SoA's Bryony Hall offers tips for authors looking for a smarter and environmentally friendlier way of working.
As global awareness of the climate crisis grows, the past year has seen the issue move firmly up the industry’s agenda. The Booksellers Association have released a Green Bookselling Manifesto, publishers are considering how to make distribution processes more eco-friendly, and this month The Bookseller published its inaugural Sustainability Special edition.
To tie in with Climate Action Week (20-27 September), we explore what authors can do to tackle the problem, both on an individual level and as a collective body.
Greening your business
Whilst an author’s direct impact on the environment is slight when compared with other players in the industry (such as publishers, booksellers and distributors), there are nonetheless many practical steps you can take as a freelance professional to reduce your carbon footprint.
Home office efficiency
Get your home/office audited: This is a good way to start as it will give you a detailed plan for the improvements you can make. The Residential Energy Services Network provides a directory of certified energy raters and auditors near you.
Switch to green energy suppliers: Examples include Bulb, Ecotricity and Good Energy. Greenpeace USA also publish a Guide to Greener Electronics so you can make informed choices about your office equipment and software; the last version (published 2017) can be found here.
Switch off and unplug devices: Computers use electricity even on standby, so remember to unplug them when they are not in use, along with other items such as mobile phone chargers and TVs and DVD players. And where possible, use a laptop instead of a desktop, as they use far less energy.
Use energy efficient lighting: Change traditional incandescent light bulbs to LEDs (light emitting diodes), which use up to 80% less energy and last as much as 25 times longer.
Ensure stationery and other office materials are from renewable sources wherever possible. Use recycled paper and eco-friendly printer ink, and try to reduce your consumption (including switching to paperless options for bank statements etc.).
Switch to eco-friendly cleaning and other products wherever possible. Examples include Ecover and Bio-D.
With road transport accounting for around a fifth of UK greenhouse gas emissions, travel by public transport or organise to share lifts when attending author events and literary festivals.
Consider whether it’s necessary to bring handouts or flyers. If you do, try to bring only the quantity you think you’ll need, and use recycled paper.
Plan ahead for refreshments for the day. Bring your own lunch to cut down on packaging waste, and take along your reusable coffee cup and your own cutlery.
Use your voice
Perhaps the biggest contribution that authors can make to tackle climate change is to use your creativity and platform to raise awareness, helping to pressure the government and organisations to respond to the crisis. High profile authors such as Philip Pullman and Naomi Klein have lent their influence to environmental campaigns by signing open letters, but you don’t have to be a bestseller to make a difference. Poets for the Planet are leading the way, with calls to other poets and artists to respond to the climate crisis, as are #KidsLit4Climate for children's illustrators and writers.
Making broader changes
We’ve discussed some ways in which you can adapt your professional life, but there is plenty more that individuals can do to reduce consumption by making certain lifestyle changes and home improvements. This might include cutting the amount of meat and dairy in your diet, reducing the number of flights you take and improving the insulation in your home. Organisations such as Greenpeace and WWF have general advice for individuals looking to live in a more sustainable way.
Image © New Africa / Adobe Stock