Many emails come with a notice in the signature that includes “Don’t print this email.” or “Please consider the environment before printing this email.”
Thus, it was a surprise when I read the email from my printer who takes the opposite view:
Notice! It’s OK to print this email. Paper is a biodegradable, renewable, sustainable product made from trees. Growing and harvesting trees provide jobs for millions of Americans. Working forests are good for the environment and provide clean air & water, wildlife habitat, and carbon storage. Thanks to improved forest management, we have more trees in America today than we had 100 years ago.
It’s a perspective that you don’t hear very often but one that caused me to pause.
Your point of view is shaped by the information that you have and how it intersects with you personally, so for a printer, printing is good, even if it is an email. The signature is very on-brand, even if it is environmentally controversial.
To print or not to print — Don’t overlook the role that your emails play in conveying your values and message.
Think about the amount of ink that is wasted on printing that is never read or used. The fine print of contracts. The lines on the back side of notebook pages. Legal notices in newspaper classifieds. The reverse side of page-a-day calendars. Instruction sheets and owner’s manuals. Ingredient lists. Prescription information with potential side effects. The list could go on and on.
Printing requires time to prepare, ink to implement it and it adds to the weight and cost of products. If you’re serious about organizational cost-cutting and environmental stewardship, one place to start is to print only that which is necessary.
Many cities are required to print their legal notices in the paper; instead, be like towns in Connecticut that changed their ordinance to allow notices to be published online. Minimize your email signature so it doesn’t require several lines every time someone prints your messages. Revisit your forms to consolidate them and eliminate the need for clients to repeat their name and address multiple times.
Pay attention for a few days of all the unread printing that surrounds you – and then commit to producing just a bit less of it yourself.
Have you noticed the change in packaging that Amazon and other retailers have adopted? Instead of boxes coming stuffed full of Styrofoam peanuts or bags of air, many boxes now are delivered with just the product inside or smaller packaging is used.
I noticed this when I had two packages on opposite ends of the spectrum. One contained three items, all squished around a piece of cardboard to cover them. I literally could put my hand inside the package without opening it. Great for the environment, but bad for the third item in the wrap that was squished upon arrival. Another box contained one bottle of cologne – and could have contained about 20 more of them in the same container. I am amazed that it arrived in one piece after loosely shifting around the box with no protection.
As more and more business is conducted through online shopping, I applaud retailers for trying to minimize the environmental impact of the delivery of all these goods. And I suggest that they have not yet found the right answer to what is too much packaging and what is too little.
May your organization adopt similar practices of environmental consciousness and experimentation – continually trying new things that help you be better, but not yet where you need to be.
There is no One. Big. Thing. that can solve the climate issues that we are facing but many people doing many things is a good first step. Toward this end, outdoor outfitter REI is encouraging people to participate in a weekly Opt to Act challenge to incorporate more environmentally-friendly practices into their routine. “On their own, none of these 52 actions are going to save the world,” reads the REI website, “But each week offers a chance to incorporate more eco-friendly behavior into your everyday life. And if we all start being better, together, we can do a lot of good.”
The outfitter has prepared a checklist suggesting actions people can take each week. Most require only modest effort, such as using public transportation to one event this week, set your thermometer one degree lower this week, count the number of single-use plastic items you use this week or go meatless one day this week. I think it illustrates that helping the environment can become part of your habits and doesn’t have to involve a major sacrifice or lifestyle change.
Access the checklist here and Opt to Act responsibly in 2020.
While out walking, I found a bird’s nest that was inexplicably laying in the middle of a parking lot. Since there was no nearby tree from which it may have fallen, I carried it home.
As I marveled at the sturdy construction, it occurred to me that this nest was made with no equipment or tools; nothing was purchased or new; there was no prefabrication or blueprint – and yet, I walked with the nest for a mile and never once did a piece of it fall off.
The nest can be a model for organizations. It’s the essence of creativity: taking what already exists and making something new out of it. It’s a lesson in ingenuity – utilizing mud and sticks and straw that by themselves have little value but pasted together form a functional container to safely warm eggs and ultimately house baby birds. And it’s an environmental wonder, doing all this through 100% repurposing of materials.
How can you emulate nest-making? Before you make your next purchase, act as if you don’t have the option to buy new. Apply some bird-like ingenuity and fashion what you already into your solution.
Looking for a unique gift idea for this holiday? How about toilet paper? Seriously!
An environmentally sustainable company, cheekily named Who Gives a Crap, markets toilet paper in “Gift Editions” especially for holiday giving. The paper is made “without trees” in an environmentally-friendly process that uses no inks, dyes or scents – and for the holidays it is wrapped in colorful paper as an incentive to save a forest as part of your gift-giving. Even better than that, the company donates 50% of its profits to help build toilets for the millions of people living without them.
Few would see toilet paper as a viable gift option, but with the way Who Gives a Crap has packaged it, the “Holiday Gift Edition” (48 rolls/$55 shipped) could be a very desirable gift for the environmentally-conscious person on your list.
The Gift Edition could also serve as a model for how to tailor your offering to the audience you are trying to serve. How can you re-package what you provide to incentivize additional purchasing? If they can make toilet paper a viable option, surely you can sprinkle some holiday magic on your services.
The newest item on the menu at the place known for flame-grilled burgers and the Whopper isn’t meat-based at all. Burger King is capitalizing on the growing trend toward plant-based alternatives with its Impossible Whopper, a meatless alternative that substitutes for the real thing.
The Impossible burger was a conversation topic in one of my classes and, surprisingly, all had tried one by the end of the session. I had a few vegetarians, a “flexitarian” who is trying to cut down on red meat but not cut it out, and a majority were carnivores. We had one who swore he will never again buy it, but most saw the Impossible Whopper as an acceptable alternative taste-wise, especially when loaded with a garden of vegetables between the buns. I tried one myself last weekend and was pleasantly surprised. It’s not the same as a beef patty but may be worth the overall tradeoff.
Plant-based alternatives are gaining in popularity because of the trend toward healthier lifestyles and the consciousness about the environmental impact of red meat. The CO2 emissions required to make an Impossible burger are 3.5 KG; it’s 30.6 for the beef patty. Water use is 106.8L vs. 850.1L and as areas of the country experience drought, this statistic will become more relevant. Plant-based meat has about the same calories as beef-based, but far less cholesterol (0 vs 80mg) and much more protein (19G vs. 2G), giving it another advantage.
The next time you’re out looking for a quick bite, you may want to experiment with plant-based patties. This market is exploding and you’ll want to have an opinion to contribute when the conversation inevitably comes up!
Source: Where’s the Beef? by Adele Peters in Fast Company, October 2019, p. 18