"Consider the environment before printing this email" - why?

Several times in my recent career, I have received an email reminding me to consider the environment before printing that e-mail, and at least one co-worker’s signature also, in addition, stated that “Not every email needs to be printed.”

I’m 30, and I’ve never believed that every email I get needs to be printed and saved. Is there a general compulsion to print emails, a compulsion in some places, or was it a general practice at one time to print out every email and file it manually?

It is easy to go green by giving other people trivial advice.

prints out thread for future reference

I can’t imagine that I print more than 1 out of 20,000 emails or so.

It might be an age thing - I’ve noticed that a weirdly large number of older workers in my organization print emails to file, even seemingly inconsequential ones. There is one lady here (probably 60+) that has her secretary print literally every email as she refuses to use the computer, but she’s an outlier.

IME, a lot of older people I knew back in the 90s would print every e-mail. They had a few reasons. Among them were that they felt that something would happen to make them lose the softcopy, so they made sure they had a hardcopy; or they didn’t like reading things on screen, and preferred to read them from a sheet of paper. Or, it might be policy: one office I worked in (late 80s, early 90s timeframe, just when e-mail was starting to come into the workplace) had a policy that all e-mails were to be printed and kept on file, in order.

These reasons sound silly to us today. As time goes on and the oldsters retire and younger computer-literate people come into the workforce, these reasons have less weight. But some of a certain generation still do feel that every e-mail must be printed.

I used never to print e-mails, but as time as gone on, my e-mail inboxes have gotten more and more cluttered with trivia, nonsense, advertising, and spam, spam, spam. My inbox no longer has any meaning for me. I’ve even stopped looking at it more than two or three times a day. Some of my accounts are lucky to get a once-a-week perusal. Thus I tend to print out e-mail messages that require me to take action of some kind.

Frankly, with all the different kinds of online communication we have these days, I feel like e-mail has run its course. It’s gotten to the point where I get annoyed if someone inside the building sends me an e-mail that needs to be acted on urgently instead of calling me or just walking down to my desk. It’s even more infuriating if it’s a person whose desk is within 10 feet of mine (this happens to be my supervisor and a habitual “consider the environment” tagger).

I’d much rather get an instant message in these cases than an e-mail message. I’m bored with e-mail. Done. Through. Get it out of here.

A friend’s mother has a habit of finding interesting web pages, printing them out, putting them in an envelope, and mailing to the friend. Sometimes the mother sends an email to say that something is coming in the mail.

Oh, and I had a boss who liked to print out email forwards in order to show the jokes to other people.

Not that I have seen, but I have observed a compulsion among some to nag others about their pet causes.

Before printing, make sure you use paper marked with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative label. Help the environment by using paper and real xmas trees. Without a need for paper forests, and with no need for xmas tree farms, they’ll all wind up as flat, crappy housing developments or condo complexes and eventually be toured by the most annoying and sometimes shallow TV show known to mankind: House Hunters.

Print away and buy a real tree. Do some things that sustain forests and farmland.


I just had a discussion about this with my ultra annoying co-worker that I’ve mentioned here many times. She’s one of those that prints everything. We’re moving to another building soon and space will be at a premium. Beside the colossal waste of time and paper, there simply won’t be any room for three file cabinets of unneccessary junk. She’s got binders and binders of print pieces that could have been scanned and filed. In her case, she simply isn’t that computer savvy. She doesn’t understand how to make and organize folders and rather than admitting that (I don’t blame her; it isn’t fun to not be technologically up to speed. I’m the Luddite who would know!)she just files everything like it’s 1974.

My parents are in their 70’s. While they have learned to use computers, I’m not sure that they trust that the info will still be there at a later date. Articles of interest, maps of places they might go to, recipes, emails… All of it gets printed.

That, and worsening eye sight makes reading things on a computer harder.

Look, old ladies print EVERYTHING. One day one of my coworkers will die when one of the stacks of paper in her cube collapses and we’ll only know by the smell.

Because after you print it, the damage is done.

That made me LOL

My parents used to print out websites all the time. They didn’t bother so much with emails but if they found a website they were interested in they would print it out to read later. They ended up coming unstuck a few times with things such as government information which had changed since they printed out their copy and rather than check the website again they referred to their hardcopy which was now 12 months old. As a result of this (and the fact that ink is pretty expensive) they don’t bother anymore, having got used to using bookmarks. Having said that they do now have a habit of bookmarking every website they visit, ever, with no particular organisation or structure. I swear if Google ever loses their list of indexed sites they could just copy my Dad’s favourites folder and they would be up and running in no time!

I think it relates to the question of why older people store their ‘life savings’ in the house so it can be lost in a fire. The answer being that many of them simply don’t trust banks and may have grown up in economically unstable times that generated this distrust. For some reason they think that their hardcopy of the email is less prone to loss than having it stored by Google.

My advisor doesn’t even read computer code on a computer. Her method of editing code is to have a grad student print it out for her, she marks up the printout with red pen, and gives it back to the grad student to do the editing on the computer.

I work in medical research, and for each study we get these 3-ring binders for storing documentation. All of them have a “study correspondence” tab which at the very least requires filing of letters, memos, and… E-mails. And then half of the representatives from the companies that we conduct send me E-mails - which I will have to print and save - with this little statement merrily tacked onto the bottom, often right before the huge “blah blah blah if you get this in error please destroy” disclaimer that their companies require them to add as well. :smack:

In my experience, the printer outers are the older people that don’t like computers as much, and don’t ever use them for fun.

We have several older workers here who have kept up with tech and would never print anything unnecessary. We used to have one that would often print out things to read later, I think it may have been her eyes giving her trouble. Another worker would just print out everything and it drove the rest of us nuts. I’d send her an email and she’d print it out and walk over to my office to answer it orally. If I sent her something that she needed to forward, she would print it out and hand it to the person it needed to be forwarded to.

That’s utterly tragic. I laughed; I cried.