Transports of delight: Brave New Email World

The trick about sustainable transportation is that it does not stop with your spiffy new Lexus or that surely much-deserved jet trip to vacation in Mexico. It gets us even as you and I sit in our chairs and gravely ponder what to do next to make a difference in this largely unsustained planet. But what about this one small choice to be a bit more carbon-lite in our day to day lives?

 1.                   What’s the problem?

The carbon footprint of email: mine, yours, spammers –in 2011:

A single spam email – 0.3g CO2e:
A proper email – 4g
CO2e:
An email with long and tiresome attachment – 50g
CO2e:

These minuscule quantities when multiplied by very very big numbers (for example: an estimated 62 trillion spam e-mails last year) yield some surprising results.

For example a recent McAfee study reports that “the world deleting spam and searching for legitimate e-mail falsely labeled as junk creates the annual energy consumption equivalent in the U.S. of 2.4 million homes using electricity and the same greenhouse gas emissions as 3.1 million passenger cars using two billion gallons of gas.” (Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/green-living-blog/2010/oct/21/carbon-footprint-email)

 2.                   What you and I should be able to do about it?

 Okay. Got it! Not good.

So here is my personal seven-step proposal, which I am ready to sign on to right now:. What about you? (See the quick reader poll at the end of this article.)

  1. I want to pay for every email I send.
  2. I want to pay some small amount (say five cents per message sent) while . . .
  3.    . . . being protected by an impenetrable wall from all undesired spam.
  4. I want 80% of the amounts I pay in to go directly to the registered charity of my choice.
  5.  I want that charity to maintain open books so that we can follow how they are making use of our money.
  6. I want to be able to have access to a carbon-lite, spam free, easy to use, better than Outlook (which I largely appreciate) mail program, that with each click reminds me that I am doing a small bit for the most important cause we know.
  7. I want to be sure that I and all who sign up for this do it yourself environmental service are clearly and publicly identified for exercising this option.    (i.e., a demonstration effect.)

 The good thing about this proposal is that it is gives us “Tobin e-tax” of a sort (see http://www.oecdobserver.org/news/fullstory.php/aid/664/Tobin_tax:_could_it_work__.html for a pretty good summary), but by its simple choice-rich structure permits each person to make the simple, low-cost key choices while at the same time not having to wait for the General Assembly to pass a vote or the Congress a law.

I am quite sure that there are millions of other people on this gasping planet who are ready to do the same. And I further belive that most of us will do this, in part of course for environmental reasons, but also because it represents a more efficient, low-cost, easy to apply  way to get the job done.

Imagine the environmental as well as the social impacts if huge numbers of us decide to do the same.

Someone please point me in the right direction.  I would imagine that there is something out there that is already doing this necessary job.

Eric Britton

Sustainable Development, Enterprise & Society – http://sustain.ecoplan.org

Brave New Email World – Be a part of it!

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