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Sustainable business
Thread poster: Wouter Vanhees

Wouter Vanhees  Identity Verified
Belgium
English to Flemish
+ ...
Jan 4, 2007

Hi,

I've already asked a question about the issue of sustainability in a previous post under the 'getting established' forum, but thought it was interesting enough to raise again in a separate post under this forum. Do correct me if I'm wrong.

What are your views on working 'sustainably' or 'green' as a translator? Is it possible, or not? Are any of you consciously doing it, or is it not an issue? Do you use recycled materials (like paper), green webhosting for your website, a bank account at a 'sustainable' bank,...? Do you have any other suggestions on how freelance translators can develop there business in a sustainable way?

I know that the efforts a translator can do in this field are rather limited. However, I'm convinced there are some creative minds out there with great ideas which can easily be implemented in the daily translator's practice.

I'd like to hear your opinions, because I'm not sure if this has been raised here before. If it has, sorry for the repeat.

Cheers!


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Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 13:05
Jan 4, 2007

Hmmm... I would have to admit that I'm not especially "hardcore" about this. Printing/Copying on both sides of a sheet of paper and refilling printer cartridges is as green as I get. I don't generate a lot of waste anyway.

Environmental policies are not a big factor for me when choosing a service provider. I'm more concerned about value for money and quality of service.
You've asked a good question, by the way

Orla


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Daniela Warman
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:05
English to French
+ ...
Green is the future Jan 4, 2007

Hi,

I am glad that you have raised this as Sustainability has become an extremely important "buzz" word and in view of the visible effects from Global Warming, I think it is rightly so.

Unfortunately (and here I am not talking specifically to the translating/interpreting field but to business as a whole) the whole idea of sustainability and environmental friendliness is mocked upon quite a lot.

I personally am quite into being "green" and have put into place the following procedures:

- I use 100% recycled paper (it costs a little more but the quality is the same if not better)

- I have a bank account (though my main one is with another company) with the first ever bank to go Carbon Neutral

- I have invested in Carbon Credits so that my small home run translating company is Carbon Neutral.

Overall, it has not cost a large amount of money but I definitely think it is worth it. I would be glad to receive any other ideas on this subject.

Daniela.


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:05
German to English
+ ...
My attempts at sustainability Jan 4, 2007

I am re-posting what I posted in the other thread here:

I have thought about and tried to incorporate some sustainable practices in my business.

I do buy recycled paper sometimes, but not always, and try to print on both sides of the paper when I can. Otherwise, I try to hold on to computers and other equipment as long as I can - my printer and phone/fax are 6 yrs. old and going strong. They will only be replaced when absolutely necessary. Same goes for my cell phone. I generally use computers for 4-5 years - doesn't sound like a lot, but you have to find a balance between sustainability and usability/efficiency.

Probably the largest impact that freelance translators can have is created by simply working at home. I have no separate office to maintain (light, heat, etc.) and no commute. Our family of 4 is able to get by with one car - I know this is the norm in many countries, but less common in the US.

I ruled out an account with our local bank, because the costs were too high and a large corporate bank is better for international business. I do have a personal account with a local credit union, though.

Our family is also working toward a more sustainable approach to our lives by buying organic food (currently we buy local organic beef and then other products as we can) and buying things like gifts from either a fair-trade store or other stores with products by artisans.

By the way, you might be interested in this site where you can calculate your ecological footprint:

http://www.earthday.net/footprint/index.as p


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lexical  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:05
Portuguese to English
it's all very well, but... Jan 4, 2007

1. There's a respectable body of scientific opinion that, while accepting that Earth temperatures are rising, questions the extent to which that is attributable to human activity. After all, mean world temperatures were higher between AD 1100 and 1400 than they are now, and they didn't run any SUVs or jet off to the Bahamas for their holidays. The UN Panel on Climate Change has omitted the period AD 1100 and 1400 from its temperature change graph, apparently because it undermines its arguments.

2. Here in Spain we now have recycling banks for glass, plastic, aluminium, and paper/cardboard at 150 metre intervals in the streets. The result is that, where before we had one trash cart emptying the bins, we now have 4 - one for glass, one for plastic and aluminium, one for paper/cardboard and a fourth for general trash - with the multiplication of fuel consumption that that implies.

3. The issue of Carbon Offsets seems highly questionable to my mind. Does it not amount to "I can go on driving my SUV/Hummer instead of walking or taking the bus, and pay some Brazilian peasant to plant a tree, thereby salving my conscience"?

I realise that this is an unpopular view and will draw down criticism on my head, but someone has to challenge the orthodox view.


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Niina Lahokoski  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 15:05
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
Not just global warming Jan 4, 2007

lexical, do you honestly think that global warming is the only reason for aiming at sustainable business and reducing our consumption?

