Everyone knows at least a couple of ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Things like going vegetarian/vegan, using a bike or public transportation instead of a car, or thrifting your clothes. However, it turns out that there are easier ways to do it. While I was scrolling through Instagram the other day I stumbled upon a TikTok reupload which stated that you can reduce your yearly carbon footprint by simply unsubscribing from unwanted email newsletters. Personally, I’ve never considered that as an environmental threat so I started digging, and here are the results.
I think that every sane person has at least two email addresses. The one you use for serious stuff like university or work and at least one address you started using as a kid and are too embarrassed now to use it any longer. In my case, this email became a junk box I used whenever I had to access this one article or sign up for an online game I knew I would drop after two days. Whenever I have to check out something on this email I am horrified by the number of unopened emails from things I don’t even remember I signed up for. However, as soon as I close the tab the problem goes away and I do not think about it at all. Well, what if I told you that this junk box is actually responsible for a quite significant part of your carbon footprint? According to this website by unsubscribing from only 9 newsletters you can reduce your carbon footprint by 35 grams, which is the equivalent of 41 plastic bags! But how does this work? I am sure there are people who are more conscious than me when it comes to Internet usage and how it actually works, however, for those whose knowledge about the Internet narrows down to mindless scrolling (including myself), I am asking: why does your junk box produce so much carbon footprint?
Turns out the answer is pretty simple. The digital carbon footprint is emitted by pretty much everything we do on the Internet. The data centers require immense amounts of power to store every email ever sent. In most parts of the world, the electricity needed for these types of actions is produced with the use of fossil fuels, thus, the carbon footprint. And while there are some Internet habits we cannot abandon there are also things that are straight-up unnecessary and email subscriptions are one of them. However, the unwanted subscriptions are only part of the problem, the same thing goes for already opened emails that just hover in your mailbox forever. Out of curiosity, I decided to check how much storage does my email use and to my surprise, it turns out that it’s almost 2,5GB of data on my email and 2,5GB on my GoogleDrive (and this is the serious one, not the junk one). Knowing that I will most likely never look twice at the emails and documents stored there I am starting to feel guilty about my Internet habits. Not only is it a massive waste of space but it is also bad for the environment.
Don’t torture yourself too much though, we all know who is truly responsible for the emissions of carbon dioxide. We can only do so much.
Maybe next time you’ll have some free time on your hands take a look at your mailbox and unsubscribe from the newsletters that have been annoying you for the longest time but not enough for you to actually delete it. Take a look at your inbox as well and delete the Brightspace verification code emails and other one-time-use messages. If you feel really overwhelmed by the amount of junk you’ll have to go through, I have something that might help you. Leavemealone is an app that tracks unwanted subscriptions and does the work for you so check it out and do some micro-activism!
I feel like this tip should be promoted more along by email services. I was certainly not aware that cleaning up my inbox decreases my carbon footprint, but I will clean up my inbox now. I think that if this fact gets promoted by email services themselves, all the cleaned inboxes together could make significant impact!
Wow! I had no idea that the amount of email junk influences my carbon footprint! I always try to have my digital space as clean as possible – so unsubscribe from unwanted emails and delete all the junk my mailbox gets. I do this because I get otherwise very chaotic in the mind if there’s chaos in my surroundings/workplace/digital space. So now there is more reason to keep everything as junk-free as possible!
If people are more aware that such a ‘small’ thing can make an impact, there would be a chance that many people would act on it.
I never knew this! It seems so logical that this information would be shared more since it’s such an easy yet effective way to lessen your personal carbon footprint. Thank you for sharing this!
This is so interesting! I honestly had no idea that this was the case, as I just found myself unsubscribing from dozens of newsletters last week – but now I know that it wasn’t only for my own peace of mind. And you brought up a good point about having different email accounts just for these sorts of things… I should go clean my alternative accounts up as well.
I cleaned up my inbox yesterday, coincidentally running into your blog post today. While I understand what you’re saying, I also get a bit afraid to go into my spam folder. I am aware of the huge amount of emails that get sent there (and get deleted automatically after 30 days). I think there are about 20 emails a day. But the risk with those these days is that you click on a link in there and suddenly your data is not yours anymore. They do always include links to unsubscribe though, clever bastards. The most prevalent emails for me of the 900+ emails I cleaned up though, were: “Your package is coming today!” “Your package has arrived!” emails that I forget to clean up when I actually check whether the package has actually arrived. I always try to be proactive, but that usually lasts only a few days.
Very insightful! It would have never occurred to me that things such as a full inbox can add to your yearly carbon footprint.. I do wonder though, where do emails go when I deleted them? Are they wiped entirely from these data storage centers, or are they still lingering somewhere, taking up space? I struggle to comprehend how this would work fully, but very interesting nonetheless! Junk emails turn out to not only be annoying, but also bad for the environment..
Wow, got to say I did not realize this. Like you said it is very easy to forget about all these emails coming in. I’m also guilty of having a junk mail address, which I barely check. I think the thing that holds people back from deleting everything is the fact that you might need it later on. I definitely am still holding on to files on my computer from years ago, the same goes for emails. But yeah after reading this I think I’m going to have a look at accounts, would be nice to do some good 🙂
I actually came across a message like this a while ago, but kind of disregarded it because it seemed so far-fetched. Does unsubscribing really make such an impact? I already eat vegetarian and usually try to buy my clothes second-hand as much as possible. I also clean up my email occasionally to get rid of emails that I don’t care about much (especially those annoying emails that somehow you signed up for twice!). Anyway, your blog made me realize that maybe I should give my inbox another dive soon to finally clear it up properly. Thanks for the insight!