Category Archives: Environment

A week in the life of a sustainability proofreader

Proofreader Alex Mackenzie regularly works for a sustainability company. In this post, she explains what her week looks like.

I’ll come clean from the start – I am not a sustainability expert. My qualifications are in the arts and language-learning education, but a European sustainability company has contracted me as a proofreader, giving me regular paid work – which I absolutely love!

The job popped up through an email alert from a recruitment website. They put me through their timed test, which I passed, and then trained me. The quality control team are great people and support me with speedy feedback – I’m learning a lot.

A typical Monday morning (and often Tuesday and also many a Friday) looks like this:

  • Check the promised document has arrived in my inbox at 8am.
  • No? Get on with my preferred morning routine (tea, more tea, yoga and meditation, coffee, browse CIEP forums and our accountability group posts on Slack, answer emails, highlight deadlines on my wall calendar, fiddle with the bullet journal).
  • Continue with some fiction or English language teaching (ELT) editing – or write a blog post!
  • Coffee break and the document arrives – work for three to five hours in highly focused hour-long chunks.
  • Return the improved document to the consultant, with the office copied in.
  • Complete the company’s online tracking and feedback spreadsheet, listing the language and formatting issues I attempted to solve.

On accepting a work request, I know a little about it: the number of pages, the deadline, the choice of UK, US or Australian English, whether the document needs to be transferred to a company template or not.

Expected tasks:

  • Check the document type is as described (report, video storyboard, slide deck).
  • Check against the style guide and correct template (headings, logo, images).
  • Check spelling, punctuation and grammar (capitalisation choices, CO2, tCO2e).
  • Check captions for tables, photos and figures.
  • Check digits are UK English (1,500 not 1500; 0.08% not 0,08%).
  • Suggest rewording as necessary and add any queries.
  • Make final checks (test in PDF format, update table of contents, run slideshow).
  • Double-check final checks and go through comments.

On opening the document, I know much more: the region (most often Latin America, many times Southeast Asia, occasionally Africa and Australia, recently Greenland). I also soon discover the quality of the language and any formatting issues. The best bit is when I learn about the project itself (indigenous planting techniques in post-colonial cocoa farms, sustainable forestry and community gardens, green energy in garment factories, soil and water conservation in conflict zones).

The joys:

  • Seeing a night shot of a tapir in a Colombian forest.
  • Improving the readability of a table that stretches across multiple pages, describing carbon emission reduction in industry.
  • Persuading template headers to switch from portrait to landscape – and back again.
  • Breaking the template rules (once or twice) in the name of getting that table to fit, preserving the logo’s white space.
  • Wrestling a Spanglish sentence into plain English.
  • Being a small part in persuading governments or multinationals to change direction.

The consultant and their team often work in challenging conditions, so Google Docs is their easiest method for recording shared data and collaborating with teams in the field. The company’s quality control section (with me as one of their externals) filters the flow of information for these essential projects (through keen-eyed attention to the style guides and templates). The aim is that our documents are used for lobbying governments and encouraging corporate participation in worldwide initiatives that track and reward sustainable choices towards net zero.

The challenges:

  • Machine-translated documents confound my Spanish–English skills, but I get to read some delightful Spanglish images – ‘contemplating’ the soil type? Nice, but ‘considering’ would be better.
  • Google Slides are pleasing to work with, but Google Docs are an unreliable conduit to the company templates.
  • Handling specialised terminology across Englishes and in translation.
  • Editing multi-author documents with their internal inconsistencies.
  • Finding text that has been copied and pasted but tweaked – didn’t I just correct this?

Wrapping up

It is a privilege to bookend my week with paid work that takes me across the globe to the incredibly diverse projects protecting our planet and its Indigenous peoples, waterways, flora and fauna.

About Alex Mackenzie

Alex Mackenzie is a British copyeditor and proofreader living in Asturias, Spain. She moved into editing from a 30-year career in international schools across nine countries. Alex is a published ELT author with a Master’s degree in education. Areas of specialism are ELT, education, sustainability and meditation, adding creative non-fiction and fiction. She is a Professional Member of the CIEP.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: cocoa farm by David Greenwood-Haigh; notebook and pens by Amanda Randolph, both on Pixabay.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

What does eco-anxiety mean to you?

