Altruism by fax

Delivery vans emit CO₂ and carcinogens


SOMETIMES, the choices I make seem huge. For example,  choosing whether to give my carbon emissions a boost by flying back to Boston for my next courses, or do them online without flying anywhere –– it’s a tough one. I like Boston.

Fortunately, most decisions I have to make are really rather small, but they add up to make a significant part of my carbon footprint over time.

Today is an example. The bank in Singapore wants me to fill in a form applying for a new security device. They know I don’t have a fax machine and that it costs me $US3 per page to fax them from the local print shop. So they offer to collect the form by courier. It’s up to me.

How can this choice affect my carbon footprint?

First off, yes, sending a fax does have an environmental impact. There’s the manufacture of the fax machine, the electricity to run it, the paper, the transport of these items, and the commute of the print shop worker to and from work, to name but a few of the inputs.

But the  environmental impact of a one-page fax to Singapore is very small compared with the impact from having a courier such as Fedex send a van to my address, transport it by air, and then deliver it by road to the bank.

Opting for the courier is free to me in financial terms, and choosing the fax option will cost me US$3. But in environmental costs, it’s a no-brainer. I have to employ a little bit of ‘environmental altruism’ and send the form by fax.

I think we’re all going to be facing decisions like this at an increasing frequency over the next few years. I’m happy to be able to play a part in all this now. It’s my way of giving back.


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