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Hey, thank you for visiting my blog. Just so you know, sometimes I retire old content in order to be a "good internet citizen". Head up to the main page to read the latest happenings.

To learn about retiring old posts, read on...

Why retire posts?

As we go about our daily online lives, we generate heaps of data that doesn't just disappear once we're done with it.

Ever since stumbling upon the Digital Declutter Toolkit from Wholegrain Digital, I’ve been thinking about what my “digital carbon footprint” must look like. For starters, check out what they had to say about email:

A study commissioned by energy company OVO reckons Brits send more than 64 million unnecessary emails every day, and that if every adult in the UK sent one fewer “thank you” email a day, we would save more than 16,433 tonnes of carbon a year – equivalent to 81,152 flights to Madrid or taking 3,334 diesel cars off the road.

Amazing to see how the numbers add up, just from one tiny habit change.

Now, think about all the emails we keep, stored in data centres around the world. These data centres consume vast amounts of energy to keep their servers cooled and functional, and you can bet they’re not all running on green energy (at least not yet).

Blog posts and web pages are no different. They live on servers in data centres too. And every bit of data we hoard adds that much more demand. It adds up until we really can compare the numbers to airline flights and fossil-fuel cars.

I'm not saying all blog posts should eventually be deleted. But sometimes when a piece of content has fulfilled its purpose, we can give it a new purpose by simply letting it go.

My retirement policy habit

This doesn’t apply to unique and interesting content, like thoughtful guest articles, interviews, think pieces, meaningful souvenirs, and other items that can outlive their intial publishing period. Only to posts that serve no other purpose than “in the moment” promotion.

So, like, you wanna know about this thing that’s happening right now? Here's a post about it and then I’m gonna let it digitally biodegrade* because it’s not worth the carbon cost of keeping if no one needs it any more. (*It doesn’t actually work like this, but let’s enjoy the analogy.)

My hopes are thus:

This is a non-judgemental space

I have a lot of respect for people who exercise proactive custodianship over their data. Something feels wholesome about it, like when soccer fans take their own rubbish home with them after a game.

However, everyone’s digital situation is different and sometimes a blogger's ability to do this depends on how much “tech privilege” they have. So let's not turn this wholesome thing into something sanctimonious and gross.

BUT if you’re prepared to adopt this practice, here's how you might start:

If you run a blog, consider your quality standards for letting a post continue to exist, and identify the types of time-sentitive posts that don’t need to hang around forever. Establish a regular habit of purging this content after a pre-determined time.

What I’m doing: I use PublishPress’s free plugin, Post Expirator, on my self-hosted WordPress blog to automatically expire promo-only posts after a certain point. Full disclosure: I’m still not sure how reliable this plugin is because my policy only came into effect a few months ago, but my early tests went well and the reviews seem decent.

In late 2022, I switched from Wordpress to Eleventy (a static website generator) and could no longer use Post Expirator. So now I periodically go through any posts marked as expire and manually delete them when their time is up.

Small steps to start

This is definitely not a magic bullet. One writer deleting a small proportion of content they publish on their blog won’t save us from an oncoming climate disaster — naturally, larger blogs sharing more promo-only content would make more of an impact by tidying up.

But if self-expression is the goal, then this at least does something to mitigate the cost of it. And if nothing else, it serves as a string around my finger, reminding me of the big reason to keep trying, to keep building better habits.

That's it! Head up to the main page if you'd like to see the latest goings on.