Alongside the launch of the CIEP’s A-to-Z guide of environmental terms, some of the Environmental Policy Working Group members share their reactions to the term ‘eco-anxiety’ and how they feel about the climate crisis.

Eco-anxiety: ‘a chronic fear of environmental doom’ as described by the American Psychiatric Association in 2017. Medical and psychiatric experts have started to gather research that suggests there is an increasing public anxiety around the climate emergency and that people are feeling overwhelmed by the existential threat posed by the crisis.

Ecogrief: the psychological response and pain people feel at the scale and speed of the loss of biodiversity that arises due to chronic environmental change. ‘Thanatologist [a person who studies death and dying] Kriss Kevorkian defines environmental grief as, “the grief reaction stemming from the environmental loss of ecosystems by natural and man-made events”.’ (Source: Wikipedia.)

A sense of helplessness, sweeping grief, a knot in your stomach when you think of the future – what does eco-anxiety mean to you?

Robin Black

The billionaires are planning their island retreats – with actual plans for food and medicine and security – and that should tell you something.

When my anxiety spikes, the broken record of my internal dialogue goes like this: 1) ‘Wait, is this real?’, 2) I realise that, yes, things are as bad as I feared, and 3) I resolve to take an immediate step to combat the crisis, however small, and resist the overwhelming character of my worry.

Jo Johnston

As a young adult, I often joked with friends that I’m having an existential crisis – today the climate crisis gives me a good reason. Now there’s a term for this emotional discomfort – could it be eco-anxiety that I’ve been feeling all along?

The sense that all’s not right with the world is probably quite normal.

Globally, no one can escape the impact of the climate crisis and it’s overwhelming to contemplate. On a local scale, I can’t ignore the litter and plastics crisis we’re also drowning in – rubbish breeding daily despite efforts to clear it up.

Ironically, we’re encouraged to turn to nature to help boost low spirits, but now it’s time to give back. I don’t have many answers for how to cope with these burdens for the planet, other than to connect with others who feel the same and continue to fight the good fight.

Melanie Thompson

Eco-anxiety has been defined by the American Psychological Association (APA), but it’s not yet listed in the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). That means it’s not recognised as a subset of the illness, generalised anxiety disorder – a condition that impacts the lives of far too many people around the world. So, until it enters the DSM or other diagnostic tools I would reserve the term for people who are at the greatest risk of imminent climate disaster – caused by flooding, wildfire, pollution, drought or extremes of temperature – and, crucially, loss of livelihoods and potentially loss of life.

That doesn’t mean people aren’t genuinely anxious about the climate crisis. Personally, I have ‘eco-anger’ triggered by far too many governments (UK and elsewhere) failing to take proper action despite having well-documented information about the risks for 25 years or more.

Christina Petrides

I never knew what the term for it was, but I have been experiencing that feeling of despair, incredulity even, that things are unravelling fast and that we’re not moving quickly enough to counteract the damage.

I’ve not known how to describe it, but now realise it’s called eco-anxiety. That stab in the gut when I see forest fires raging and knowing the air that we all breathe will be that little bit worse tomorrow, and the day after that. The knowledge that this summer was hotter than the last, and the fear that next year’s will be even worse. Or that the floods and storms may not have got me this time, but there’s always next time.

So far I’ve coped with it by doing my small bit to reduce the damage I do, but I’m not sure it’s enough any more …

Sally Moss

It took me a while to write my ‘bit’ for this, because I’m about to relocate. I said to the other EPWG members, ‘Right now, my eco-anxiety is eclipsed by my housing anxiety!’

It’s so often the way. Amid more immediate but less total concerns, my worry and grief about the planetary future slip in and out of focus.

But they’re always there. As I search for a new home, I’m constantly assessing risks and resources – sea level rise, higher inland temperatures, options for solar and wind, space to grow food, strength of community (because we’re going to need each other) …

A galactic estate agent would once have described our planet as the most desirable residence around. Now, to put it mildly, it ‘needs some TLC’. To put it less mildly, it’s on fire.

More of us admit this now, so it feels less like I’m going mad. Now to see what we’re willing to do about it. Eyes open, fingers crossed.

