Color Your Family Tree Green

Color Your Family Tree Green

Every part of our lives has an impact on the environment, even down to our genealogy research. Follow these green tips to decrease your footprint.

earth day genealogy environmentally friendly

Our ancestors reduced, reused and recycled more than we do. Think of the stereotypical grandmother who grew up during the Great Depression with the phrase “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without:” She might save slivers of soap, darn socks and collect rainwater for the garden.

During World War II, our ancestors had to get by on less gasoline, butter, sugar, meat and other rationed items. They grew Victory Gardens and saved kitchen scraps, rubber tires and garden hoses, and aluminum cans to be recycled into bombs and tanks.

Modern life presents us with different opportunities to be green. Here are a few ways you can incorporate environmentally friendly measures into your genealogy research:

  • Does your FamilySearch Center have a microfilm reader that lets you load record images onto portable media? Bring a flash drive when you go to check film, and save the paper. You also could use a digital camera to capture images of microfilmed records.
  • Avoid printing out e-mails, websites and online newsletters if you can help it. Or you can print on both sides of your paper (but check your printer manual first—some manufacturers caution against printing on the back of paper that’s already been run through the printer).
  • Your computer and other electronics that stay plugged in draw energy even when turned off. Plug them into a power strip and switch it off when you’re not using the devices. (Read more about “phantom loads” here.)
  • Going to a conference? Opt for a syllabus on a CD or flashdrive, if available.
  • If you use a digital camera, don’t print all your pictures—just the ones you’d like to put in an album or on display. (Make sure you back up all those digital pictures, though.)
  • Get together with genealogy pals and carpool to the library, the cemetery and society meetings. Make lists of every research task you want to get done so you don’t have to take another trip.
  • Instead of buying bottled water, bring a water bottle on your research trips and fill it at the drinking fountain.
  • Email or use Facebook to send your family newsletters and reunion invitations, rather than printing and mailing them (just remember to call the folks who don’t use social media or email).

We’d love to hear about the ways you’re making your genealogy research greener. Happy Earth Day!

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  1. While I agree with many of your thoughts in this article, I find it funny that I just finished the free version of Eastman’s Online Newsletter where he says we should be archiving our emails. Of course, on the free version I get so little of the article, I cannot tell if he meant archiving them by printing them out or not. I have heard there is some concern about what media we use now will still be available to our decendants 50 years from now, or even fewer years than that. Remember the 8 tracks?
    Love the magazine and your newsletter.

  2. Hi, Betty,
    Most e-mail programs let you create a digital archive of your in-box (or any other folder you choose) to store on your hard drive. You also could copy and paste the text into a word document and save that. Sometimes you want to print e-mails you need to refer back to, or special e-mails (I printed the one with my nephew’s first e-mail message), but it doesn’t seem necessary to print every e-mail message.
    Thanks for your comment!