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Email, a micro-pile of digital carbon emissions?

09/02/2022

The genesis of the writing of this article, we have to talk about it! 😉 As we announced to you in early January in our " Best of Inside Badsender", we are in the process of doing our 2021 carbon footprint (we are in the middle of the construction there).

In this context, we have opened a 4-way channel on Rocket (the internal chat of Badsender) with the two Marions, Olivier F. and me. This carbon assessment, we do it with Sami.eco. And it all starts from a discussion based on an article published by Sami. Here is the thread.

Note: This article was written while listening to GoldfrappIt has nothing to do with that, but it's cool anyway.

The dialogue

Olivier Fredon

I don't know what this "ummm" means, but the information about the real weight of email deletion in a carbon footprint comes up often and is very often downplayed.
Tristan Nitot in his podcast the green byte talks about it.
Just a few days ago, France Culture was attacked on twitter because of the way they put up and prioritize the news from theADEME.

Marion Duchatelet

This "hum hum" was related to our project zerocarbon. We might get smashed one day too. Email is just a micropile in this whole mess.

Email is clearly a digital micro-hair. This is clear and should be obvious to everyone. Emptying your mailbox is virtually useless.

But it's all a question of scale and that's the idea of ZCE. Senders are taking responsibility, and can make a "small" difference because they send billions of emails.

The other point that I think is important is that I would like us to be an example. Because all digital activities must change their paradigm. All activities must create the means to reduce our/their carbon footprint.

This means:
- For video platforms, offer their users to reduce the quality of video viewed "in conscience" (Having 4k on a 13-inch screen makes no sense)
- Suggest to website visitors to view content without the visuals
- Implementing 100% refurbished purchasing policies in companies (and I think we will quickly act on this one in the Strategic Committee)
– …

Jonathan Loriaux
Olivier Fredon

So well said !

Last night for some SEO tests with Tom, I put my feet on Google for the first time in a long time. In the footer there is a mention "carbon neutral since 20....".
I clicked, naive. A page with more than 100 requests and 10Mb downloaded, all of course with an auto play video to shout "responsibility and sustainability".

So I closed it and I too shouted: BUT CREVE GOOGLE, CREVE!

Marion Duchatelet

100% connect with you !

I wonder: is it - polluting the video or the podcast? (for our lives)

Olivier Fredon

poke @marion-duchatelet

or it is a question of decision matrix and therefore of important, urgent?

  • important problems
  • the easiest problems to solve
  • problems that are not already better addressed elsewhere.

I think I'm going to do an article with this Thread 😉

Jonathan Loriaux
Olivier Fredon

Great! I validate!

All this was done without any tricks or censorship (just a little punctuation, capitalization and some links).

Conclusions

To return to SAMI's article which is entitled "Carbon footprint of an e-mail: myths, realities and solutions". This one tries to put the question of the real impact of email in the carbon footprint of a company.

This reflection is made possible by an update of the figures we had until now. Indeed, most of the calculations of the carbon footprint of email are based on figures from ADEME which date from 2014 and which seem to be largely outdated.

These new figures would almost systematically place the carbon footprint of email below 5g of CO2e per email. Even the big ones, with an attachment.

Source: Sami.eco

In the article, there is also this passage that seems important to highlight:

You got it. Despite common myths, it is not the energy consumption of the servers that adds to the carbon footprint of an email. Not even the electricity needed to transport it. It is the amortization of the manufacture of the computer or smartphone (the total carbon footprint of the equipment divided by the number of minutes of use over its lifetime) and the energy consumption of the equipment that have the greatest impact.

Finally, Reducing the environmental impact of your e-mails means extending the life of your digital devices and reducing their consumption.

But sending emails is okay then?

We understand that deleting your emails individually will have very little impact. But the article is mostly about interpersonal emails, the ones we exchange between humans.

And if you're here, it's probably because the majority of the emails you send are in bulk. If professionals send about 30 emails a day, in your case it might be 10,000, 50,000, 100,000 or even more. The impact over a year can be enormous.

The conclusion in this case must be different. Our goals should be, in order of priority:

  • Reduce the volume of emails sent through better targeting
  • Lighten the weight of your emails
  • Advocate for the establishment of expiration dates in emails

Maybe we could challenge SAMI to a little study on the impact of email marketing? We'll ask them.

Finally, what we must strive for is to manage all our digital projects with the objective of limiting our environmental impact. Digital sobriety must be at the center of our reflections and of the evolution of our tools, from the lightest (email) to the heaviest (video). It is the whole system that must evolve to limit the damage.

2 Responses

  1. Hi @brice

    Maybe we could do a podcast together 😉

    What do you think?

    A+

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