The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Monday, November 01, 2021

An Eco Audit

With Cop26 all over the news, I’ve been thinking about how sustainable my business is. As a WFH freelancer, it’s quite difficult to separate the environmental footprint of my business from that of me as an individual, so there’s quite a bit of overlap, but here goes anyway.

Eco wins

👣 Working from home means I’m not commuting … which in turn, actually means that as a household, we don’t own a car. My partner is currently working from home for part of the week and commutes into the office on a Vespa when he needs to, which does use petrol but is probably pretty low impact. We haven’t owned a car for more than 15 years now. I mostly walk around locally and to travel further afield, I tend to use trains where I can. We are also members of a car club which allows us to book cars for odd trips that either involve transporting stuff or getting to places that are inaccessible by public transport. Pre-pandemic work travel within the UK was always by train. I haven’t been anywhere for the past 2 years, but I’m already planning how to get to IATEFL in Belfast next year by train and ferry.

🛒 The flexibility of being freelance at home also means I can be more conscious about how I shop. If I had a regular 9-to-5, I’d probably end up doing a couple of big supermarket shops a week with all the excess packaging that tends to entail. As it is, I can plan my days so that they often involve a short walk out to a local shop which not only provides a welcome break from my desk, but also means I can go into various small shops that enable me to cut down, at least to some extent, on waste. I get milk refills from the local deli and a lot of other basic groceries from a local zero waste shop where you take in your own containers for refills – of staples like rice, couscous, oil, spices, nuts as well as cleaning products and recycled loo roll. Working from home also means I can cook my own lunch, so no takeaway, over-packaged lunches or coffees.

In terms of more direct work-related consumption, I do still print stuff out occasionally, but it’s something I do less and less and I get all my stationery – mostly just printer paper nowadays – from another local green stationery company – all recycled and delivered in often ingeniously reused packaging. I used to love my multi-coloured Muji pens, but a few years ago realized I could no longer justify all that single-use plastic, so have switched for the most part to using a fountain pen for which I just need to get ink cartridges. I also use pencils with refillable leads. 

Could do better

🔌 I can probably do a bit better on the small stuff day-to-day - printing a bit less, switching off lights, not leaving my laptop on standby.

Pre-pandemic, I travelled abroad for work, for conferences and workshops, several times a year and that inevitably, involved flying. As someone who spends most of my working life at home on my own, I really value being able to meet ELT colleagues face-to-face. And especially as a materials writer, doing talks and workshops in different countries gives me the chance to meet teachers from different teaching contexts and get a feel for their attitudes to teaching and materials, the kind of context they teach in, the challenges they face, etc. - none of which I get from online events. So I’m loath to give up travelling altogether, but I’d definitely like to try and do much more by train where possible. I know several other ELT writers already do a lot of their European travel by train, so as and when I start getting opportunities to travel again, I’ll be tapping into their experience.


🏠 The biggie for me is probably heating. I live in an old house which is far from well insulated and has an old gas boiler for heating. As a chronic pain sufferer, cold really aggravates my condition, so I don’t scrimp on heating. Right now, it’s still quite mild here in the UK, so the heating is mostly on for a few hours morning and evening, but as soon as it gets colder, I won’t hesitate to leave it on all day. My office is one of the warmest rooms in the house as it’s upstairs, gets the most sun, and also has good double-glazed windows. The rest of the house though undoubtedly leaks heat. Better insulation is an ongoing project as finances allow and definitely a priority for next steps. I’d dearly love to replace the gas boiler with something less damaging. I’m taking a keen interest in the latest push towards air-source heat pumps for domestic heating and possible UK government proposals for funding, but I’m not yet sure whether one would be a practical solution for our house.

I’m sure there are other factors that contribute to my professional carbon footprint that I haven’t factored in - like the costs associated with internet use and, of course, the fact that many of the resources I create are paper-based! At least, though, I hope I’m moving in the right direction towards reducing my environmental impact and I’ll keep looking out for new ways to bring it down further.

Labels: , , ,


Blogger Bristol Homestay Tuition said...

Sounds to me like you are making thoughtful and excellent efforts, Julie. The heating system is a big problem for those of us with leaky, Victorian terraced houses.

9:39 pm  
Blogger The Toblerone Twins said...

Yes, Lucy and I think most environmentalists would say that fixing the leaks to avoid wasted energy should be a first priority. New back windows and back door are next on the list ... when we've recovered from the cost of replacing the front!

9:49 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home