The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) says that an area of forest the size of Greece is cleared every year and that a significant proportion of that wood is pulped to make paper. In an effort to curb the needless printing of documents, the German branch of the organization has teamed up with Jung von Matt to introduce a new PDF-like digital file format that actually prevents a user from sending documents to the printer.

Even in these enlightened days of digital documents and in spite of various public, business and government efforts to reduce and recycle, trees are still being cut down to make paper. Ahead of next year being designated International Year of the Forests by the United Nations, WWF Germany has developed a new WWF file format to focus our attention on such issues every time we save a digital document.

Any document that doesn't need to be printed can be saved with a WWF file extension and when it's subsequently opened in a reader, the print option is blocked. WWF says that a WWF file can be viewed by most software that's able to read PDF documents – and I can confirm that this is certainly true of readers from Foxit and Adobe, although neither company has indicated official support for the development.

"We think the PDF ISO standard and Acrobat have tremendous potential to help customers with their efforts to go green," Adobe's Senior Director of Product Management for Acrobat Solutions told Gizmag. "Adobe Acrobat allows customers to create PDF with a range of security permissions, including the ability to disallow printing. The WWF format is based on the PDF standard and it is great to see WWF leveraging PDF in creative ways. At this point, we don't intend to support the .wwf file extension. We do participate with the ISO standards groups to further improve PDF and helping customers better leverage PDF for efficient and eco-friendly document sharing and printing is an important part of that effort."

Anyone wishing to support the new WWF document format will first need to download some free conversion software developed by the Jung von Matt advertising agency (currently compatible only with Mac OS X systems, a Windows version is on the way). Once installed, a new "Save As WWF" option will appear as an extra print option or be available via the application dock.

WWF Germany says that the campaign is meant to be viral and an extra page tagged onto each new format document will help introduce new users to the campaign and encourage awareness about how we use paper in our digital lives. If you don't want this extra page added to catalogs, official documents, CV's and so on then you'll need to choose another method of saving files and run the risk that such things may end up in a print queue somewhere.

More information on the campaign, together with a link to the conversion software, is available from the Save As WWF website.