Is Email Impacting the Environment?

Posted by Return Path on

I recently ran across an article in the New York Times titled Spam and Global Warming?. Trust me, I was skeptical about this, how could email really be impacting our environment? The article was extracted from The Carbon Footprint of E-mail Spam Report published by McAfee which had some interesting information about the environmental impact of unwanted email.

I have always believed that email is generally free for the sender, but expensive for the recipient. But thinking about it as an irresponsible use of global resources was something that I just hadn’t done before. Unfortunately, McAfee’s research methodology has been called into question – seriously by spamnation and hysterically in a column by Ken Magill.

But even if spam does not contribute to global warming – at least not in a way that can be quantified – there is no question that sending unwanted email is huge waste of social and personal resources.

What’s really ironic about the McAfee study is that for a long time Return Path and other email companies have argued that email is “green” as compared with direct mail. In fact, we wrote a post on Earth day about going green with email. But we’ve also been long time proponents of targeted, relevant, valuable messages. Wasted marketing is wasteful — whether it’s paper or digital. All marketing consumes resources — including human resources — so working harder at making those resources pay off is important. No matter what the medium.


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