What‘s the carbon footprint of an email?

Windfarm with four wind turbines
Windfarms provide clean energy to power mail.com data center
Nowadays we are all asking ourselves “How can I reduce my carbon footprint?” And many of us are spending more and more time online – working remotely as well as streaming our favorite series and listening to music. Business travel has been significantly reduced, replaced by chats, video calls, and, of course, emails. Each of these online activities still cause carbon dioxide emissions, even if only a few grams.

This is because energy needs to be generated to power our devices and Wi-Fi – and, more significantly, the data centers and servers needed to store all that content and keep the internet running. So how do our emailing habits impact on the environment?

Email carbon footprint varies

The footprint of an individual email can vary dramatically. In 2010,  Mike Berners-Lee, a researcher at Lancaster University, crunched some numbers and came up with figures ranging from 0.3 g CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) for a spam email to 50g CO2e for an email with a “long and tiresome attachment.” These figures not only account for the IT infrastructure you need to receive, read, write and send emails in your home or office, but also the power used by the servers and data centers that process and store them. Based on these numbers, he estimated that receiving emails adds 300 pounds of emissions to the average person’s carbon footprint in a typical year.

A more recent figure comes from Germany, where in 2019 an expert in the Bavarian consumer protection agency estimated that a normal email without an attachment is responsible for 10g CO2e – about the same amount as a plastic bag – and that the amount is doubled by adding a one-megabyte attachment. A another study performed in 2019 by UK power company Ovo Energy tackled the problem from the other end, calculating how much we can reduce our carbon footprint by cutting down on emailing. Their conclusion: if every email user in that country were to send one fewer email per day, it would lead to a total annual reduction of 16,433 metric tons CO2e – the equivalent of 81,152 flights between London Heathrow and Madrid.

Data centers – the key to our digital carbon footprint

The two factors contributing to our email carbon footprint are the energy used at home or work to write the emails, and the energy it takes to store and transmit them through servers and data centers. The energy efficiency of data centers has been improving by leaps and bounds, but in the United States they are still responsible for two percent of the country’s electricity use. Everywhere you look nowadays, however, electricity is being generated by cleaner methods, which means that the energy powering servers and data centers is greener as well.

Climate-friendly email from mail.com

In the case of mail.com, our data center in Kansas – which has an annual power consumption of 13 GWh – has been using 100 percent wind energy since 2020. We also offset the carbon footprint of our headquarters in Pennsylvania with renewable energy certificates. So we can proudly affirm that mail.com is an extremely climate-friendly email service. This helps all mail.com users shrink their personal carbon footprint through the reduced environmental impact of sending or receiving email.

How you can reduce your email carbon footprint at home

Besides signing up with a green email provider, there are other steps individuals can take to bring the climate impact of each email down to zero. The most important is choosing the right home energy supplier to make sure the inbox on your screens is being powered by green energy. In addition, environmental experts suggest reducing the size of emails and the amount of email data you save to cut the amount of power it takes to store them. Here are a few tricks that can help:
  • Send links to files instead of attachments (our free Cloud file sharing feature is great for this!)
  • Unsubscribe from newsletters you no longer read
  • Reduce email size by compressing images and avoiding large HTML elements
  • Regularly update your mailing lists so no messages are sent to invalid addresses
  • Delete old, unnecessary emails from your custom folders, and empty your Trash and Spam folders regularly (check your folder settings)
  • Turn off social media email notifications – usually they just duplicate information you already see online
If you found this article interesting, please give us a thumbs-up below!

21 people found this article helpful.

Related articles

mail.com now running on wind energy

Company’s own data center in Lenexa, KS is now operating on 100% clean energy. more
9 people found this article helpful.

Email turns 50!

Colorful birthday hat, streamers and noisemakers rest on a white laptop

Join the party! Email celebrates its 50th birthday


It might feel like email has been with us forever, but in fact it’s just hitting middle age. The first email was sent in 1971 by Ray Tomlinson, a young engineer at the firm of Bolt, Beranek and Newman. Electronic mail looked different fifty years ago, although one feature would still be recognizable to today’s users – the now ubiquitous @ symbol, whose use is also credited to Tomlinson. more

Posted in

Email mail.com
32 people found this article helpful.

Email pioneer mail.com celebrates 25 years of reliable service and unique domain names

Founded in the early days of email, the mail.com brand is still going strong, letting customers maintain their original personalized email addresses while offering cutting-edge technical infrastructure, security and privacy protection. more
24 people found this article helpful.

How is an email sent?

Have you ever wondered what happens with your email after you hit Send? Email is something we use every day, but most of us don’t know what happens behind the scenes to transmit our message from point A to point B.
Mail inbox containing three envelopes next to a small potted plant against a yellow background
What happens behind the scenes before an email arrives in your inbox?
mail.com explains the steps your email takes along the way – and don’t worry, we promise not to get too technical!

  more

Posted in

Email Inbox
1 person found this article helpful.

Mail Collector: One inbox, multiple email accounts

Ever wondered if there is an alternative to the usual dance of switching between multiple email accounts to keep track of your correspondence? mail.com Mail Collector to the rescue!
Smiling email icon on computer keyboard
With all your emails in one place, you’ll be smiling, too!
Find out how you can check all your emails in one place. more
4 people found this article helpful.

What is a mailer daemon – and why did my email bounce back?

It’s the dreaded bounce message: “Mail delivery failed: returning message to sender.” If you receive it, it means something went wrong and your email never made it to the intended recipient. But why can’t some emails be delivered, and who is the mysterious “mailer daemon” who sends them back to you?
Internet email communication in cyberspace with envelope sign hologram over working cpu in background
Not sure why you received a bounce message? mail.com explains how to fix a bounced email.
mail.com sheds some light on these error messages and what you can do about them. more
6 people found this article helpful.

How to choose an email address

Need a new email address? Once you have decided on a provider, the toughest part is coming up with a unique email address. Maybe you just want to use your name, maybe you are looking to get creative and choose an address that reflects your personality or business. And once you come up with a great idea, you find that your dream name isn’t available!
Cookie the Pom wears glasses and looks at iPad
Creative email names can be hard to find!
Never fear – mail.com can help you find the perfect name to go with our unique domains. more

Posted in

Domains Email How-to
7 people found this article helpful.

Where did my emails go!? mail.com helps you find them

You’re sure you had an email about last week’s project in a folder, but now it’s nowhere to be found. Or even worse, you know you saw a new email from your grandma, but when you go to your mail.com inbox to look at it, it’s gone!
Stressed businessman looks at his laptop
Missing mails? Don’t worry – mail.com can solve the mystery
Keep calm and read this blog post – mail.com will show you where to look. more
6 people found this article helpful.

Americans see data disclosure by internet companies or authorities as one of biggest threats to data security

  • Majority of U.S. Americans concerned about hacker attacks
  • A quarter worry about burglary and damage to homes
  • Dangerous lack of awareness: More than one in ten respond to spam emails
more
6 people found this article helpful.

What is an email domain and how to choose one

An email address always has the same structure: the user name in front of the @ symbol and a domain name behind it. But what is the email domain all about? And what are your options for customizing the email domain to create a unique email address?
Image of wooden Scrabble tiles spelling “DOMAIN” on a wood surface
A unique domain spells an unforgettable email address
Keep reading to get the 411 on email domains! more

Posted in

Domains Email Internet
13 people found this article helpful.