Be an ecofriendly geek and save the planet: delete your e-mails!

You want to save the planet? Good! Start by cleaning your inbox! Let’s delete some e-mails, shall we?

We consume a lot of data every day (e-mails, videos, posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, DropBox, documents saved in the Cloud, …), and all those data are stored on servers. Basically, the more data we save, the more servers we need (and servers consume electricity). Basic math, nothing new under the sun.

What if I told you that we can all do a little bit of good for this planet, just by clicking on one button? Remember those prehistoric e-mails that you have forgotten about? You know, the spams you received 3 years ago and never opened? Oh, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about… Well, let’s delete them!

Let me explain why, and I’ll give you a magic trick right after.

A study shows that storing 1GB of e-mail during one year consumes 32.1 kWh. According to the same study, an e-mail weighs on average 230 kB (that’s 7.4 Wh a year). So, if you delete 30 e-mails you can save 222 Wh, that pretty much the equivalent of a low energy light bulb (9 Wh) left on for a day (216 Wh).

30 e-mails equivalent to a lightbulb on for 24 hours
30 e-mails equivalent to a lightbulb on for 24 hours

In other words and on a bigger scale, if every person in France deleted 50 old e-mails, this would be equivalent to switching off 1.6 billion low energy light bulbs for one hour, turning off the Eiffel Tower lights for 24 hours, or even half a day of zero electricity consumption across Paris.
See how little things can add up to big things?

50 e-mails equivalent to 24 hours of light for the Eiffel Tower
50 e-mails equivalent to 24 hours of light for the Eiffel Tower

Let’s make a difference now!

I promised you a magic trick, here it is. If you are using Gmail, try this in the search box:

is:unread before:2014/01/01 category:{social promotions}

I chose this filter on purpose, as I’m pretty sure you won’t miss these e-mails, and you wouldn’t have opened them now. Of course, you can get bolder and change the date or category. You can even delete e-mails that you have already read. How courageous!
BTW, if you need a hand on advanced search on Gmail, have a look here.

Let’s calculate the energy consumption of my e-mails

I found 366 e-mails with that filter (it could have been worse!). That makes on average 82 GB or a consumption of 2600 kWh a year. Shame on me!
According to this study,

“The average unadjusted electricity consumption per household in 2014 was 4,001 kilowatt hours (kWh)”.

 
So, my 366 now-deleted e-mails were equivalent to approximately 237 days of electricity, in other words the average consumption per household from January to August. Wow!

My deleted e-mails: 366 e-mails equivalent to 237 days of electricity
My deleted e-mails: 366 e-mails equivalent to 237 days of electricity

Of course, deleting a few emails to free a bit of space on servers feels like emptying the ocean with a spoon, especially when you see the amount of data saved per second (300 hours of videos are uploaded to YouTube every minute). But it won’t hurt anyone to tidy up your mailbox (and don’t hesitate to hit the unsubscribe button on the emails you’re not reading), and if everyone does it, I believe we can all make a huge difference!
It’s your turn now: be an eco-friendly geek and delete your emails! How many emails did you delete? Have you saved the planet today?

Extra resources:

Orange e-cleaning days
Save the planet, clean your inbox

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