How do I tag a company email with a short environmentally friendly message?
March 13, 2008 3:18 PM   Subscribe

My company is trying to encourage our employees, clients & vendors to be more environmentally conscious. We want to tag company emails with a message underneath our standard signature to help get people thinking about it, but are trying to strike a balance between nice & forceful. Some of our ideas after the jump. What say you MeFites?

A cool little tree icon will precede the message.

Unless you really need to, please don't print this email

Do you need to print this email? Think green!
[my comany] We support conservation.

Don’t print it! Save it! Think green!
[my comany] buys recycled materials.

Also, is the second line necessary?
posted by UncleHornHead to Work & Money (23 answers total)
No one actually reads sigs, especially in emails from coworkers. You would get more attention by sending out a specific email addressing this regularly, but at random intervals (there's a daily update email that gets sent out every day at the same time and gets ignored. I had them send it at a different time every day, and there is a much greater response).
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 3:29 PM on March 13, 2008

Seconding Cat Pie. The only reason I ever look at a sig is for a phone #.
posted by devilsbrigade at 3:32 PM on March 13, 2008

I agree with Cat Pie Hurts-- a sig will be ignored. But I like the idea of an icon preceding the message. I'm not sure I'd understand a tree. What abou the standard Reduce-Reuse-Recycle triad?
posted by nax at 3:33 PM on March 13, 2008

Actually, I do read sigs. My friend at Harvard Business School uses this sig:

Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail. Is anything I said that important?

I see nothing wrong with the (my company) buys materials line.

On the other hand, I also think that the days where we printed out every single email are over, that was something only done by computer-phobic managers who just couldn't deal yet with such a big change in their lives. Nowadays, most of us only print email in very rare circumstances, such as if we have to bring them to a meeting or something, and therefore I'm not sure this message is necessary. MHO of course.
posted by Melismata at 3:43 PM on March 13, 2008

We use:

Please consider your environmental responsibility before printing this e-mail.
posted by curie at 3:56 PM on March 13, 2008

A sort of "environment tip of the day" might do the job pretty well.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 3:58 PM on March 13, 2008

Side question: Do a lot of people print emails? This is a problem I was unaware of.
posted by found missing at 4:02 PM on March 13, 2008 [4 favorites]

I think the second line would have more oomph if it demonstrates that your company is actively committed to conservation, rather than just thinking it's a nifty idea. Something like "[company] sources recycled materials whenever possible" or "[company] recycles X% of its waste" or whatever specific data you have that goes beyond just having one ream of recycled paper in the back of the supply closet. I've worked at companies where every desk has a recycle bin, but no one uses them; a company where environmentally sound practices are actively encouraged would impress me.

If your company has several such factoids, maybe everyone could have a different one on their signature, or you could rotate every few weeks.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:04 PM on March 13, 2008

Any company that did this would go down in my estimation. I think it shows bad judgement and is based on sloppy thinking. I would be (very slightly) less inclined to do business with your company. Just my 5c.
posted by thparkth at 4:07 PM on March 13, 2008

Bravo for what you're doing. I would favor #2.

It's especially easy to print only page 1 of a multipage email thread with a long series of old messages. We should all be reminded to print only the parts we need.

#3 is way too aggressive. I work in a law firm and we must have a hard copy folder for easy reference on every matter. "Paperless" is a cool idea, but I don't see how we'd ever be able to do without hard copies. Sometimes we must review and compare many inches of documents to reach a conclusion or answer a question. How could we do it without hard copies? My personal organic RAM doesn't have that much capacity. So, please don't give your customers orders with exclamation points. Even though we all know they're non-binding, it still grates.
posted by JimN2TAW at 4:08 PM on March 13, 2008

Can you limit this to just internal e-mail?
I'd be annoyed if I were a customer of yours and got email admonishing me not to do something.
It's almost as irritating as those pointless disclaimers some companies attach.

(This post generated with 100% recycled electrons)
posted by madajb at 4:12 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do a lot of people print emails?

I've seen it quite a bit in corporate environments, particularly where administrators enforce email quotas, or the email infrastructure is perceived to be flaky by the users.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:24 PM on March 13, 2008

A cool little tree icon will precede the message.

Not to rain on your parade, but a) that will increase your spam score as far as I'm concerned and b) owing to the vagaries of corporate mail systems etc I bet that many if not most of the recipients will never see it.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:27 PM on March 13, 2008

When I see messages like that I always think: Well now you've reminded me I guess a printout might be handy.

If you really want to reduce printing just increase the distance between workstations and printers.
People are lazy, if they have to walk 10 steps instead of 2 they will print half as much.
posted by Lanark at 4:32 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the tree can easily get converted to a meaningless symbol.
At my workplace people use the unofficial but increasingly ubiquitous:

Please consider the environment before printing this message.

