How EasyJet could help save the world with one sheet of paper

click image to enlarge

Easyjet confirmation print-out

OK so I’m exaggerating, but that’s what you’re supposed to do with headlines right? Anyway I thought it was about time I put together my first design vigilante post.

TrendWatching.com recently reported on ‘Generation G’. In it they introduced the concept of ‘eco-generosity’ which coincides nicely with my thoughts on green websites.

They used some great examples to illustrate this idea, but much like the examples used by Naomi Klein in her book ‘No Logo’ many of the schemes could probably be cynically seen as little more than PR stunts, initiatives designed to portray corporations in a more environmentally conscious light. My thoughts on producing a green website focus more on the idea that, as consumers, we’ll soon look past the hype and focus more on the detail, however small.

With the concept of making a difference a piece at a time fresh in my head I was reminded of my recent trip to Avoriaz. I booked our flights through Easyjet, a low cost ‘ticketless’ airline.

On completion of a booking you’re instructed to print out the ticket confirmation. Although I’m usually quite careful not to print unnecessarily (you’ve got to love long email signatures that tell you not to print them) on this occasion I printed the whole confirmation page. This ran to 4-5 pages.

The first of the pages confirmed our travel arrangements and ended with a paragraph about Easyjet’s environmental policy accompanied by a ‘carbon offsetting’ logo. The second was the usual T&Cs with the final two pages devoted to cross and up-selling, most of which focused on a call to action that only had relevance whilst on screen (a link to an offer). I was annoyed at the waste this had caused and from a professional point of view the opportunities missed.

  • Why did a supposedly environmentally conscious company cause me to waste so much paper?
  • Why didn’t the system replace linked calls to action with a free-phone no?
  • Was all the cross/up-sell really necessary on the print out when much of it loses context?
  • If it is all necessary why isn’t a print stylesheet displaying it more efficiently to help reduce length?

I thought it would be interesting to see what the potential implications of this process could be.

According to the Independent 1.49 million people used Easyjet in January. If every passenger printed out confirmation it would equate to 5.96m sheets of paper.

Based on the estimate by conservatree.com that 1 tree produces roughly 8,333 sheets of paper this would mean that 715 trees were used just by Easyjet passengers in the space of 1 month.

If the Independent’s figures represent an average month 8,580 trees would be used in a year.

If the confirmation was reduced to 3 sheets it would save approx. 178 trees worth of paper a month, 2,145 in a year.

If its reduced to just 1 sheet 6,436 trees (equal to 6 football pitches of rain forest) would be saved each year.

Of course there are so many holes in this, from the number of people flying to how the confirmation pages are printed, or what percentage actually print out confirmation.

But everyone knows you can prove anything with the facts. Easyjet could at the very least introduce a print stylesheet that controls the layout and optimise the copy more affectively thereby limiting the length of the print out. Even if 1 page was lost it would have an impact, especially if this level of detail was initiated across their other web channels.

How ever much paper is used it’ll be completely dwarfed by the impact the flights have on the environment but that’s a much larger issue, and one I can’t fix! For companies like Easyjet who trade in services that arguably don’t have an existing viable alternative it’s in their best interests to affect as many other areas of their business as possible.

The ideal solution would probably be to mobilize confirmation so that paper was completely redundant anyway!

Vaguely related links

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