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November 23, 2022

Your “Consider the Environment” Email Signature is Actually Inconsiderate to the Environment

a man holding the earth in his hands

We’ve all seen them, the stupid “please consider the environment” notices at the bottom of emails clearly written for the 5 people left on earth who actually print emails with some regularity. Well today we hear through painstaking number-crunching by Jeff Bennion for Above the Law that those notices actually harm more than they help:

Most people probably don’t realize this, but the internet accounts for a good deal of the pollution in the world. In a 2011 article, which is likely a clear underestimation of 2014 numbers, reported that at that time, there were about 500,000 data centers in the world and each used 10 megawatts of energy a month. That’s the same amount a small town uses for each data center. In 2012, Mashable reported that there are approximately 145 billion emails sent a day. Of that number, about 90 billion are business emails.

So, I created a Word doc of just some gibberish to simulate the typical email I get, and saved it to my desktop. Then, I pasted that disclaimer into the file and saved that to my desktop as a different file. I compared the file size of the two, and this is what I got:

That disclaimer creates a .3 kb file size difference. Now, if every business email had that at the bottom, that would be 27,000,000,000 kb a day of data, or 27,000 gb of useless data being added every day to internet storage servers. That would be almost 10 million gigs of data a year of people patting themselves on the back for proclaiming their greenness.

27,000 Gb of useless data every single day? Yeesh. Not quite sure how he arrived at calculating “every business email” multiplied by .3 Kb but hey, we’re spitballing here.

He goes on to discuss the uselessness of those massive disclaimers many of you have (friendly reminder: the IRS told you months ago you can remove that dumb Circular 230 nonsense), which in terms of data used up he figures are “roughly the environmental equivalent of clubbing 3 baby seals a month.” Again, I’m questioning the math here a little but it’s a blog post, not an audited financial statement. Point is, all that data has to be put somewhere, like massive, temperature-controlled server rooms that require large amounts of energy (er, power) just to exist.

So, if you really want to consider the environment, consider ditching that stupid email signature. No one who would have otherwise printed an email (LOL) is going to change their mind because of a stupid little note at the bottom.

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