‘Green’ Email Footers

Source: Two Sides Australia 30/08/2016

Sick of seeing ‘Think before you print’ email footers?

It has become common practice to see emails with footer messages such as ‘Do you really need to print this email? it will harm the environment,’ or ‘Think before you print.’ These messages, although attempting to promote positive environmental behaviour, often ignore the unique sustainability of print on paper and should be questioned.

Paper is made from wood; a renewable resource. In fact, most of Australia’s wood (82%) is harvested from planted forests and harvesting from native forests in Australia is NOT for the pulp and paper industry but for the timber industry to build homes, commercial buildings and general consumption products. Therefore, print and paper can often be a great way to communicate and, when responsibly sourced and recycled, is environmentally sustainable.

These common email footers assume that electronic communication always has less effect on the environment than printed materials.

Below are some facts that are often overlooked:

  • A regular e-mail emits 4 grams of CO2e. An electronic attachment (invoice/letter/statement) sent via the internet releases 50 grams of CO2e.
  • A year of incoming e-mail for a typical business user adds up to 135 kg of CO2e per year. This is equivalent to driving about 520 kilometres in an average car.
  • A remarkable 78% of all incoming emails are spam. Around 62 trillion spam messages are sent every year, requiring the use of 33bn kilowatt hours (KWh) of electricity and causing around 20 million tonnes of CO2e per year. This is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions from over 4 million cars driving on the road for one year.
  • The average Australian generates nearly 20kgs of e-waste every year.
  • A letter made from recycled material and recycled after use creates 140g of CO2e. That looks like carbon savings (compared to 4g of CO2e from one email) unless you end up sending 35 times more e-mails (without attachments!) than the number of letters you would have posted in the days gone by. Lots of people do! This is a great example of the rebound effect, something that is low carbon actually results in higher-carbon simply because we use it more.
  • In Australia 87% of paper products are recovered and paper can be recycled 7 times.

So, if you need a convenient and permanent copy of emails, don’t feel guilty about printing but please ensure you recycle.

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