Martin Walker

In the novel Life, the Universe and Everything, Douglas Adams introduces the idea of an ‘SEP field’ as a kind of cloaking device. The character Ford Prefect says, ‘An SEP is something we can’t see, or don’t see, or our brain doesn’t let us see, because we think that it’s somebody else’s problem. That’s what SEP means. Somebody Else’s Problem.’

That is my real anxiety about the climate crisis, that the world’s population will see it as Somebody Else’s Problem. Too many people see the effects of the climate crisis that are already happening – forest fires, rising sea levels, rising temperatures – and think that it doesn’t affect them. There is so often a hopelessness that anything they individually do to reduce their environmental impact won’t make any difference.

That’s why it’s so important that governments take effective, quick action to ensure that people realise that the climate crisis is Everybody’s Problem and everybody needs to act now.


Support and further reading

‘Eco-Anxiety’: climatepsychologyalliance.org/handbook/451-eco-anxiety

‘Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, implications, and guidance’: apa.org/news/press/releases/2017/03/mental-health-climate.pdf

‘Young People and Eco-Anxiety’: ecoanxiety.com

‘From Anger to Action: Differential impacts of eco-anxiety, eco-depression, and eco-anger on climate action and wellbeing’: sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2667278221000018


About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: deforestation by Picography; contemplative person in nature by silviarita, both on Pixabay.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Forum matters: Going green – how we can all play our part

This feature comes from the band of CIEP members who volunteer as forum moderators. You will only be able to access links to the posts if you’re a forum user and logged in. Find out how to register.

In this article, one CIEP forum member looks at what our forums have taught us about being environmentally friendly at work and at home, and interviews Caroline Petherick, who posts on the forums regularly about sustainability, to glean her recommendations for reducing our carbon footprint.

The environment is a hot topic at the moment with the recent publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group’s report, which UN Secretary-General António Guterres called ‘code red for humanity’. With this sobering fact in mind, many people are trying to reduce their carbon footprint. There are many ways to do this, and some have been discussed on the forums.

At work

Want to use the most planet-friendly printer? Want to find out some options for recycling your old computer or recycling printer cartridges? What do you do with printed manuscripts* after you’ve edited them? Last but not least, here’s some information on the correct terminology to use when editing environment-related texts.

*You’ll need to be registered for the fiction forum to see this post.

At home

Many of us feel powerless in the face of the climate crisis. But, from adding solar panels to our homes to protesting against plastic pollution, there’s a lot we can do as individuals. Why not take part in Earth Hour Day, which is every 26 March? Would you like to find out how to live a zero-waste lifestyle? Find out more here. Finally, read how Wall Street is taking action on the climate crisis.

Helping nature

Are you keen to help butterflies and protest again the use of harmful neonicotinoids for growing sugar beet? Or do you want to find out more about keeping bees, which are essential for pollination on Earth?

Since many of these posts were started or contributed to by Caroline Petherick, we asked her for her views.

Caroline, over the years you have posted a lot on the forums about sustainability, bringing our attention to important topics such as the recent IPCC report, plastic pollution and Earth Hour Day, and you wrote a CIEP blog about the climate crisis in 2019. The environment and the future of our planet are clearly important to you. What do you think is the most pressing issue facing us today?

CP: The consequences of the current Western-style political system, based as it is on short-termism. This results in the lack of political will to introduce regulations relating to a swift enough reduction in (a) the corporate addiction to fossil fuels, and (b) the appallingly rapacious production methods of foods and goods, to get us anywhere near the Paris Agreement. We need not only to introduce those regulations but also to enforce them.

It will, I reckon, only be when enough people put enough pressure on their governments to implement the measures, and to police them effectively, that politicians’ fear of losing their jobs will subside enough to allow them to take appropriate, effective action.

Most people can’t afford the capital costs required to become fully sustainable – such as electric cars, heat pumps, etc. We need bulletproof funding to kick-start these life-saving systems.

The trouble is that when/if politicians do implement and enforce appropriate regulations (as opposed to emitting their current greenwash), it looks as though it will be far too late – unless some sort of hitherto unforeseen climate step change happens.

