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Does deleting old emails really help the environment?

By SAAB LARIOSA Published Apr 19, 2022 8:14 pm

The call to address climate change is once again at the forefront with the news of scientists from all over the world holding protests and getting arrested while heeding the call.

The protests stem from the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change urging private companies to make "rapid and deep cuts" to their greenhouse gas emissions. If not fulfilled immediately, the scientists say that Earth is in store for massive climate effects as early as three years from now, 2025.

One video by NASA scientist Peter Kalmus made the rounds online after he made an impassioned speech in front of a JP Morgan Chase building in Los Angeles.

"We’ve been trying to warn you guys for so many decades that we’re heading towards a f--- catastrophe, and we’ve been being ignored,” Kalmus said. "The scientists of the world are being ignored, and it’s got to stop. We’re not joking. We’re not lying. We’re not exaggerating."

With the call against climate change once again making headlines, social media has exploded with the new suggestion that people ought to clear out unnecessary emails in their Inbox to reduce their carbon footprint and ultimately lessen the energy used.

How does this all relate to deleting emails?

It might be unusual to hear that our email habits could affect mother nature, but in reality, each online archive and action we make add up to the "chain of energy-burning electronics," as per the BBC.

From our drafts to our inboxes to our routers, the energy then goes to servers that require massive amounts of cooling energy to maintain our data. The same issue was brought up for greenhouse gas emissions during the rise of crypto and NFTs, as they require a large number of servers to operate and maintain the blockchain technology.

Per ScienceFocus, sending 65 emails is equal to driving 1-km in a car. Once added, the average working person apparently adds 136-kg of carbon dioxide emission just from their email activity.

Meanwhile, it's not just in the emails we send and receive, as the data clogged up and readily available in our Spam and other Inbox folders can also be the cause of emissions from servers. Thus sparked the call for people to free up their email space.

Though it is a noble (and fairly simple) act, it should also be remembered that the scientists behind the Extinction Rebellion group were targeting large companies during their protests, as they ultimately make up for more than 70% of the world's carbon emissions.

While a single person's email history isn't what it takes to completely shift the trajectory of our climate change issues, it could be vital in your own small personal way.

Think: choosing paper straws over plastic. While it won't make the same change as planting trees and actually holding CO2-emitting companies accountable, a movement like this is still vital to curb the 2025 red alert.

If you are planning an email clean up for personal or environmental reasons, check out these other tips:

  1. Clear out old and/or unnecessary emails from your Inbox. Check your other folders too such as Spam and Drafts if they hold huge files.
  2. Delete emails with large attachments. If you still need the files, opt for an external hard drive.
  3. Double-check how many newsletters and subscriptions you're still signed up for.
  4. Review the files you have saved on your own personal Google Drive and/or Apple Cloud accounts.

PhilSTAR L!fe has reached out to Greenpeace Philippines for a statement.