Department of Agriculture

Smaller e-mails (save elec $ and carbon)

Reduce the amount/size of e-mail traffic – lower agency energy costs and carbon footprint.


As one example, I regularly receive simple text messages of around 500,000 bytes--due to a graphical letterhead/logo. These presumably are sent to all agency employees –- say 30,000 people. That is 1,500,000 unnecessary kilobytes for each e-mail sent. (30,000 x 500,000 bytes = 1,500,000,000 bytes = 1,500,000 KB = 1,500 MB)


There is a cost in electricity to deliver all those bytes. There also is hardware overhead to allow receipt of those bytes into the 30,000 or so inboxes. There is the carbon footprint behind the sending of the bytes.


“Very roughly speaking…, a typical year of incoming mail for a business user – including sending, filtering and reading – creates a carbon footprint of around 135kg. That's over 1% of of [sic] a relatively green 10-tonne lifestyle and equivalent to driving 200 miles in an average car.



“Although 78% of incoming emails sent are spam, these messages account for just 22% of the total footprint of a typical email account because, although they are a pain, you deal with them quickly. Most of them you never even see. A genuine email has a bigger carbon footprint, simply because it takes time to deal with.



“If the great quest is for ways in which we can improve our lives while cutting carbon, surely spam and unnecessary email have to be very high on the hitlist…”


Guardian News and Media. "What's the carbon footprint of ... email? -- The sending, sorting and filtering of spam email alone accounts for 33bn units of electricity each year." GreenLivingBlog


Consider what is being e-mailed. Reduce the size of e-mails. Use links to the content more, so it’s opt-in reading instead of a file pushed to thousands of in-boxes.


Save on electric costs. Reduce our carbon footprint. Reduce demand on power plants. Save on aggregate e-mail inbox storage requirements.



Idea No. 18818