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HR=Humans Represent — Emails: Endangering the Environment

They do! Did you ever stop to think about it? I’m not referring to those annoying viruses that make their way around, and I’m certainly talking about more than just printing out e- mails that you receive. Specifically, did it ever dawn on you that those e-mails you have been saving in your email account with the pictures of last month’s family reunion or your nephew’s graduation might not have been printed, but they still use energy and create greenhouse gas emissions.

I read that an e-mail attachment of 4.7 megabytes (which is around four photos on a point-and-shoot digital camera) creates as much green house gas as boiling a tea kettle 17.5 times. Here’s another shocking statistic – sometime this year, the world will have a grand total of 1.2 zettabytes of stored data. All that data requires equipment with a mass equivalent to 20% of the island of Manhattan. Here’s another way to look at it – if you took ALL the content in ALL the U.S academic libraries and multiplied it by a half a million, that is 1.2 zettabytes.

Much of the reason for this is that much of the data is redundancy. Remember the family reunion photos which went out to 50 email recipients? Each person is downloading the email, and that requires equipment (personal computer, servers and storage centers).

We are getting better about sharing data as equipment is getting more efficient (servers are about 1/20th the size of older ones, and up to 50 times more powerful). More importantly, on a more personal level, people can do their part by uploading photos to central locations (such as Flickr or Facebook) instead of emailing. Audio and video files can be shared much the same way through hosting sites (such as Sendspace or MediaFire).

You know that e-mail signature which asks people to “think before printing”? How about we all “think before attaching”?

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Profile Photo Adriel Hampton

Wow, stunning stats. In our office, there is a big push to use shared folders for large attachments, as a pdf can end up replicating all over the place through an e-mail chain. We’ve been doing it to save on storage costs, but we’ll have to add this justification to the mix.