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Reality check: emails, TV, spams and sex too have a carbon footprint

Shweta Sengar | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 11:15 IST

If you thought only industrial and vehicular pollution contributed to climate change, then think again. There's a vast list of apparently harmless everyday actions that contribute to the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other potential climate-altering greenhouse gases.

You know that activities like driving a vehicle or turning a light switch on have a clear carbon footprint. But did you know that sending a text message or opening a water bottle also has a carbon footprint?

Here are some everyday activities that you dint know impacted climate change:

Leisure Time

Let's talk about the obvious things first. The bigger the TV, the larger its contribution to emission of greenhouse gases. Here is a look at how your daily activities add up to climate change. Here, the 'e' stands for equivalent carbon dioxide.


This is how much of a carbon footprint two hours of watching television on a 32-inch LCD screen for two hours leaves behind - a while a 15-inch screen LCD dispels 68g CO2e.

Watching TV.png

A 24-inch (61-centimetre) plasma screen pumps out 440g C02 if you watch it for 2 hours. This is the same as driving a car for 1.6 kilometres. If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, try carpooling three times a week. And maybe cut down on watching television.


This is the carbon footprint, or rather tyreprint that you will leave behind with a mile of cycling powered by cheeseburgers. In comparison, a mile of cycling fuelled by bananas will only be responsible for 65g CO2e - according to Mike Berners-Lee's book, How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything

Digital Footprint


or (0.14 ounces) is the amount of carbon that added to the atmosphere when a short email is sent. To put this into perspective, sending 65 emails is at par with driving an average-sized car for a kilometre.


Who is the culprit here? The greenhouse gases produced in running a computer, servers and routers, including those emitted when the equipment was manufactured are to blame for these alarming figures.


The amount of carbon produced when an attachment-laden email is sent. Sending five such messages is equivalent to burning 120 grams of coal.


This is the impact of receiving a spam message, even if you do not open it.

The global carbon footprint from spam on an annual basis is equivalent to the greenhouse gases pumped out by 3.1 million passenger cars using 7.6 billion litres (two billion gallons) of gasoline in a year, AFP explains.

spam email.jpg

A web search on an energy-efficient laptop leaves behind a footprint of 0.2g CO2e. On a desktop, it stands at 4.5g CO2e. So the next time you Google something inessential, think twice.


This is how much a text message costs the environment.

Your food and clothes affect the climate too


This is the carbon footprint of a cappuccino cup. This also includes the emissions from raising a cow which would eventually produce milk. In comparison, boiling water for a home-made cup of tea or coffee emits 21g CO2e.


A stored water bottle has almost 1,150 times the emissions attached to it than a glass of water poured from the tap. Why? Research has shown that over three litres of water go into making one litre of bottled water. Not only are PET bottles are made from fossil fuels but recycling this results in more greenhouse gas emissions.


This is how much of a carbon footprint every paper bag leaves behind. While plastic grocery bags have a carbon footprint of 10g CO2e, recycling them is no easy task. Spare a thought for our formerly green planet the next time you reach out for a bag to carry your groceries in.

Splurging $100 on clothes each month will emit 0.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, including the drive to a mall and the cost of producing clothes.


Getting busy has to be good for the planet, right?


If you turn off the lights and spend about two hours per week at it, you could be saving 0.9 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Everyone wins! But wait; LiveScience explains that according to a 2009 study published in the journal Global Environmental Change, having a baby will set you back 9,441 metric tons of CO2 over your lifetime.

The three Rs - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle - have long been a motto for environmental conservation. But it looks like things may not be as simple.

First published: 1 December 2015, 4:41 IST
Shweta Sengar @ShwetaSengar

Shweta covers Science & Technology for Catch Live at Catch News, scouring the Internet to bring readers items of interest, both serious and amusing. A foodie, photography enthusiast and globetrotter, she has also worked at The Economic Times before joining the Catch team. She studied Commerce at Kanpur University and has a PGD in Advanced Journalism from YMCA, New Delhi.