Cut Back on Email If You Want to Fight Global Warming
Everyone has seen the warning. At the bottom of the email, it says: “Please consider the environment before printing.” But for those who care about global warming, you might want to consider not writing so many emails in the first place.
More and more, people rely on their electronic mailboxes as a life organizer. Old emails, photos, and files from years past sit undisturbed, awaiting your search for a name, lost address, or maybe a photo of an old boyfriend. The problem is that all those messages require energy to preserve them. And despite the tech industry’s focus on renewables, the advent of streaming and artificial intelligence is only accelerating the amount of fossil fuels burned to keep data servers up, running, and cool.
Right now, data centers consume about 2% of the world’s electricity, but that’s expected to reach 8% by 2030. Moreover, only about 6% of all data ever created is in use today, according to research from Hewlett Packard Enterprise. That means that 94% is sitting in a vast “cyber landfill,” albeit one with a massive carbon footprint.
“It’s costing us the equivalent of maintaining the airline industry for data we don’t even use,” says Andrew Choi, a senior research analyst at Parnassus Investments, a $27 billion environmental, social, and governance firm in San Francisco.