The carbon footprint of emails and tweets

If you ever start taking things too seriously, just remember that we are talking monkeys on an organic spaceship flying through the universe.
~Joe Rogan

So I got an email the other day. It’s one of those embarrassing situations where someone asks your opinion of something and just as you’re about to open your mouth you realize that they’re probably not expecting what you’re going to say and they might not like it. But hey, when have I ever not given my opinion of something just because I was afraid someone might not like it?

To stop making a short story long, someone from SingleHop invited me to make a collaborative blog post on making your digital life a little greener. I doubt the following really qualifies as “collaborative” in the sense they’re using it, but I’m going to forge onward anyway.

While I can’t deny that yes, the digital domain has its own carbon footprint, and in sufficient quantity can be quite large, I think we’ve still got bigger fish to fry than emails and tweets.

There are many benefits to cutting down on the number of emails sent and received (I do it simply because seeing too much crap in my inbox makes me crazy), but I’d much prefer to focus on fewer miles driven than fewer tweets tweeted. Or whatever. Fuck social media.

One bit they mentioned that interested me was in regard to taking advantage of weather. Computers naturally exude a lot of heat, and need to stay at a cooler temperature. In my most recent apartment, I could watch the thermostat rise by two or three degrees simply from its proximity to my computer. A company with a server farm in, say, Canada, may be “greener” than an identical farm here in Texas. Add in that, again, as they mention, a larger farm is more justified in using more efficient cooling systems, and you’ve got a good environmental argument for the kind of service SingleHop and others are offering.

But I still find the concept of a carbon footprint for my inbox a bit goofy. And I’m never going to be more concerned about the carbon footprint of Facebook than I am with the negative social impacts it can have.

So tweet away, you tweeting tweeters. Just don’t do it in the car, for the love of god.

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