Your SMS is polluting the air

Your SMS is polluting the air
MOTHER EARTH: A child interacts with a World Wide Fund For Nature mascot at Orchard Road. The ninth edition of Earth Hour will roll across the globe on Saturday but activities here have been scaled down or delayed with respect to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

People around the world are getting ready to mark Earth Hour by turning off the lights on Saturday, but a long list of seemingly harmless everyday actions also contribute to emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other planet-harming greenhouse gases.

In Singapore, activities scheduled as part of this year's Earth Hour have been scaled down or postponed as a mark of respect to the late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Total global emissions in 2010 were estimated at 49 gigatonnes (or billion tonnes) of CO2 equivalent (CO2e), AFP reported.


Even a short e-mail is estimated to have a footprint of four grammes of CO2e (gCO2e). This includes greenhouse gases produced in running the computer, server and routers, and a part of their manufacture.

An e-mail with a large attachment emits about 50 gCO2e, and a spam message, not even opened by the recipient, is responsible for 0.3 gCO2e.

The annual global footprint of spam is equivalent to 3.1 million passenger cars on the road in a year, using 7.6 billion litres of petrol.

A mobile phone text message comes at a cost of about 0.014 gCO2e.


A plastic carrier bag leaves a footprint of 10 gCO2e and a paper bag 40 gCO2e.


A pint of water from the tap generates 0.14 gCO2e compared to 160 gCO2e for a 500ml store-bought bottle.

A large cappuccino comes at 235 gCO2e, compared to 21 gCO2e for a cup of black coffee or tea for which just enough water was boiled.


An hour of TV watching on a 38cm LCD screen yields 34 gCO2e, compared to 88 gCO2e on a 32-inch LCD screen, and 220 gCO2e on a 24-inch plasma screen.

A mile (1.6km) of cycling powered by a meal of bananas would be responsible for 65 gCO2e, compared to 260 gCO2e for a mile powered by cheeseburgers.

Sources: How Bad Are Bananas by Mike Berners-Lee, Fifth Assessment Report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, McAfee study Carbon Footprint of Spam

This article was first published on March 26, 2015.
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