Thanks In Advance spotlights the environmental impact of our cluttered inboxes

Anyways Creative made a low energy website that investigates the impact of digital hoarding, inspiring us all to delete unused emails and consider our online footprint.

13 July 2021


Sending and receiving emails has become commonplace in modern life, but how often is it that you sift through old or unwanted messages and actually delete them? While many of us house thousands of correspondence in our inbox, these emails are in fact leaving behind a significant carbon footprint; from emails in inboxes to storing photos and videos on the cloud.

Looking at these issues is a new self-initiated project from our sister company Anyways Creative, titled Thanks In Advance. Not only does Thanks In Advance inspire us all to delete our emails, the project practices what it preaches and has created a website that’s 97 per cent greener than others, amounting to just 36KB in size and achieved through considered colour palettes, animations and font choices, plus fun illustrations from Jose Flores.

“We came across some very surprising facts and statistics about the carbon cost of our digital habits, from storing files online to streaming our favourite shows,” explains Claire Campion, senior creative at Anyways, of the key findings behind the project. “One fact stood out: data centres use an estimated 200 terawatt hours (TWh) each year, which is half the electricity used for transport worldwide. The idea that everything we do online has a real world environmental impact is so relevant to our day-to-day lives, and we decided this was something we wanted to learn more about.”

Although a complicated topic and indeed “just the tip of the iceberg,” adds Claire, the act of deleting emails is an accessible route to consider in order to better our environmental impact. This is especially prevalent as the world continues to become evermore reliant on technology. “We didn’t feel like we had any right, or authority, to tell people to not stream their favourite programmes whilst stuck at home in a lockdown,” says Callum Green, senior creative at Anyways. “But we did feel like ‘hoarded’ emails were a nice entry point into a much wider topic, as it’s something everyone does and doesn’t require any habits to be broken – just new ones picked up!”

GalleryAnyways Creative: Thanks In Advance. Illustrations by Jose Flores (Copyright © Anyways Creative, 2021)

In terms of the illustrations specifically, Jose’s visuals were composed with energy efficiency in mind. The images themselves are SVGs (Scalable Vector Graphics), “which is a vector-based format,” adds Claire. “This means they are built using data points and code, rather than pixels and are considerably lighter than, for example, JPGs or PNGS. They have then been lightly animated within the CSS code, to create simple but charming animations.”

Another aspect of the site’s commitment to tackling digital hoarding is through the code itself. Working with Dan Powell on the design and site build, the team focused its goals on energy saving through “considered, clean and simple” code, says Claire, along with a green hosting provider that uses 100 per cent renewable energy. The colour and font choices were also chosen carefully to make sure that the site was energy efficient. “We are aware that creating a website in the first place increases the carbon footprint of Thanks In Advance,” says Callum, “so we balanced each creative decision between the impact it would have on the website experience, and the impact it would have on the environment.”

Anyways hopes that the habits formed through Thanks In Advance will become as normal as it is to recycle, with emails responsibly tossed into the trash like you would a can into the green bin. “We know that individually this doesn’t make a huge difference, but if we all do it, we can make real change,” explains Claire. “If we begin to shift our digital habits too, perhaps we can collectively have an impact.”

If you’re keen to get started on your own email clear-out, Thanks In Advance has plenty of useful advice – like going back through old emails and deleting old messages. Or, think about saving files and attachments to a hard drive instead of your email, “removing them from these data centres” says Callum. And when you’ve sent a calendar invite, “respond appropriately, and then delete the notification email”. More of these tips can be viewed on the project’s energy efficient website here.

GalleryAnyways Creative: Thanks In Advance. Illustrations by Jose Flores (Copyright © Anyways Creative, 2021)

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Anyways Creative: Thanks In Advance. Illustrations by Jose Flores (Copyright © Anyways Creative, 2021)

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima. 

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