Why we switched to plain text email

The world’s email systems consume a lot of energy and emit a lot of CO2. We’re rethinking how we do email to reduce our carbon footprint, and making changes to how we send email. Let’s dig in.

“Less is more, but only when it’s better” -Dieter Rams

Famed industrial designer Dieter Rams, is famous for his pared back minimalist industrial design work for Braun®. A designer Steve Jobs and Johnny Ives (Apple) both respected, and whom inspired a number of Apple’s most successful designs.

Less is certainly better when it comes to email.

Every email processed uses electricity.

There’s no doubt that we expend a lot of energy on email, whether that’s the daily struggle to inbox zero, or spending hours to get our HTML emails looking just right.

In addition to all that personal energy expended, there is the energy (electricity) needed to run email systems, and email applications on our devices.

In fact, according to the Email Co2 Calculator, for the average full time office worker, sending and receiving (conservatively) 70 emails a day, there is a cost of is 84kg of Co2 produced per year.

That’s about the same as if;

  • you had used 8,400 plastic carrier bags bag (or 54 years of shopping, using 3 bags a week).
  • or drunk 1,000 disposable cups of tea or coffee with a serving of milk, - that’s 3 years of coffee breaks, at one cup a day.
  • or drove 118 miles in an average car - about the same as if you had driven from London to Calais.

Now multiply that by the number of folks all around the planet emailing each day.

Email is vitally important for most of us, but that’s a lot of energy.

Reduce carbon emissions

According to BBC’s Science Focus, Internet traffic accounts for about 3.5% OF THE worlds carbon emissions.

https://www.sciencefocus.com/planet-earth/the-thought-experiment-what-is-the-carbon-footprint-of-an-email/

Analysis shows that HTML emails are 2 to 3 times larger and therefore 2-3 time more expensive in energy consumption. Therefore, based on carbon footprint alone - there is a solid case for plain text emails.

Furthermore HTML emails are often vehicles for privacy busting pixels.

Additionally HTML emails are notoriously difficult to get right in every email reader, and then there are email attachments - an even larger carbon emitter.

New techniques for file sharing, like dropbox, google drive and of course Brandkit, mean that adding an attachment to your next email message should be avoided.

Considering these points, we decided to switch the email messages sent by Brandkit from HTML to plain text In Brandkit 2.

  • Branding is now done in the from name, and text signoff
  • Buttons become links
  • As a bonus each URL is automatically turned into click-able links by most email readers
  • emails now flow responsively for different devices without issue
  • customers save funds on designers and custom email templates
  • emails are sent and received with fewer resources
  • Less Co2 is produced per email sent

What about marketing emails

Not only did we change our Brandkit system emails - we took the brave step to switch our marketing emails to plain text as well.

Here’s why.

They simply perform better.

“Plain Text emails perform better in every test”

Recent studies have shown that despite our natural inclination as marketers to use HTML email, plain text emails simply perform better across all tests.

https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/plain-text-vs-html-emails-data

We also have a responsibility to be frugal with our emails (just send fewer emails), and with our word counts (apply Hemingway principals to hone and simplify our messages), and use plain simple language.

Doing this in reality means no “newsletter” style emails - instead we’ll invite users to join us online at our website or Brandkit Portal.

That’s going to be a refreshing change in your inbox, which is no doubt bombarded by simply too much email.

References

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Why we switched to plain text email

The worlds email systems consume a lot of energy and emit a lot of CO2. We’re rethinking how we do email to reduce our carbon footprint, and making changes to how we send email.

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Statistics above last updated 18 Sep 2023