The Real Cost of Not Deleting Email

The Real Cost of Not Deleting Email

Feb 28, 2008

What about the energy spent storing those emails we'll never read?

Woah. We have something like 3500 unread emails in our personal Gmail box, and 6800 messages total, not counting the spam folder contents. Almost all of the unread ones are bulk mail we signed up for but don't feel like reading at the time, and then they just stay in the cue forever.

Do those unread--or read and not worth keeping--emails waste energy running memory to keep them in my email, or do they use such a negligible amount it's not worth bothering?

Green As a Thistle
, aka Vanessa, first brought this Treehugger article to our attention. In it, the author discusses why deleting email is better for the environment. Many of the commenters say that they don't think it's worth the trouble, because a hard drive uses the same amount of energy no matter how much is stored on it or that it would take more energy to delete it than energy to store it.

It's unclear exactly how much coal is needed to power your email, but in 2003 it was 10-20MB per pound of coal. Memory has gotten more efficient in the meantime, so that's probably a lot lower, but we're also keeping more electronic files than ever.

Here's our hypothesis on the matter; we'd like to hear what you think:

Even if it takes more energy to delete it than to store it over a long period of time, eventually, the amount of energy to store it will outweigh the energy to delete it. Even if there's more information that will quickly fill up the space made by deleting your emails, it will make more space instead of requiring that many more storage spaces over time. Lower amounts of storage space equals fewer energy resources to make and use the storage space. So even if it doesn't seem like a lot will be saved, consider how many emails we all have that are sitting, taking up space and the power required to keep them. A little bit could help a lot more in the quest to quell global warming.

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