We all receive them now – e-Christmas cards from companies (and indeed we send them). But quite often there will be a claim on the bottom along the lines of ‘This year we’ve decided to help save the planet by sending you an electronic card’.
This is all very well, but – as a keen, yet discerning eco-warriors – it got us thinking.. Do we know for certain this is the case? Of course, on the face of it, an email has to use less of the world’s resources than a delivered paper and ink product – it is just a few electrons, right? But is it really that simple?
Being the inquisitive types, we looked into it. Partly because we wanted to know, but also because throw-away green claims in marketing messages really get us worked up – so, in a way, we wanted to prove them wrong!
What we found out is that, although it is virtually impossible to make a general comparison, it is becoming increasingly clear that electronic communication is not as ‘green’ as it appears. On a simple level, you need to be running some form of computer to read an email. These not only consume power, but also require valuable resources and energy and to be built and transported. Likewise, an email could pass through dozens of servers or nodes on the internet en-route, all requiring 24/7 energy to run them and the air conditioned buildings in which they reside. Then there is the energy required to power the computer that designed and coded the email. There are even the resources required to grow, package and transport the food used in the lunch of the web developer if you want to take it to the extremes!
So could there be a chance that a posted card printed with eco-friendly ink, on recycled paper, is more eco-efficient then an all singing all dancing email?
One fact is that the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector currently has approximately the same carbon footprint as the paper industry (2% of all energy use), but is set to double every five years. (Document where we got these figures is here.)
Which makes one think…
So next time you get a nice e-card claiming to help save the planet, you might just ask the sender where they got their figures from..:)