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I'm Tav, a 29yr old from London. I enjoy working on large-scale social, economic and technological systems.

Email Etiquette
Thunderbird mail client

Netiquette has long been a dying trait. At best I hope that people might read something like Seth's Email checklist. But I have long stopped expecting others to adhere to much sense on this front.

But the "Don't print this Email" footer meme just managed to push past the annoyance tipping point for me. Especially since it came from someone who I admire as a great systems thinker!

I understand that it is well meant. People would like to show that they care for the environment and would like to encourage having less of an impact on the world. Laudable intentions.

But having a footer on every email is just plain stupid. Especially the large companies who insist on having several paragraphs of text explaining why you shouldn't do so and just how super cool and eco-friendly they are. Often these footers are larger than the body of the message itself!

So why is this stupid? Because by adding these footers you are causing more harm than printing those emails would be causing in the first place! The millions of servers handling email sit in data centers consuming serious amounts of energy!

And the additional size of each and every message — especially as they get replied to and included in replies — adds up to a serious amount of energy use! More routers, servers and switches are needed just because people couldn't handle a bit of systems thinking.

It's not just for keeping the user interface simple that companies like Google spend such effort keeping their home page to less than 28 words. Each extra useless byte directly results in more energy use and a lot more CO2 in the atmosphere.

So, please for the love of the environment, stop including that footer in your emails. The point has already been made. I stopped printing emails in 1999. Just have a chat with people who still insist on printing out their emails. And stop wasting the most precious asset we all have — time!