If your organization has recently cut out its direct mail program altogether because you were mortified at the thought of using so many trees to get your message out there, I have some bad news for you.
Email is not necessarily “green.” Neither are tweets, Facebook messages, Linkedin introductions, etc.
Here are the facts, borrowed from Bob Bly’s blog post a few weeks back:
- A single email contributes 9 grams of CO2.
- 95 trillion spam emails were sent in 2010.
- That’s on top of all non-spam emails sent. Which is a lot.
You do the math (when I tried to do it for you, my calculator went bizzerk).
This spam email alone uses as much energy as the electricity consumed in 2.4 million homes.
According to this article by Tech the Future, data centers consume approximately 1.3% of worldwide electricity use. That’s up from 0.53% in 2000 and 0.97% in 2005.
On the other hand, here are the facts about direct mail:
- Just 1.8% of household waste is from advertising direct mail messages and catalogues.
- 54.7% of all paper in the U.S. is currently recycled. (Let’s up that number, people! No excuses!).
- Direct mail accounts for just 2.4 percent of landfill waste.
So what does this mean? Should you switch all your communications back to snail mail?
Obviously not. The internet is the way of the future (duh).
We should, however, push these data centers to use cleaner energy. Obviously, that would make a big difference.
But just don’t think that email and online communications are a “free pass.” They still use power—via your own computer, your recipient’s computer (or smartphone, tablet, etc.), the data centers, etc. You get the idea.
The motto of the story: don’t send spam email and use recycled paper whenever possible. Make your communications meaningful so they’re not just thrown in the trash.
And go plant a tree (or a bunch of trees). We all have to do our part.