The ECO Friendly E-mail Signature

Monday, November 28, 2011

Photo Credit: Elise Jerrim

When you really get down to it, there is no end to the amount of a green geek that you can be. Case in point, I just changed my e-mail signature to an eco friendly one. How did I do this you ask.... well, let me tell you, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to formatting for the environment. What follows is a list of the common bad practices that people make when creating their e-mail signatures.

But before we get into that, I think I should mention that there are critical elements that you should always have in your email signature. So, always, always, always include your name, your title or position, and how people can contact you. That is basically all you need to have an effective signature, but to make it a green signature, avoid these common mistakes.

1. The cool picture
I have noticed a lot of people ending their signatures with punchy pictures. Although these are really cool for the people who see your signature, not everyone actually can see your picture. Here at the University of Ottawa, student email accounts are not HTML enabled (this is done to save server space). So any picture you send will end up as gibberish.
The Solution: Don't use any pictures in your signature if you can.

2. Colourful text
This was an eco-crime that I was very guilty of. I mean who doesn't like a little colour in their emails. But the thing you have to consider is that some people are going to print the email you are sending them. And if they do print the email, the colour will technically waste more resources (including money... colour copies are super expensive).
The Solution: If you want to use colours for the purpose of differentiation, use different shades of grey. This is a good idea anyways because if the e-mail is printed in black and white, you will have an idea of how the tones of grey are going to look.

3. Vertical lines (skipping lines)
Many people like to separate the information in their email by skipping lines. This does make the signature a lot cleaner but it wastes a bunch of space. Again, think of the idea that someone might print your e-mail. If you add up all those extra lines, we could be talking about hundreds, maybe thousands of pieces of paper over your lifetime.
The Solution: Use a horizontal banner. Rather than using separate lines to space out your text, use a dash or a symbol to separate your text, but do not skip lines. What you will have is a signature that takes as little space as is required.

4. Announcements
The final big thing that I want to mention is the little ads that people add to the end of their signatures. I, for instance, would always add this little line that said "Please consider the environment, don't print this e-mail". I used to think this would remind people to not print the email. In actuality it was more like a distinguishing thing that let people know that I was an environmentalist. And really, I am not sure that it made people print less paper... it did in fact make me super angry every time I saw an e-mail with no reminder.
The Solution: Don't use ads, if you have to just include a link to a website. It will likely take less space and could prompt people to actually follow the link.

Some people have asked me what font they should use to save the environment. I usually say go with Eco Font but really just don't use bold and you should save on ink. And really, that is the true secret to eco friendly signatures, just think about what would use the less amount of resources if someone where to print your e-mail. Here is my new e-mail signature just in case you were wondering.


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