In a few words
Whenever possible, please add an expiration date in the emails you send.
In Splio’s SMTP Relay, you would need to add a header like this:
Expires: Thu, 6 Apr 2023 12:21:57 +0200
Some context about email volumes and their carbon footprint
It is a surprise to no one, our societies send a huge amount of emails every day. According to Radicati, the volume was more than 330 billion emails per day in 2022, worldwide. This includes roughly 30 billion commercial and marketing emails.
As you may know, all of this has a cost in terms of carbon. Indeed, sending and storing all these emails requires a lot of hard drives and servers, hosted in data centers. Data centers are powered by electricity, which is still largely produced from fossil fuels all around the world. And when fossil fuels are burnt to produce this electricity, that releases carbon dioxide which contributes to climate change. We estimate at 9.63 kgCO₂e the footprint of 1TB of storage in the cloud. A hard drive usually last 7 years.
In addition to electricity, the life cycle of these hard drives and servers also has an environmental cost: 12.2 kgCO₂e per hard drive produced, and a non-quantifiable footprint for the end-of-life. Unfortunately, recycling electronic devices is still very rare and most end up in landfills in Asia, releasing mercury, lead, arsenic, and other components, affecting the local population. We encourage you to participate in the Digital Collage to learn more.
Because we let emails stack up in our mailboxes, the need for data storage increases, and so does the need for hard drives and energy to power them. The most popular mailbox providers offer high volumes of storage for free, so there’s no need for the users to delete the messages, they can just “archive” them.
The Email Expiration Date Inititiative
To reduce this carbon footprint, a group of French experts decided to act, and looked for ideas:
- Jonathan Loriaux, CEO and founder of Badsender came up with the idea of making emails expire, or self-destruct. The sender say when the email expires, the MailBox Providers ease the deletion process for the recipients.
- Benjamin Billon, Compliance and Deliverability Director at Splio wanted to do something as well. In 2019, he met with the Shift Project to discuss this topic.
This idea may humbly change the email world: it will help MailBox providers to give us ways to clean up our emails, for example with an expired emails folder, which we could clean with a single click.
Helping email users and MailBox providers to have a lower carbon footprint does not mean we don’t have to change our behaviors. In email, like in many other human activities, we often act as if everything is unlimited. Climate change should make us change our mindset towards digital sufficiency, and ultimately optimize and minimize our technology usage. This is true for many topics, including email.
By the way, deleting our emails does not mean we don't have to reduce our carbon footprint by eating less meat and preferring the train to the plane in our travels. Every action matters.
In 2019, Jonathan launched the Zero Carbon email website and began communicating about it in the email marketing sector.
Two years later, the email expiration idea emerged from Jonathan.
The same year, Benjamin submitted a draft to the Internet Engineering Task Force, to propose a very simple solution to make email expire: adding an expiration date technical header in the emails sent, so the Mail Box Provider on the receiving side could help users to delete messages that became useless over time.
Where we are today
The project is in a complex phase: we need to convince as many Email Service Providers and brands as possible to include this header in their marketing emails.
But this will not be enough for emails to expire. Neither Splio, its competitors, nor Marketers can decide what obsolete marketing emails become. Only MailBox Providers, such as Gmail and Outlook can decide to do so.
And to convince them to develop a feature on their software to delete email "automagically", in other words, to influence their gigantic roadmaps, we need to send A LOT of emails with the expiration header. This will show them that Marketers have a strong interest in this topic.
This is where we need your help. ❤️
How can you contribute?
- If you use Splio SMTP Relay, you can already include the header in the emails you are sending with it. Please read the SMTP Relay setup article to know more.
- We are currently working on implementing a feature in our Marketing Automation platform to allow you to include the expiration header in your email campaigns or designs.
Want to know more about our CSR strategy?
Please contact Houda El Joundi, Corporate and Social Responsibility Manager at Splio.