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The Carbon Impact of Email Newsletter Subscriptions

The Carbon Impact of Email Newsletter Subscriptions

Adopting a sustainable lifestyle means we strive to understand the impact of our choices, from the products we buy to the actions we take. A recent email exchange with an Earth911 reader prompted us to investigate the carbon impact of our email subscriptions. It also made us think about the trade-offs we all make in life when trying to reduce our environmental impact.

Carbon Savings of Unsubscribing From an Email Newsletter

A reader asked us to pause their subscription to the Earth911 newsletter while they were on vacation. They’d read that online activity generates carbon emissions and wanted to reduce their carbon footprint. Unfortunately, we don’t have a “pause” feature for the newsletter. But the exchange raised an interesting question: “How much carbon savings would result from unsubscribing from the newsletter for four weeks?”

Well, at two emails a week that generate approximately 4 grams of CO2 emissions per email, as of 2014, according to Phys.org, unsubscribing would prevent at least 32 grams (0.07 pounds) of emissions – probably a bit more, since our newsletter includes lots of images. For comparison’s sake, that’s less CO2 than the emissions generated by a half cup of coffee’s 60 grams of carbon emissions.

But the two web sessions to unsubscribe and resubscribe to the newsletter would add back about .5 grams of CO2. So, the total CO2 emissions savings from pausing an Earth911 newsletter subscription would be about 31.5 grams of emissions.

Even Bigger Carbon Savings

Is the positive impact of these actions worth the effort, or could you do something easy that has an even greater impact? These are the questions we can ask about any product or service to prioritize what we do to achieve lower emissions.

What if instead, you placed one PET plastic bottle in the recycling bin? Recycling that bottle would prevent 2.15 kilograms (2,500 grams) of emissions, according to a study from PET Recycling Team GmbH.  That’s roughly 28 times the savings of pausing the subscription. And consider this, cancelling our emails for an entire year, which would cut emissions by about 384 grams, still results in 6.5 times less CO2 reduction than recycling a single plastic bottle — not to mention that you’d miss about 100 ideas for other ways to reduce your impact!

If you have unlimited time, there is no limit to the changes you can make. Most of us have a few hours a week or month to dedicate to making our lives more sustainable. That’s why we have always encouraged people to “choose your own shade of green.” If we all commit to reducing our carbon impact by 50%, for example, and focus on what we can do to create the biggest carbon savings, our individual choices can be more comfortable and make a bigger difference.

Canceling email subscriptions you don’t read is a great, quick step to create less CO2. Take some time once a month to end subscriptions to email you don’t read to shave a few pounds of emissions out of your life, but pausing a newsletter subscription would likely take more time and effort than the savings justifies.

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