What measures do you take to live as sustainably as possible?

CP: I believe it’s important not to get diverted into taking individual responsibility to a degree that lets the politicians and corporations off the hook. We need to put pressure on politicians to act. Having said that, there are some things you might like to consider doing as well:

  • recycle everything you can, and reuse items where possible
  • become vegetarian, or at least eat less meat
  • eat locally produced food
  • use a local organic veg-box scheme
  • have your supermarket shopping delivered
  • use your car only when absolutely necessary
  • turn off lights in empty rooms, and check that nothing’s been left on stand-by
  • buy second-hand clothes. Avoid fast fashion
  • line-dry your washing when possible. Only use the tumble drier when you have to
  • use Ecover and similar detergents, soaps, hand washes and toiletries
  • let your grass grow! Have you heard of No-mow May? Why not try that? See what kind of insects and other wildlife you can attract
  • bank with an ethical bank
  • only switch on your central heating when you have to. Until then, layer up!

If you could give CIEP members one piece of advice for being more environmentally friendly, what would it be?

CP: Get on yer bike – your lifestyle and fitness permitting – for any journey under 3 miles each way. It’s a triple whammy: you’ll get much fitter, your body will stay warmer in winter (so you can turn down the heating), and you’ll emit far fewer pollutants.

Find out more

To find out more about the climate crisis, why not check out or support organisations such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Amnesty International, Toilet Twinning, TreeSisters, the National Biodiversity Network, the RSPB, the Woodland Trust, the Marine Biological Association, Plantlife, WaterAid, Rainforest Rescue and Save the Whales?

Following organisations such as the National Oceanography Centre, the Marine Conservation Society, the Met Office and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will also help you stay informed about the climate.

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: garden by Mathis Jrdl; nature computer by Niclas Illg, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

What’s e-new? How green is my computer?

For most of us our computer – be it a laptop or desktop, Mac or PC – will be one of our biggest purchases. This article by Andy Coulson looks at how we can make the best choice environmentally when making that purchasing decision.

Clearly this is an absolute minefield, as it covers so many areas: how easy it is to recycle, power usage, how environmentally sound the manufacturing process is (eg, use of toxic chemicals), how employees are treated and how ethical the materials used are (eg, rare materials from conflict zones or produced under poor working conditions). Given the limited nature of the article I’m going to concentrate on issues around buying for long-term use and recyclability. However, my research has highlighted how difficult it is to get useful information on this topic.

I’ve written before about the difficulty of disposing of electronics in a sustainable way (Editing Matters, September/October 2018). The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2013 set out disposal requirements for electrical equipment, but don’t really help us when making purchasing choices as they focus on what happens once the equipment is in the waste stream. But as I mentioned in the earlier article, there are charities and companies that specialise in reusing or recycling old equipment.

Reducing and repairing

One of the first things to consider with IT equipment purchases is whether that equipment actually needs to be replaced. Most computers can have additional memory and hard drives installed, both of which can be cost-effective solutions for a machine that doesn’t seem to be as functional as before. As I’ve written about before, a slow machine can often be a sign that some basic maintenance and management of the software is needed. If you don’t want to do this yourself, it is well worth finding and cultivating someone who can help. There are many small IT support companies and individuals who do a brilliant job, and you’ll be supporting another local business.

One good example of an IT device designed to maximise its lifespan is the Fairphone. The company’s approach is to make a phone that is modular so that you can replace, for example, the battery or the camera module easily at home, thus extending the lifespan of the phone. It also sells spare parts and provides repair tutorials. In addition, Fairphone uses responsibly sourced materials and partners with manufacturers who have safe working conditions and pay fairly.

Reuse and refurbishment

When you get to the point of needing to replace a machine, a refurbished model may be one option. ‘Refurbished’ can cover many things, but essentially if the box has been opened after leaving the manufacturer the contents cannot be sold as new. This could range from a return or a cancelled order (meaning the machine is like new), or a cosmetic scratch, through to a computer with a minor manufacturing fault.

