Sending files as attachments may seem innocuous enough (or even the only option for file transfer via email), but there is another way that’s not only better for collaboration, but could be the greener choice, too.
Anyone who has used the likes of SharePoint for file storage has likely been made aware of the benefits that a centralised database of files and folders can offer. It enables multiple people to amend a document together in real time and prevent the need for multiple versions to be saved – taking up valuable space when considered at scale.
However, one benefit that may not have been covered (albeit one that is arguably just as important as productivity and capacity) is that of its green credentials.
Sending an email with an attachment requires additional processing power, not particularly from your device but instead from all the infrastructure needed to transmit and process the message at data centres – which themselves require large volumes of electricity to store, transfer, process and analyse messages.
In fact, every single email containing an attachment could be generating around 50g of CO2 – an amount that could otherwise have been saved by linking to a centralised document instead.
Of course, 50g of CO2 in isolation isn’t particularly worrisome, but it becomes much more of a concern when considering how many attachments are sent – and then presently ignored – every single day.
Estimates from mxhero.com have the average person ignoring some 6,000 email attachments each year. That works out as 300,000g of CO2 (more than that generated from a two-hour flight, according to Atmosfair) per person per year, going ignored.
Mxhero put it another way, stating: “In a median NYC office building with 1,000 workers, ignored email attachments generate 37% the amount of CO2 as does the entire building.”
It’s a particular issue for people included on CC or BCC, with around just 6% of these people opening attachments, despite the email requiring the same amount of energy to send as to those who were in the ‘To’ field.
Of course, the solution already exists, with links to centrally stored documents being a significantly lower energy drain than regular attachments. Widespread behavioural change could be difficult to achieve, but the benefits are clear to see for those who care to look.