In a recent article from the Financial Times – subsequently shared on that esteemed fountain of knowledge better known as LinkedIn – it was proposed that our ‘unnecessary’ thank you emails are increasing carbon emissions. Well this is true to a degree but unless we all pitch in, we simply will not make a dent on it. It also neatly dodges the fact that all those memoirs and pictures of your evening meal that many people post to Facebook, are not also adding to the burden.

Suffice to say your emails are the least of our problems. However, it does give us here at RedKiteIT a foot in the door of enlightening our readers on the better use of emails and how you can save the planet, provide more useful emails and possibly avoid walking into a Data Protection nightmare!

Back in the day when you had to hand-crank your modem and your Internet speed was measured at 0.1mbps (today’s average is nearly 40mbps), what you sent down the line mattered.

A simple ‘Thank you’ would cost you 9 bytes (1 byte per character). With formatting and fonts this would increase to 203 bytes. That is a whopping 2155 % increase. However, this is where the numbers really start to go nuclear:

As the World Wide Web took hold, it seems everyone thought emails needed to look pretty, so company information, unenforceable privacy memes and unoptimized branding artwork started to appear – and we all had to do the same otherwise we’d look like the poor cousin.

Now that simple ‘Thank You’ email we see from companies can equate to upwards of 120,000 bytes. That is a 1.3 million % increase! Do we need all that – really?

We few are a mere scratch but there are 4.66 billion of us using the Internet (October 2020), so if we all used 120Kb to say ‘Thank You’ that is over 559,000,000,000,000 bytes – 559 x 1 TB drives – believe us; that is a lot!

Another change occurred in our email usage with regards to quoting within emails. Back in the day you replied to an email and you would selectively pull in quotes using an ‘as a quotation’ option, so your replies could more directly reference prior works.

As we are lazy, some bright spark created the default setting that simply added the whole email in to your reply, and you then added your new prose above it.

The default feature here can mean replies, including files and branding can get repeated and repeated and very quickly that 1.3 million % increase soon becomes dwarfed. Wasteful, pointless, costly, and it kills the planet.

As if this could not get any worse this setting can lead to some uncomfortable reading and worse still, a data protection nightmare.

As an email conversation grows and we all simply add in the replies upon replies we seldom remember what was included or said. It does not take long to think Joe Bloggs might also have an answer to the current email company quiz, and someone decides to add them to the CC list.

Suddenly Joe can read your entire emails from the beginning and along the way privileged information that Joe was not privy to is laid bare. It can and does happen!

What can I do to reduce my impact?

  • Be sure all those quoted replies are necessary as someone CCd in later in the chain might take offence if you’ve been talking about them behind their back.
  • You CAN turn off the automatic inclusion of the original message.
    In your Account Settings within your email software, there should be an option to ‘Automatically include the original message when replying.’ Make sure this option is NOT enabled.
  • Data protection is real and is important – do not leave it lying around.
  • Optimize your branding artwork. An email does not require the level of detail that your website requires.
  • Yes, please say thank you but do not rush to include all our previous emails. If it needs a reference, pull as little of it out as required.
  • Delete Facebook – no sorry, wrong blog…

RedKiteIT can provide consultancy and training in all things IT.