12 August 2007

How green is your email?

Although email has been around for many years now, and could even be described as being widespread for at least 10 years, the subject of "netiquette" - or agreed bounds of behaviour when corresponding via email - continue to change. Once upon a time it was to cover people getting to grips with the new technology - NOT USING CAPS FOR EXAMPLE - or the expanding list of acronyms used by lazy typists.

Recently I have noticed a different strand to this debate over the way we consume emails. Apparently a great many of us print them off, performing a form of communications alchemy, turning ethereal, soft copy into black and white print. Those who had visions of email creating the paperless office consider this self-defeating. Others of us who felt a paperless office was as realistic as a paperless toilet consider this to be normal when creating an audit trail of transactions with a client, retailer or online bank - often as not because we have been burned when trying to find that "smoking gun" correspondence that proved a clerical error was not our fault.

So, many emails I receive have a green disclaimer at the bottom, the 21st century equivalent of an equal opportunities statement, that reads: "save the planet - think before you print this email". If only saving the planet were that easy, it wouldn't be so easy to dismiss this as idle posturing. However, a form of Sod's Law I have noticed is, when printing off emails, one page emails are often turned into two page emails, thanks to these green rejoinders; inevitably, the second page of every other email I print is blank except for one sentence at the top that says: "save energy - don't print this email". Somewhere there must be an email guru, equivalent to Heisenberg, working out an equation that demonstrates the amount of energy wasted telling people not to waste energy is greater than the amount of energy that will be saved. Either that or there is an environmental consultancy at work right now that is measuring the carbon footprint created by printing emails. And how a tax can be levied against it.

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