Wanna save trees? Don't Save As WWF. This is the really green format!


The World Widlife Fund recently launched a “new file format” called .WWF, which is green because it cannot be printed, so it saves trees by stimulating people to reduce their consumption of paper.

In reality, the “green” .WWF format, which is essentially, just a PDF file with printing disabled. is a dumb idea for two reasons. First, too many file formats are bad in general. Second, .WWF only announced support for the two… most polluting operating systems. Both of these reasons are already explained in detail in another article, which also got lots of interesting comments.

All hail the real green file format!

Besides, .WWF is also useless. There’s another, already existing format that is usable in the same way. And it’s even better than .WWF because it is just as unprintable (therefore, green) but already works on all operating systems, without installing anything. If you don’t want people to unnecessarily print the documents you send to them… save them as .ZIP files and lo! nobody will be able print them :-)

I mean, if .WWF is “green because it cannot be printed”, then a .ZIP file is just as usable (just unzip it), just as unprintable (… see previous parenthesis), therefore it is just as green, isn’t it now?

Education first

Let me now acknowledge one big merit that the .WWF format indeed has. There was one very good thing that was overdue, and the .WWF format has done wonders to achieve it: its announcement has done (in public!) an excellent job to tell people who have no clue about what software and file formats really are apart from those who know what really happens when they “Save As… whatever” (again, please follow the links in the other “Save As WWF” article to realize how environmentally relevant file formats are).

Everybody who, on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else, reacted to the .WWF announcement with any variation of “hey, thanks, this is a wonderful, really neat idea” belongs to the first category. Please note that I do not mean to ridiculize or offend in any way normal software “end users”. For almost all of them it actually is still difficult, in the current society, to realize that “ideas” like this have really little merit. Of course, seeing in the first category even several “gurus” is an entirely different matter.

Seriously, now

Please note that WWF has valid reasons to fight unnecessary printing! I am not against them for that. Actually I support their effort: you should really think twice before printing because unnecessary printing is bad. Besides, when you really have to print or to send files that will be printed, please consider these options:

  • only use recycled or otherwise environment-friendly paper and ink (they’re just one internet search away)

  • use fonts that require less ink like Ecofont or Century Gothic

  • add to each page of your documents some little “Be green, don’t print” logo, which is may have a much bigger impact than a text-only request

The last option may even be a good way for WWF to recycle the logo and the whole “Save As WWF” campaign. The campaign is good, it’s only its first implementation that is counterproductive.

Update 2010/12/09: My suggestion is that WWF simply drops the software/file format of all this campaign entirely, and leaves/recycles the icon and logo as something that everybody puts in their files to mean “please save trees, don’t print”, in whatever formats they use.

Update 2010/12/13: the WWF Paper toolbox goes exactly in the direction that I suggested in my earlier update. Please use it! Thanks WWF!

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