Companies such as Apple, Dell and Lenovo produce millions of computers each year. Among those, there are some that will fail quality control. Modern manufacturing is a very accurate process, and often these faulty computers can be brought up to standard easily. For example, the components are soldered to the circuit board inside. Occasionally you can get a bubble in the hot solder and this can mean a chip pin doesn’t have a good connection. Something like this is easily fixed with a hot soldering iron. In such a complex piece of equipment there are lots of places where an issue can crop up, but these can be resolved relatively easily.

If you search for ‘refurbished Mac’ or ‘refurbished PC’ you will find a number of specialists dealing in these, including the manufacturers themselves. Many companies will sell manufacturer-refurbished products. These machines are significantly cheaper than new, and come with a reasonable manufacturer’s warranty. You can also buy third-party refurbishments, and while these can also be good, you do need to do your research and check on the terms of the warranty.

Replacement

Understandably, many people will be uncomfortable with adding an element of risk into their decisions, and will want to buy new. How do you make a good decision from an environmental viewpoint? As I mentioned at the start, there are a lot of factors involved in that decision, and often a distinct shortage of information to help you make it.

Two certification systems that can help are TCO and EPEAT, although they tend to focus on the major suppliers like Apple, Dell and Lenovo because of the cost involved. For example, TCO covers a range of areas that products are measured against: conflict materials, social responsibility, hazardous substances, electronic waste and the circular economy. I’m going to focus on the last two of these here.

Electronic waste is a topic I’ve talked about before, and it links closely to the idea of a circular economy approach. Currently, we largely operate in a linear economy. We use new materials (eg, mined metals rather than recycled) to make things and then dump them when they are finished with. A circular economy approach embeds the idea of keeping things in circulation for as long as possible through repair, reuse and recycling. Companies embracing this approach will do things like:

  • ensuring spares and repair information are available
  • having recycling pathways, allowing materials like metals to be recovered and reused
  • offering buy-back and take-back schemes for upgrading, so materials can be recovered and recycled
  • utilising standards, such as USB-C, to minimise the number and type of cables needed, and
  • creating durable products.

A TCO-certified laptop will have information available about criteria such as how many battery charge cycles you can expect from the battery, and the percentage of recycled plastic used in the machine. However, trying to find this information when you buy is very difficult. For example, Ebuyer lists the certification in the product specification, but you’ll have to trawl the internet to see what that means.

What to do?

The long and short of this is that it is very difficult to make a well-informed choice. So my conclusion is really to maximise the use of what you have and dispose of old equipment responsibly, so it can, hopefully, be recycled. When you replace a machine, ask the awkward questions about environmental aspects of the machine and perhaps consider buying refurbished.

Ethical Consumer and Mossy Earth both have useful guides if you want to read further.

About Andy Coulson

Andy Coulson is a reformed engineer and primary teacher, and a Professional Member of CIEP. He is a copyeditor and proofreader specialising In STEM subjects and odd formats like LaTeX.

 

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: green laptop by cloudlynx; e-waste  by Volker Glätsch, both on Pixabay.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Flying solo: The environment – a matter of give and take

Sue Littleford, our Flying solo columnist, looks at what changes we can make – to the way we run our businesses and to our personal decisions – to lessen our impact on the environment.

The environment of the only planet we have. Precious, irreplaceable. Under tremendous threat.

Where do editors and proofreaders fit into this?

Well, we have the CIEP’s own Environmental and Energy Policy, and the Working Group behind it. But what about our own relationship with the environment, on our small, individual basis as small businesses and individual people?

It’s a matter of give and take between it – the planet – and each one of us.

Enjoy it while it lasts

Sounds a bit pessimistic, doesn’t it? But a bit of appreciation goes a long way in motivating people to do their bit and, as payback, you get to revel in the glories of nature. Even small-scale, urban nature, even window boxes or posters of luscious landscape, or a small bowl, handmade and using beautiful reclaimed sycamore, picked up five years ago at Dogmersfield Show in Hampshire (OK, maybe that’s just me). Or maybe a paperweight made of a sapphire geode to remind you of the riches of the Earth?

So when you can, get out and get some air in your lungs. If you’re mobile, walk and stretch out your legs. If you’re not, find somewhere sheltered to sit with a new vista, perhaps near scented plants, or be sure to be watching at the window for changes in the weather, sunrises and sunsets and full moons and – light pollution permitting – stars.

