• 04.15.09

What’s the Carbon Footprint of Spam? Enough to Power 2.4 Million Homes

The carbon footprint of a single email is negligible, but new research from ICF International and McAfee shows that the 62 trillion spam emails sent each year waste 33 billion kilowatt hours of power, or enough to power 2.4 million homes. The majority of energy is wasted at the end user’s computer in sifting through messages to find and delete spam.


We’re far too reliant on email for communications to completely stop using it, and that’s a good thing. The carbon footprint of email is nothing compared to the energy required to transport physical mail–not to mention the paper wasted on mailed letters. But if we can significantly cut our carbon footprints by switching to spam-filtering email services or installing free software, why not?


Emissions for spam (kg CO2-e / yr)
Spammers Harvesting addresses <1%
Spammers Creating Spam Campaigns <1%
Zombies/bots sending spam <1%
Non-bots sending spam <1%
Internet (excluding mail servers)
transmitting spam
Incoming mail servers processing spam 1%
Message storage <1%
Spam filtering 16%
Users searching for false positives 27%
Users viewing/deleting spam 52%

Table courtesy of Cody Taylor, ICF International.

[Via eWeek Europe]

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.