Can email save the planet?

As a frequent, and guilt-ridden, writer on environmental topics, I changed my life fairly significantly this year. I downsized from a large four-bedroomed house to a two-bedroom bungalow. Of course, a …

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28th October 2007 at 8:15 pm

As a frequent, and guilt-ridden, writer on environmental topics, I changed my life fairly significantly this year. I downsized from a large four-bedroomed house to a two-bedroom bungalow. Of course, a move to a flat in the centre of London or New York would have been even more environmentally friendly, but life is full of compromises. At least I did something to assuage my guilt.

The new place is nearer to the underground than the previous one, so I walk there instead of driving there, as I did previously. I did think about changing the car for a hybrid, but I’ve had it twelve years and I figure that if it can keep it going, then that’s less polluting in the grand scheme of things. (I read recently that the Jeep Cherokee is one of the most environmentally friendly vehicles because it lasts for 30 years.)

I’ve noticed a lot of green-minded people add messages to their emails along the lines of ‘think before you print’. This strikes me as a cost-free and sensible thing to do, even if it is a bit bossy. I wondered whether the idea would appeal to my colleagues at Freeform Dynamics. This surfaced some interesting comments, mainly centred around hypocrisy. The Freeform world is one where people who want to inform/influence us think nothing of sticking us on aeroplanes and putting us up in swanky hotels. It really is so easy to go with the flow, persuading ourselves that it is the most practical and cost effective way for everyone to achieve their objectives. For us to harangue people about printing emails does seem rather hypocritical.

Dale, our leader, suggested that we add a different note to the end of emails, “Think before inviting me to a meeting – let’s teleconference instead!”

I’d be tempted to stop it before the hyphen. But he’s right. If business can be done over the wire, then the planetary savings are significant. And, of course, everyone saves time and money as well.

Out of interest, what would you put at the end of your emails?

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David Tebbutt is an award-winning columnist and feature writer who specialises on the subject of using software and technology to increase business productivity. He's an analyst with Freeform Dynamics but, in previous lives, wrote for Director magazine, Real Business and was also editor of Personal Computer World. http://freeformdynamics.com

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  1. The amount of rubbish that gets printed in offices is unbelievable. In my last place people would just print things off for the sake of it whether they needed to or not. I wonder how much it would help the environment if there was a no printing day?

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