Monday, September 12, 2011

Please Consider the Environment

At the bottom of a lot of many emails in this new professional world, I see quite a bit of that little wingdings picture of a landscape with mountains and a tree, made large and in green font, next to some variation on the words "Be Green! Consider the environment before printing this email!"

Maybe this is to be expected considering that I do work in the green building world.  Yet apart from my department of our company, the rest of what folks do has a lot more to do with selling things than with thinking about how green they are--and somebody has to sell the stuff, and I'm sure glad it ain't me.  I find it funny that the largest relic of "greenness" among the rest of my company that I can observe is a little note telling me not to print my email.  (Which also happens to help the company spend a little less green on printing costs.)

And while I don't suppose that note is "greenwashing," per say--among the people who use it, their heart is probably in the right place--it does strike me as bizarre, and utterly irrelevant toward actual environmental protection.

There are two things I don't like about it.  The first has to do with making something very small and maybe not something you were really inclined to do anyway seem like that's it, you did your part. Or maybe I just live in a subset of the world where most people don't really print their email--or maybe I just get more or less irrelevant email--but I don't know that many folks are really all that compelled to print their email anyway.  But even so, most of sustainability has more to do with widespread systematic problems than whether or not you print ten copies of an email about your friend's dog. 

The other problem is the nag factor.  It's a nice friendly little reminder, but sometimes nothing grates you more than friendly little reminders about things! Especially if it's there in your signature line on every email that you send! I've posited before that this aspect of sustainability is one of our greatest challenges:  personal responsibility is personal after all, is internally motivated, so sometimes friendly reminders just piss people off even if well-intentioned and they shouldn't get so uptight about it and you were just trying to help gosh. Adults don't like being told how they should do something, even if, when they considered it themselves, they might agree that the suggested way has more benefits.

In light of gripe number one, I suppose I'd rather not waste people's nag tolerance on something so trivial--or even bother people's nag tolerance at all.

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