Read This Only If You Think E-Mail is “Greener” Than Direct Mail

Here are some facts about the eco-friendliness of paper direct marketing (direct mail) vs. electronic direct marketing (e-mail) from my fellow copywriter Marjorie Bicknell: 

* Only 1.8% of household waste is from advertising direct mail messages and catalogues.
* Direct-mail accounts for just 2.4 percent of landfill waste
* 54.7 percent of all paper in the U.S. is currently recycled.
* A single e-mail contributes 9 grams of CO2.
* 95 trillion spam emails were sent in 2010.
* Spam alone requires an energy use equivalent to the electricity used in 2.4 million U.S. homes. 
* In 2005, the amount of electricity consumed by data centers globally was equivalent to the production of 14 coal-fired 1,000-megawatt power plants.
* A single web server can produce more tons of CO2 in a year than a car.
* The net effect of running all of the servers in the United States is equal to that of five nuclear power plants


1,214 thoughts on “Read This Only If You Think E-Mail is “Greener” Than Direct Mail

  • Hmm, those pesky little weasel words “just” and “only” betray the blatant slant here, I’m afraid. Considering the many sources of garbage I think the fact that direct mail comprises 2.4% of landfill trash a startlingly high number and morally indefensible. And those last three facts have nothing to do with the issue at all unless you conflate “spam” with “the entire backbone of the internet and everything for which it’s used.”

    Not sourcing any of these supposed ‘facts’ is also pretty shady–let’s see some citation.

  • Where’s the energy consumption and carbon output of USPS in this comparison? All those trucks must be burning something.

    ( helped some.)

  • You’re not seriously trying to conclude that sending direct email is more environmentally sound than sending an email are you? I assume that you just posted this as link bait.

  • Toivo: I agree that trying to claim that e-mail is less eco-friendly than direct mail is ridiculous. I did think the list was interesting in that it reminds us that IT is not without its carbon footprint.

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