The little things we do to help the environment all add up. So how can we as members of the email community make a difference?

The Earth Day 2022 theme is ‘Invest In Our Planet. What Will You Do?’ If you’re thinking about your own personal carbon footprint and how to reduce your impact on the environment, we’ve got some ideas to help. 

Email and the carbon footprint

You may be wondering how much of an impact email has on your carbon footprint.

We know billions of emails are sent every day – in fact, as the world’s largest email sender, SparkPost delivers nearly 40% of all commercial email, more than 6 trillion sends annually! 

The size of email’s carbon footprint is a complicated topic though.

Logically, anything we do will have an effect on the environment, so email should be no different.

We use electricity to send and display email content, and our internet connections use electricity while email is being transferred. Cloud storage uses electricity too, which in most parts of the world is generated by fossil fuels, and servers are stored in big data centers that also consume lots of energy.

Still, it’s been reported by Science Focus that “sending an email only uses about 1.7% of the energy of delivering a paper letter.” 

So, again, it’s complicated. Email helps to reduce paper pollution, but it still contributes to carbon emissions.

How can email senders help?

The impact of sending an email on our environment is marginal, but if you’d like to take small steps to minimize your own personal carbon footprint, deleting emails is an easy way to do it. Hosting and storing less data means a smaller carbon footprint so deleting old email you no longer need helps reduce the digital storage space you’re taking up.

There’s more you can do from a sender perspective as well:

  1. List hygiene and clean up – While we typically think of cleaning up an email list for engagement and deliverability purposes, maintaining your email lists also has a benefit to the environment as you waste less energy sending to contacts that don’t want or need your email. 
  2. Smaller is better – Lower resolution images, compressed images, and smaller HTML elements can help you reduce the size of your emails.
  3. Check twice, send once – While everyone makes mistakes, a good QA process (and an EDS!) can help you to avoid the need for a follow-up email.
  4. No more attachments – Link to files or information online rather than adding an attachment, which can make you look like a malware sender anyway.

Getting corporations involved

While many of us feel a responsibility to improve the environment on an individual level, there’s no doubt that large corporations have played an outsized role in causing climate change and could have more of an impact on turning things around.

There are many examples of companies working to improve their impact on the environment. For instance, Alphabet, the parent of Google, became carbon neutral in 2007, and in 2017 it became the first company of its size to match its total electricity consumption with renewable energy. 

Microsoft has plans to shift to 100% renewable energy by 2025 and become carbon negative by 2030.

It can feel like the fate of the world is on your shoulders when you think about climate change, but it’s helpful to focus on the small personal changes you can make, while also supporting those companies and individuals who have the power to enact change on a larger scale.

Lowering your carbon footprint

Speaking of personal changes: If you’re an email geek who wants to make a difference for the environment in your personal life too… In order to figure out your personal carbon footprint, there are several things to consider:

Travel and transportation

Next time you’re planning a trip, consider whether it could be made via car versus plane. Or if you’re just going down the street, maybe take a walk or bike ride instead. 

When you do need to take your car, remember these tips to make the trip a little more clean for the environment: 

  • Drive efficiently (go easy on the gas/breaks) to reduce emissions. 
  • Service your car regularly to keep it more efficient.
  • Check your tires.
  • Use cruise control on long drives — in most cases, this can help to save gas.
  • Carpool!

At-home energy usage

Many of us are spending more time in our homes these days, and there are small ways that can add up to help the environment. These include:

  • Turn off lights and appliances when you’re not using them. 
  • Switch from incandescent lightbulbs to LED lights, which use up to 85% less energy, last up to 25 times longer and are cheaper to run.
  • Recycle!
  • Check your home’s energy efficiency with an energy audit.

The composition of your diet

Most experts agree that a vegan diet is the one that’s best for the environment as the production of red meat uses a lot of feed, water and land, and cows give off methane emissions.

If you’re not ready to give up meat completely, consider swapping out one meal a week to make a difference. Meatless Monday, anyone?

Additionally, watching your food waste and eating foods that were produced locally are ways you can reduce your carbon footprint as it relates to your diet.

When it comes down to it, environmental change is a hugely complex topic that has many layers. While we can all take individual steps to help the environment, large corporations and governments will need to make changes if we are to truly stop or slow climate change.

The phrase, “we’re all this together” has become a bit of a cliche in the past few years, but in the case of our planet, it couldn’t be more true. 

Let’s all ‘Invest In Our Planet. What Will You Do?’

~Elsbeth Russell, SparkPost Community Manager


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