You just had a wonderful interview. You firmly shake hands with the human resources representative. You specifically say goodbye to the receptionist. You rush home to send the representative a thank you letter for the interview. But, how environmental-friendly is the thank you letter you are sending?

According to a recent New York Post article, as of Dec. 2009, roughly 425,000 people are unemployed in the New York City area. Over the past year 145,000 New York City residents have lost their jobs. Let’s not forget that you have people re-entering the work force, underemployed people, and people unhappy with their current position. That is a large number of people searching for jobs.  

Imagine if each one of these people all had an interview a few days ago. Now, the proper etiquette is to mail a thank you letter to your interviewer. Assume, there is a total of one million people sending thank you letters.  Thus, there is a need for more paper and this obviously effects the environment negatively. 

The paper making process is not a clean one. According to the U.S. Toxics Release Inventory report published by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “pulp and paper mills are among the worst polluters to the air, water and land of any industry in the country.” One tree gives us 90,000 pieces of paper.  

With one million people writing thank you letters, the result is a major reduction of tree farms and forests and more pollution from the paper mills. Other negative effects include the lumber that is used for paper products instead of houses and buildings and the reduction of  forest will bring the bears, deer and other wildlife to the suburbs looking for food.

After the thank you letter is received by the human resource representative, what happens to the letter?  It is either recycled or thrown in the trash.  If recycled, that is wonderful.  However, if trashed and put in to a landfill, then, there is a major concern. Paper is biodegradable. Paper decomposes in an average of from two to five months depending on circumstances. However, paper in a landfill and decomposing releases methane gas, which is a potent greenhouse gas (20 times more potent than carbon dioxide) - this greenhouse gas is one of the primary causes of global warming.

Once again, I ask the question: How green is that thank you letter?

Timothy L. Compton has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the City University of New York-York  College. He is currently unemployed and looking for work. Read his story tomorrow, on Accounting Tomorrow.