammers and newsletters we swear we unsubscribed from several times…