And when you are out – look around you and seek out the beauty. What’s happening in the gardens you pass, or the trees? Look – really look, and let your shoulders drop. Appreciation of the natural world is a well-known balm.

Tanya Gold started #stetwalk, the Twitter tag for editors to post pictures of what they’ve seen on their daily walk. Check the hashtag to see where other editors live; not just on Twitter but on other social media, too. And from #stetwalk came #stetrun, #stetswim and #stetcycle (with offshoots #stetbike and #stetride). Doubtless there are some hashtags I’ve missed – pop them in the comments, please, and let others find them!

(If you’re a dedicated runner, think about joining the CIEP Run On Group on Facebook.)

Make it last longer

Freelance editors and proofreaders (and in-house ones, this last year or two) often work at home. For some, that means heating the house during the day whereas pre-working-from-home, you weren’t running the boiler all day. More expense, more fuel used, much of it fossil.

So – thermals. Honestly. And fingerless gloves. And getting up and moving around briskly every so often. I’m not saying turn the heating off during the day and freeze, but I am saying don’t heat your house to tropical temperatures in January and sit in a T-shirt.

When you feel it’s Covid-safe, working somewhere else that’s already heated will give you a change of scene and your boiler some time off. Try cafés and coffee shops, libraries and co-working spaces.

When your printer finally needs replacing, look at getting one that prints double-sided. I would have said they’re getting cheaper all the time but pandemic price rises appear to have occurred: my Brother DCP-L2510D A4 mono laser printer cost £82 two years ago, for instance, and current models seem now to be in the very low three figures.

And although we do (don’t we?) try not to print things that don’t truly need printing (not with toner prices what they are, let alone the wasted paper), we do have to print stuff sometimes, so why not halve your paper use?

(Actually, being pedantic, you won’t halve it, but you’ll get close. If you’re printing an odd number of pages, there’ll always be one blank side – but at least that reduces the mounds of spare paper you make into little notepads of scratch paper and take years to use up.)

Recycle used paper, and dispose of printer cartridges via a recycling system. As I write this, I have a toner cartridge waiting to go to the post office to be returned to the manufacturer for recycling. Don’t put them in the general household waste.

Make this your mantra: reduce, reuse, reduce, recycle.

Be a part of the solution

Don’t let scale put you off

It’s true that people editing and proofreading have less scope than, say, a small manufacturing business or a driving school or, indeed, a publisher, to cut emissions. But everything that each of us does adds to everything that everyone else does and that’s how revolutions happen.

COP26 will be held in Glasgow, 1–12 November, and that will focus governments once more on the issue. They will – I fervently hope – finally start taking care of the big stuff. We can make our own contributions to the small stuff. Always remember the moral of the Starfish Story.

Get information and get involved

Small Business Britain has a campaign, Small Business Planet, ‘to engage small businesses in climate action and encourage them to commit to making their business “net zero” ’, and I encourage you to join it. There are blog posts, webinars, events, pledges and news stories helping small businesses to find out how they can make their own contribution which, in aggregate, will have a far greater impact than you can imagine – but only if lots of businesses take part. And that’s all of us who freelance or work in our own companies.

Save energy

Take a look around your office – what do you leave powered-up overnight that you could turn off? What do you do with your rubbish? How often do you print things out? If your office is also your home, widen your contemplation to your entire realm. Could you turn your thermostat down by 1°C? Would you really notice the difference? If you’re in a part of the world where aircon is essential, could you adjust the settings by a similar small margin?

A UK news story last year claims that 17 million UK households could save £80 a year by turning down thermostats by 1°C. But it’s not just the money saved, though we could all do with that, it’s the fuel left in the ground that matters.

Let trees live

If you’re someone who prefers ‘real books’ to ebooks, think again about reducing the number of trees that need to be cut down and – importantly – replanted. Young trees are ineffective as carbon sinks. Trees harvested to make paper are typically less than 15 years old. Planting new trees isn’t a quick answer, so contribute to reducing the demand. Planting more trees in the higher latitudes actually contributes to global warming by reducing the albedo. In addition, only mature forests are effective carbon sinks – those a hundred years old or more.