I agree with Metroid Baby's suggestion that stats or an official company line would strengthen the message.
posted by bassjump at 4:34 PM on March 13, 2008

A cool little tree icon will precede the message.

Yep, this will definitely increase your spam score. Hope you won't mind if a few of your clients stop getting your messages.

I also have to say I think this is unprofessional, and have to add to the chorus saying that my opinion of your company would lessen if you do this. In part, this is because I already know some people who use messages like this and they all have borderline incompetence verified in other areas. I think there is a connection here—competent people don't have to be reminded not to unnecessarily print out e-mails.

The last e-mail I printed out was a survey sent by an administrator to several hundred employees. The administrator could have asked the enormous IT staff to make a survey web page for her, or have outsourced it, or as a very last resort send results via e-mail. Instead she asked us to print out the e-mails and physically deliver them to a remote part of campus, where her assistant would go through each one and tabulate the results by hand.

At the bottom of this e-mail, just like all the other e-mails she sent was "Save Paper - Do you really need to print this e-mail?"

I'm all in favor of environmental drives, but (a) keep it to your own employees, and (b) do something meaningful for God's sake. Like recycling bins in every room, or reducing the number of printers in the building. Just not more meaningless piffle at the bottom of e-mails. There's enough already.
posted by grouse at 4:59 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


* Want to take out your pathetic eco-guilt on the families of loggers and pulp-mill workers? Don't print this e-mail.

* Bill Gates will pay you $1,000 not to print this e-mail.

* Printing this e-mail will violate most companies' appropriate-use policies, you stupid [expletive].

* Dead puppies aren't much fun; [company] kills a puppy for every e-mail printed.
posted by backupjesus at 5:17 PM on March 13, 2008

OK, I like the idea, and if people get all uppity and offended -- that's their own baggage talking, I think.

I agree that including an image / tree icon / whatever is probably not a great idea.

I'd also steer far, far away from anything involving rhetorical questions or exclamation marks.

What you could do is stick with saying things that are true about yourself, something like:
GreenCo Inc. buys recycled materials when possible
and encourages conservation, including not printing e-mail when practical.
[ only maybe less lame - Please somebody make it less lame. ]

Now, maybe it sounds a little self-aggrandizing and we're-so-great, but it's a sig, they're supposed to be like that. Could it seem judgmental? I can't tell for sure, but I don't think so.
posted by amtho at 7:48 PM on March 13, 2008

A nice sentiment, but there are two big assumptions here:

1) People print emails
2) People print emails that they don't need to print

Assuming you have people who print emails that they could read on screen, you need to look into ways of changing behaviour. Not easy.

You don't have much control over your suppliers and customers, but a discentive could work. Is it free to print in your office? Add an environmental tax, say 10 cents a page that would come out of each departments' budget. With the proceeds you could actually do something environmentally responsible such as buying tree-free paper, 100% recycled paper or switch the office to green electricity.
posted by kamelhoecker at 8:46 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Our company just uses "Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail. " It's only used as a sig on internal emails. I'm not sure how much good it does, but it seems like standard terminology.
posted by Space Kitty at 10:54 PM on March 13, 2008

Here's the big problem (as far as i can tell) that no one has mentioned yet:

The users who habitually print emails, are going to click the "Print" command instinctively WAY before they ever see your sig. (assuming the email is long enough so they cant see the sig in 'preview' page format)

Granted, they may finally see the sig after having printed out the emails, and you might be hoping that after seeing the same environmental message time and time again, they would consider changing their habits. However, as others have said, I think most habitual email printers are not doing it because they are "environmentally-clueless/careless"... they are doing it because A) they are "old skool" and like having things printed out or B) Inbox size limit policies restrict them so they print things out to keep their Inbox small. (and arent technical enough to want to bother with some computer based solution like archiving old messages)

I see where you're coming from, and I think its a great idea.. but my gut feeling is the real world impact is going to be negligible to nil.
posted by jmnugent at 1:40 AM on March 14, 2008

• To create your signature, go to Outlook > Tools > Options > Mail Format and select “Rich Text” for the message format.
• Then click on Signatures > New you will be prompted to name your signature, then click Next.
• To create the tree icon in the closing line, select 14-point for the size, Webdings as the font, and select the color “Green” from the palette. Then type the capital letter “P”.
• For the text, apply 8-point Verdana (or what have you) and select the color “Green” from the palette.
• Save and apply your signature on exit.

hope this helps.
posted by thetenthstory at 6:42 AM on March 14, 2008

I think amtho has a good point - maybe it's okay if some sigs are self-congratulatory.

On the other hand, I sort of picture the sig being appended to very mundane emails, and it creating eye-rolling on the other end, like a recipient gets an email, "We're all going out to some crappy restaurant on Friday to celebrate Karen's birthday and Harry's pending retirement, who wants to carpool?" Followed by: "Please don't print this email! Just file it electronically and refer to it periodically....!"
posted by dreamphone at 10:19 AM on March 14, 2008

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