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Back garden June 2015

Living out in the sticks, as I do, and growing a lot of my own food on my allotment, I like to think I’m already pretty “green”. When it comes to freelance working practices though, there’s an awful lot we can do, even on an individual level, to make sure we are environmentally-aware. Often, being green dovetails nicely with saving money, so there may well be some overlap with last year’s post on saving time and money: https://clairecoxtranslations.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/12-time-and-therefore-money-saving-tips-for-home-based-freelance-translators/.

Travel

As home-based freelance translators, we already have a head start on office workers because we don’t physically have to travel to get to work. No sitting in cars on clogged-up roads, queuing for buses or trains… Quite apart from the time and money we save not having to commute from home to work each day, there’s a huge environmental saving too. When you see the volume of cars on the roads nowadays, especially in our congested cities, it has to be beneficial if some of us, at least, can work from home! I do try and use public transport when I go out and about to translation conferences and workshops, and this year I’ve bought a Network railcard for the first time, which gives me a third off rail travel over quite a large swathe of the UK – it’s meant to be for the South-East, but it goes all the way across to Exeter, up as far as Worcester and over to King’s Lynn and Clacton. If you go beyond the designated area, you can buy a ticket for the last stop in the area (as long as the train does actually stop there!), then onwards at the normal fare – often a considerable saving. What’s more, having the card has actually made me much more inclined to nip up to London for events than I might otherwise have been – so a win-win situation! I’ve already recouped the £30 cost of my card only halfway through the year and I’ve another couple of network Christmas parties lined up in the next few weeks…

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Living in a fairly rural village means I inevitably do have to use my car, and I did try to think green when I bought a new car last year, opting for an allegedly low-emission Skoda diesel. Of course, recent events have shown that Messrs Volkswagen have let us all down and our diesel cars are not really as green as we’d hoped. My mileage is relatively low, however, and I walk locally (dogs in tow – or towed by dogs, more likely!) whenever I can, so I do feel I’m trying to minimise my diesel-based tyreprint.

Heating

Living and working at home is also an opportunity to be environmentally-conscious. No extra office heating/lighting/electricity costs on top of your home costs, although admittedly you might not be heating your home if you were working in an office all day. Although I love to be warm, I don’t tend to have the heating on all day. In fact, I find most modern offices far too warm – I’d much rather put an extra jumper on and be able to open the window if necessary than suffocate in an overheated fug! For the last couple of years when I was working in-house, we moved to the top floor of a large open-plan office building and I hated not being able to open windows and breathe! I’m convinced that you’re much more prone to germs and colds too, if you’re constantly subjected to the effects of central heating. My heating is set to come on twice a day, first thing in the morning and then from 4 or 5 until 9 – which isn’t to say I can’t boost it outside those times if I feel the need. In fact, I’ve recently invested in a Hive home heating hub, which I absolutely love: my antiquated 30’s house didn’t have a central thermostat before, just individual room stats on some (not all) of the radiators, so now the heating actually switches off completely when it reaches a preset temperature. I can also adjust it from my iPhone when I’m out of the house, boost it at the press of a button from whichever room I’m in and change temperatures/see what the outside temperature is at home even when I’m on holiday on the other side of the world – amazing! And of course it saves on gas too.

I suffer from Raynaud’s syndrome, where your fingertips and toes go white and numb when cold, so I also have a small electric heater in my office to keep that small room warm even if the rest of the house isn’t sub-tropical. I still try not to have it on too much and two dog walks a day usually work wonders for the circulation, but sitting at the computer for hours on end, as we translators do, does mean my hands have a tendency to get cold. I have a horrible feeling that electric fan heaters use quite a lot of power, comparatively speaking, so am considering investing in a heated footrest; a colleague on Twitter recommended one last year and they sound very tempting, as well as using considerably less power. See: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lifemax-1355-Heated-Footplate/dp/B00FGQGELC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1448404869&sr=8-1&keywords=heated+footrest

Power

In this day and age we all use quite a lot of gadgets to do our various jobs. I tend to have a laptop on the kitchen table, my desktop upstairs, plus extra monitor, printer… to say nothing of iPad, Kindle and iPhone around the place, although I’m very careful to only charge them as I need them, not overnight. I try and switch all my devices to hibernate when I’m not using them in the working day, and switch them off properly at the end of the day. I’m also fanatical about switching lights off when I leave a room and only using lamps rather than the “big light”, as we Northerners refer to it! It used to make me so cross on the odd occasion I went into my ex-husband’s large corporate offices at the weekend to see all the lights left on and computers humming away – how can that possibly be good practice? I’ve now replaced all my light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs, LEDs wherever possible, and I can’t recall the last time I had to change a bulb. Admittedly, it involves a large outlay in the first instance, although I did replace most bulbs gradually, as they failed. The halogen-type bulbs I used to have in my desk lamp and kitchen spotlights must have used tremendous amounts of power – I managed to set fire to a document once by leaving it too close to the bulb, so the heat output alone suggests how very inefficient they were – very glad not to have that hazard around the home any more!

Printing

I find myself printing less and less these days, mainly due to using two monitors, but also thanks to my increasing move over to Trados, which I find a much easier environment to proof-read on screen than Wordfast or just straight text, comparing across documents. I do usually print out my final version of a text so I can do my final read-through on a different medium, but even then I print on both sides of the paper. My vastly reduced printer ink consumption and the fact that my printer is now heading towards its 5th year tell their own tale, however…. I also shred any confidential documents, bank statements, etc. and then compost them for distribution round the garden a couple of years down the line. I don’t use the resulting compost on anything edible in the home garden, by which time there should be no no ill-effects from printer ink either.

Waste

One final area where we can make a huge difference when working at home is in reducing the amount of waste we produce. I’ve been enthralled (and horrified) by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s War on Waste programme over the past couple of weeks, just seeing the amount of waste we as a society generate – quite appalling! Working from home means we can prepare our food at home and avoid takeaway lunches and coffees. Sorting waste is so much easier in your own home too – and it’s much simpler to keep track of what you buy and use as an individual rather than a large corporation. I’m a keen cook, although time-pressed during the working week, so I tend to make large batches of soup at the weekend and then freeze them for my lunches during the week – a much more efficient use of my time and the power to make the soup in the first place! And virtually no leftovers in my home/office – I adore having the remains of last night’s dinner for the next day’s lunch: a real home-working perk.

Over to you!

I’m sure I’ve barely touched the tip of the iceberg for green homeworking ideas and I’d love to hear your tips and suggestions too. I’m always happy to go greener!

green footprint

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