On a similar theme, what about your garden waste? Do you have a bonfire of dead leaves in the autumn, or do you put them on a compost heap or use a council recycling scheme?

When planting your window boxes or your little patch of ground, do plant flowers that are bee- and butterfly-friendly. But use a peat-free compost for planting – drying out the peat ready for bagging releases an awful lot of methane, a far worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. And, of course, the peat bogs that are such sinks for methane and other greenhouse gases are preserved. An old Guardian article from 2012 spells it out.

Avoid landfill

Need to replace some computer kit? What are you going to do with the old stuff? Thanks to Caroline Beattie for finding Restart to donate the old kit to be reconditioned and reused in community projects in your locality. Margaret Hunter identified the Turing Trust, which does the same kind of thing. Far, far better than landfill! If there’s no Restart project near you, and you want to keep things local, then just google ‘donate computer near me’ or ‘donate printer near me’ and see what you can find. Lots of charities will take your old kit, either to reuse or to recycle correctly.

Alternatively, you could sell on your old kit (having removed all your personal info, of course) on eBay, and if it’s being retired because it’s faulty, advertise it as ‘spares or repair’, so there’s no comeback when a dead laptop doesn’t boot up.

Keep your wallet closed

Do you thrive on retail therapy? Why not have a no-spend month (an idea I think I got from Nancy Boston – if it was someone else, apologies!) and buy only the absolute essentials (food and the like), aside from your regular bills?

Learn to appreciate and use what you already have. Take something from your TBR pile rather than buy another book. (If your TBR pile is shrinking and nothing appeals, think of the library.) Rediscover things in your wardrobe rather than buy something new. Use one of your stack of notebooks rather than buy yet another one. (Again, just me? I don’t think so!)

I put a recurring appointment in my online calendar for each day of a no-spend month that reminds me not to spend on stuff I truly don’t need. What you do with the cash saved is up to you – but you might consider building up your rainy-day cushion for your business, or giving some or all of those savings to an environmental charity, or using it as a way to reduce debt.

Don’t take all that saved money, though, and have a retail splurge at month’s end. That kinda makes the exercise pointless from a carbon-reduction point of view!

Put your money where your mouth is

Consider moving your current account, your savings and/or your investments to ethical products. Try Good with Money for a list of providers.

Do you really need to travel so much?

And what about the really big one – travel? You know the drill – public transport when you can, walk or cycle when you can, rather than jump in your car. Many people will doubtless be yearning to get on a plane as soon as they can for a long-delayed getaway, if they’ve not already grabbed an earlier opportunity. But really, is a holiday only a holiday if you leave your own country? Really??

Even a trip to the supermarket is best avoided – getting your groceries delivered is better for the planet with academics as well as the invested agreeing.

Shop smart

While I’m on the subject of groceries, don’t think that buying local to reduce food miles is always the best idea. This is a horrendously involved subject but, in brief, the environmental cost of local produce out of season can be far higher than shipping or flying it in from somewhere where it is in season.

By all means buy local produce, but do be sure to buy it in season, when it hasn’t cost the Earth to grow it, and ideally not from a supermarket, where it may have travelled through several depots before arriving back close to home.

And don’t overbuy – putting your food straight into your bin (even if that’s a food waste recycling bin) costs everyone and everything.

Don’t always buy new, either. Be willing to seek out preloved versions of cars, furniture, books – all sorts. One person’s junk is another’s treasure. If no one is buying the things that we’re busy sending out virtuously into the world for reuse, the whole idea will collapse.

Stay alert for green opportunities!

Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, has a list of 25 ways to go green and watch the pennies at the same time, keeping what’s junk to you out of landfill, and has guides on green banking, utilities and travel in the pipeline, as at the time of writing.


We live on Planet A. There is, as former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon famously said in 2013, no Planet B.

If you’ve already been taking steps towards living and working in a sustainable way, thank you, thank you, thank you. If there’s anything else you think you can do, please do it. Add your ideas to the comments, so we can all get inspired!


About Sue Littleford

Sue Littleford is the author of the CIEP guide Going Solo, now in its second edition. She went solo with her own freelance copyediting business, Apt Words, in March 2007 and specialises in scholarly humanities and social sciences.

 

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.