Freelancer Lauren Shapiro advises how freelancers can make a ‘big green difference in the next in our series of stories written by members of the South African Freelancers’ Association.
Everyone seems to care about the ecosystem, but many people in corporate or bureaucratic jobs are stuck in very un-eco systems, at least for the better part of each waking day. Not freelancers! We have the unique power to control our work environment – and to have a positive impact on the biological environment too.
Try these tips to harness the power of freelancing to go green:
Journalists go through a lot of paper. Remember to apply the adage of the green movement: reduce, reuse, recycle. Think before you print; use the backs of paper for rough notes; and recycle paper when you’re done.
Green your office
As a freelancer, you can’t bemoan your boss/office manager/company policy for not providing adequate recycling facilities! Recycle paper, cardboard, plastic, glass and cans. If you work from home as many freelancers do, simply include your office recyclables in your household system.
Refill printer ink cartridges rather than tossing old ones into a landfill. When you need to purchase stationary, go for recycled options. Get a solar calculator. Switch to energy efficient light bulbs.
Cut the carbon
As freelancers, we’re fortunate to be able to choose when, how and where we work. Choosing to work from home means no daily commute that literally costs the earth in nonrenewable petrol resources. It’s also a great time-saver, allowing you to work more efficiently.
Take advantage of modern technology to further cut your carbon footprint – not to mention your petrol bill! Use phones and/or Skype instead of travelling to interviews or meetings; email documents rather than dropping them off or picking them up.
Appliances use up to 10% of energy when they are in standby mode. Unplug all devices when not in use – in particular chargers, which draw energy whether they are connected to the appliance or not.
While you’re at it, if you work from home, walk around and make sure your TV, DVD player, music system and digital photo frames are all unplugged when they’re not in use. The same goes for lights – turn them off when you’re not in the room. During the day, open the curtains, or go and sit outside in the sunshine (don’t your just love being a freelancer?)
Freelance journalists rely heavily on technology to keep connected with the world at large (you’re reading this on a screen, aren’t you?). You probably also have a cell phone, printer, camera, scanner, etc. When you upgrade, don’t toss old items in the trash. There are plenty of organizations that would be delighted to receive slightly outdated but functioning electronics.
If something’s truly bust, make sure you take it to an electronic recycling (or e-cycling) depot, where it will be dismantled so the valuable parts (e.g. copper, glass and even plastic) will be salvaged for reuse, and the hazardous elements (like lead, mercury and cadmium) will be disposed of safely to prevent landfill and groundwater contamination. On that note, use rechargeable batteries wherever you can, and remember to e-cycle all batteries at the end of their useful life.
Spread the green gospel
As freelancers, we have the unparalleled ability to choose our work. I think we’re all grateful that we’re not subject to the whims of an uncaring boss like that poor sod in Bruce Almighty who always gets sent to cover the bum stories. But how about using your position of content-control to generate awareness of green issues?
Imagine the cumulative effect if everyone who read your work did the same little bits you’re doing! Pitch green story ideas to existing clients and editors. Suggest eco angles to briefs you receive. The fact that environmental matters are in vogue right now is a great bonus.
Support green causes
We each do what we can in our daily lives, but how about supporting those who make taking care of the earth their full-time occupation? Consider taking on pro bono promotional work for an environmental cause, or donating funds from specific projects to a green charity.
Lauren Shapiro is a member of the South African Freelancers Association.