The Hidden Environmental Cost of Our Digital Habits

carbon literacy content marketing digital marketing marketing sustainability Sep 14, 2023

The digital "cloud" is less ephemeral than it seems. The good news? Remote working, cloud-based tools, and virtual connections are great for business. However, left unchecked, the carbon footprint of data centres, emails, AI and digital marketing will cost the earth.


Why it Matters

The collective power usage from digital initiatives now surpasses that of the aviation industry. Even innocuous actions like sending an email with an attachment contribute to our carbon emissions. 

That's because data centres use a lot of electricity - which isn't always powered by renewable energy sources. This high energy consumption often comes from non-renewable sources, contributing to the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs).



According to digital carbon footprint statistics, sending an email with a photo or an attachment generates about 50 grams of carbon emissions.

"When you consider that figure, think about alternative ways to use that carbon for a greater impact," explains Natalie Welch, co-founder of the Typeface Group.



Natalie Welch, Co-Founder, The TypeFace Group


Your Next Step 

To minimise your businesses impact on the environment, think like a sustainable brand.  digital carbon footprint, businesses must adopt sustainable practices.

One approach is to reconsider digital marketing strategies through better audience segmentation, reducing unnecessary email campaigns that generate emissions without engagement.

"Generic email marketing should cease, not only due to its carbon footprint but also because people aren't really reading them," Welch suggests.

Research by Ebiquity and Scope3 revealed that over 15% of digital ad spend is wasted on ineffective ads, producing excessive CO2 emissions. Implementing sustainable practices like green hosting can increase efficiency and enhance a brand's eco-friendly image.


Reducing your digital emissions doesn't always require drastic measures. Sometimes, small adjustments like turning off autoresponders or reducing acknowledgement emails can collectively create a positive environmental impact. Carbon Literacy pledge examples include commitments to reduce unnecessary emails and optimise digital processes.

"It's the small things that can make a difference. We can't all do everything, but if we all start to do something, it will have a significant positive impact," Welch, who has Carbon Literacy accreditation, shares.

For purpose-driven, sustainable brands, being aware of their digital carbon footprint is crucial to avoiding greenwashing and maintaining credibility. Taking steps to address digital emissions now will position businesses ahead of the curve as these issues gain mainstream attention.

Obtaining a Carbon Literacy accreditation and providing Carbon Literacy training (which typically costs £95-£250 per employee or £360 for a hands-on intensive for a small business brand) can help you implement effective strategies to reduce your digital carbon footprint.



Clean Up Your (Digital) Act

To reduce digital emissions and increase digital marketing ROI, businesses should:

  1. Rethink digital marketing strategies with better segmentation
  2. Optimise email usage by reducing unnecessary messages
  3. Embrace sustainable practices like green hosting
  4. Start with small changes like disabling autoresponders
  5. Track and measure emissions using tools like SageEarth

By incorporating these five key actions into your daily operations, you'll quickly work towards minimising your digital emissions while maximising the return on investment in digital marketing efforts.


Want to Take Your Learning Further?

Our Carbon Literacy Sustainability Accelerator brings together everything you need to know about climate science with practical business strategies.

Delivered in person and online, learn how to "talk the talk" and "walk the walk" of responsible business.

Come away inspired about the positive role your business can play and create a climate action plan to achieve the gold-standard certification used by Patagonia, BCorp and the BBC.


About The Typeface Group

The Typeface Group is a B Corp communications agency and design studio that began its sustainability journey in 2019.

Their approach involves helping clients become more carbon considered by making goals based on their carbon footprint and offering sustainable solutions.

Typeface Group offers a free digital cleanup campaign to support those looking to clean up their digital acts. 

By signing up, participants will receive daily emails with actionable tips on improving their digital carbon footprint and other environmentally friendly practices.


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