Answering machines vs. voicemail – the environmental comparison

It’s the little things we often overlook that really mount up when it comes to electricity use and general environmental impact. A watt here, a watt there all adds up – particularly when you multiply it by millions of consumers doing the same thing. The Wuppertal Institute in Germany looked into answering machines vs. voicemail type services and came up with some startling data.

For example, telephone answering machines use electricity 24/7 and can consume up to 100 kWh per year. According to the Wuppertal Institute, by replacing all the estimated 18 million conventional answering machines with voicemail, it could save around 788 GWh per year and 600,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions in Germany alone.

The Daily Green reports that answering machines in USA residences currently consume nearly two billion kilowatt-hours annually. A switchover of all these systems to voicemail services would be equivalent in terms of emission savings to taking 250,000 cars off the road.

The Wuppertal Institute also points out:

– A small number of centralised voicemail service platforms, which can cater to many users, consume significantly less materials in production than a large number of decentralised answering machines.
– Voicemail reduces the amount of problematic waste – scrapped electronic appliances –  over 1,000 times less.
– There are transport savings – everything from shipping millions of devices, to consumers making trips to purchase answering machines and have them repaired or serviced.
– Voicemail services are more flexible and versatile. When you buy an answering machine, what it does is what it does. When new features become available that have you drooling, what usually happens? You go out and buy one. Voicemail services can be scaled up; broadening their range of features with no new hardware required by the consumer.
– Costs for voicemail services are quite low when you take into consideration the costs involved with purchasing answering machine equipment, upkeep and running costs.

Like standby power loads, little things like answering machine power consumption and the associated e-waste issues are so easy to overlook in our lives. Once your answering machine has bitten the dust; perhaps consider making it your last one and switch to voicemail services.

Read more of the Wuppertal Institute’s research.