We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children - KeyCheck Translation

Do you run your freelance translation business sustainably?

The Eco-Fair is coming up in a week’s time (Thursday, 22 May 2014, Elland Road Stadium, Leeds) – have you saved the date? It is going to be one of those events that will allow a translator (me – and maybe you too) to listen to expert talks, find out about the latest sustainability practices and news in the environment industry, not to mention meeting potential future clients.

We do not inherit the earth

It seems to me like a great opportunity to discuss several ways in which you can attempt to make your business more sustainable. But what is a sustainable business?

Business sustainability, also known as corporate sustainability, is the management and coordination of environmental, social and financial demands and concerns to ensure responsible, ethical and ongoing success.


I really believe that every effort counts and even small changes are a step in the right direction. Yes, it may be a drop in an ocean of needs – but we all need this drop, and every drop that makes this ocean up. So why not start today, right now?

Ask yourself the following questions – the answers may help you help save the planet.

  • Do you have to print it out? - KeyCheck Translation

    Do you need to print it out?

    Do you really need to print it out? (If yes – is double-sided in draft mode an option?)
    Many translators find that they can only proofread or revise their translation drafts on paper and it’s difficult to blame them – staring at the screen for long periods of time tires our eyes and leads to their damage and headaches. However, I found that I am comfortable revising short texts on screen, so don’t print them out at all. When working on longer documents, I print them double-sided (my printer’s automatic feature) in the draft mode. This way I reduce running costs and use less paper and ink.
    Note: Because double-sided printing may make page order confusing, I always add page numbers before printing so I don’t lose track of where I stopped working.

  • Can you recycle it?
    There are two ways to recycle:
    1. you can put recyclables into your recycling bin or take them to the nearest recycling point/site, or
    2. reuse things by using the material, shape or any other desirable features of object(s) towards a new end.
    In my office all paper and cardboard waste is stored in a separate bin, which is then emptied into the recycling bin. Folders and envelopes often are reused (though if I were to send something to a client, I’d rather use a new envelope). An old biscuit tin serves as screen height adjustment (see the post on office ergonomics here).

    If an item is usable and in good condition but – say – outdated, there’s always eBay, charity, second-hand and tip shops or even just your acquaintances or friendly neighbours that you can offer it to.
  • Can you switch it off?
    This is a no-brainer: leaving your computer on means using power and if you want to save power (and on the bills), then you should try to switch your computer off when you’re not using it. This applies not only to your computer but also your printer/scanner/radio etc., i.e., any electronic equipment that you have in your office, especially if you tend to just let it go on standby. Even when on standby, it uses power, so why not just switch it off until you need it next?

    It is worth checking that when you switch something off, it is completely off. For example, I switch my PC off at the mains, as it still uses power even when shut down.
  • Can you get to your office in a “green” way?
    Can you cycle to your office? - KeyCheck Translation

    Can you cycle to your office?

    Many of us, including myself, work from home, so getting to our office is a matter of going into one of the rooms in our houses. But some work from a separate office; if that is your case, ask yourself whether you can get to your office by walking or cycling rather than getting in your car. There are health benefits to be considered here, too!
    If these alternatives are not an option, you could use public transport, which would also allow you to do some reading/relaxing/planning while on board. When I used to commute, I always found the “me time” spent on the train very important to get into the right mindset before starting work.
    Finally, if none of this works for you, could car-share be an option?

  • Can you fix it? / Do you have to buy new?
    Sometimes things break (usually when you need them the most – Murphy’s Law). You might find yourself thinking: getting them fixed is a faff, it’s easier to buy new. Well, a faff it may sometimes be, other times you’ll find that to get that printer fixed will be more expensive than buying a new one – ridiculous, annoying! – but just think: if everyone bought new when they could easily fix broken items, so much less waste would go into landfill.So don’t just throw it out. Get it looked at first.Similarly, when you decide you need to get equipment for your office, consider buying second-hand: charity and second-hand shops often offer a surprising range of electronics, though you can’t be too picky when choosing, as what they display will be what they have and that’s that. If you’re more picky, there is also eBay and other auction, selling and swopping sites, where you could get yourself a bargain and help keep electronic consumables out of landfills before they become unusable.
  • Could you get a “greener” / more efficient one?
    Some office paraphernalia simply get outdated and are expensive to run and/or less environment friendly. For example, CRT screens (those old bulky things) are more energy-consuming than LCD screens. Envelopes made from recycled paper are often as good as from new paper. Other stationery, from pens to notebooks, can also be manufactured from reclaimed raw materials and you can buy such part- or fully-recycled items in normal shops. All you need to do is remember to check the packaging: manufacturers often like to let you know how sustainable their products are. Light bulbs are another example (discussed below).

    This is a tricky idea. Your consideration number 1 should always be: is the environmental impact of using old higher than manufacturing and using new? It may be difficult to assess but for example in the case of cars it usually is better to keep the car going as long as possible, because the effects of manufacturing a new car are far worse than maintaining an old one due to logistics, use of raw materials etc.
  • How do you light it?
    Do you use energy-saving light bulbs? - KeyCheck Translation

    Do you use energy-saving light bulbs?

    The first thing to consider is whether your office is set up in such a way that you get a sufficient amount of natural day light on your working space.
    Secondly, ordinary light bulbs are a thing of the past and energy saving bulbs are getting brighter and better all the time. So check what kind of bulb you use and get an energy saving one in its place. For more hints on how to choose the best bulbs, read this recent article from the Guardian.

  • Where does your heat come from and where does it go?
    The first and cheapest solution to high use of fossil fuels for heating would be to just put another jumper on and to keep the heating down even by just 1°C.
    If you find your office is cold and there is a draught, then get good quality curtains to cover the windows and draught-proof the door. You might also have to consider replacing the windows (with double-glazed ones, of course) and insulating the loft and cavity walls.
    You could also have your heating system checked and look at more efficient solutions. Thermostats are great for controlling the heating – both the central heating one and those on individual radiators. A more efficient boiler might also make a big difference.
  • Where does your power come from?
    Solar power is a great source of renewable energy - KeyCheck Translation

    Solar power is a great source of renewable energy.

    Solar power cannot be underestimated. A cheap and simple solution to having to charge your phone, tablet or any other rechargeable device is to get yourself a solar charger. You can also get smart chargers for some devices, which stop charging the moment the battery is full, thus using less electricity.

    Alternatively, some electricity providers offer plans that give you cheaper electricity at night (due to low demand), so why not charge your electronics overnight instead of during the day?

    Another idea, which may be a long shot but you may find that it suits your personal circumstances, would be to complement fossil fuels with renewable energy sources: could you have solar panels installed on the roof of your building? Or a domestic wind turbine? If you do consider these seriously, look into schemes and part-funded programmes that may help you with the costs and planning if you fulfil the requirements.

These are just a few questions to ask yourself. Realising these ideas may be easy or difficult but it’s worth considering each in terms of its practicality and feasibility in your particular circumstances.

How do you make your business more sustainable? What are your solutions to the most pressing environmental issues? Where do you struggle the most? Please share below!

What are your thoughts? Please share!