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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 15:05
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Yes, nice thought Jan 5, 2007

I try to save money, so I print as little as possible. I don't drive a car, but travel by air a lot for fun, so I probably use more energy than a person that spends his hollidays always at a cottage not too far away.
About global warming: it does not matter, if we save energy at the consumer level, what counts is the total amount of fossile fuel the world produces and sells/burns up. Oil- and coal-producing countries will eventual sell all they have, and it will all be burnt, so if we do not use it someone else will, in China or India etc. It does not matter if we start to use solar energy or what so ever "green", if we do not STOP using fossile fuels or at least reduce total production of fossile fuels worldwide.
Less demand will not reduce the use of fossile fuels, only drop its price and the producers will increase production in order to make up for the losses.
I really never believed humanity would really stop using fossile fuels before they are used up to the last drop of oil or piece of coal. So I do not believe we are able to do anything about global warming either, when it comes to control of carbon dioxide.
We must either adapt to global warming or actively reduce the net energy that stays inside the athmosphere by increasing reflection into space or decreasing incoming radiation by putting out more dust into the upper athmosphere.

http://schneeland.com/greenhouse_effect.html

That goes far beyond the original posting, sorry!
Cheers
Heinrich


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 15:05
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Apologies, but... Jan 5, 2007

This is such a non-issue for 99% of us that I couldn't resist posting! The last thing on MY mind, ever, for sure.

Sorry again! I hope the discussion continues peacefully and everyone will get answers to their questions


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Wouter Vanhees  Identity Verified
Belgium
English to Flemish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
very interesting Jan 5, 2007

Thanks to everyone who already posted a reply! It was very interesting to read about your ideas and suggestions. I guess the opinions on the forum vary as much as they do in real life.

As I stated in my first post under the 'getting established' forum, I'm still in the process of setting up, so my parttime freelance translation business isn't actually running yet. However, I am planning on using some of the ideas that have been raised here.

In my opinion, doing business in a sustainable way is about doing business in the first place. After all, we translate to make money, not to save the environment. By the way, I think sustainability has more aspects to it than the ecological one which we've been discussing so far. I think there's also a social and community aspect. I don't think, however, that we as translators come into contact with these aspects very often.

Do you think positioning yourself in the market as a 'green translator' (by lack of a better term) can be positive for your business? Do you think it can help you attract more customers?


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Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 13:05
Jan 5, 2007

Do you think positioning yourself in the market as a 'green translator' (by lack of a better term) can be positive for your business? Do you think it can help you attract more customers?

[/quote]

I don't think you would make much money from that angle, admirable as it may be. I think you'd probably end up working for free for various environmental charities but that's about it. Unless of course, you offer your services to your local/national Department of the Environment, but it would help to know who to talk to in such offices.


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Ritu Bhanot  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:05
Member (2006)
French to Hindi
+ ...
Ecological Footprints Jan 5, 2007

Well, just to find out why don't we try and map our ecological footprints:

http://www.earthday.net/footprint/index.asp

Have an enlightening experience.

Ritu Bhanot


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Ritu Bhanot  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:05
Member (2006)
French to Hindi
+ ...
Ecological Footprints: Results Jan 5, 2007

My results for the quiz:

(I work from home)

CATEGORY - GLOBAL HECTARES

FOOD - 0.3

MOBILITY - 0.3

SHELTER - 0.7

GOODS/SERVICES - 0.5

TOTAL FOOTPRINT - 1.8



IN COMPARISON, THE AVERAGE ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT IN YOUR COUNTRY IS 0.8 GLOBAL HECTARES PER PERSON.

WORLDWIDE, THERE EXIST 1.8 BIOLOGICALLY PRODUCTIVE GLOBAL HECTARES PER PERSON.




IF EVERYONE LIVED LIKE YOU, WE WOULD NEED 1.0 PLANETS.


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:05
German to English
+ ...
No, global warming is not the only issue Jan 5, 2007

Niina Lahokoski wrote:

lexical, do you honestly think that global warming is the only reason for aiming at sustainable business and reducing our consumption?


You're right to ask this question. Wise stewardship of resources is just a good idea, in my opinion. I like the slogan "Live simply so that others may simply live." Of course, I live in the most gluttonous society in the world, too.

I think buying organic food, for instance, has a benefit (in the form of less exposure to chemicals) for both the person eating the food and the workers growing it. I for one am glad that organic food is becoming more available in the US.

I love having a global business and I work for multinationals as well as small companies. But I also like the fact that using local products helps me support other small businesses. I use a freelance IT guy to set up my equipment and a small local tax office to do my taxes - I figure that as a small business I should support small businesses as well. They do good work for the price they ask and it's a more personal relationship, so it's a win-win.

As I mentioned, I also like to buy work by artisans for gifts whenever I can. My hobby right now is knitting, so I get a kick out of helping someone else make a living from their craft, plus I get a unique, one-of-a-kind gift.

However, I don't think this approach has any real impact on my business, and I have not made it known in the professional context. It would not be an effective marketing tool at all - it's just a personal interest.

By the way, Ritu, I have done that quiz. I would say our lifestyle (family of 4) is below average in terms of consumption compared to many in the US, but my result was that we would need 3 planets if everyone lived the way I did. Clearly, we have a lot of room for improvement!

Sorry for the long posts - I'm just excited that someone brought up this topic which hasn't been covered before!

[Edited at 2007-01-05 15:29]

[Edited at 2007-01-05 15:30]


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Nicole Martin
Local time: 08:05
German to English
Different results Jan 5, 2007

I took that quiz, and it turns out I must be a self-centered, non-environmentally aware consumer who hogs a good portion of the earth's resources. Sorry to sound bitter, but I didn't care for this quiz. I'm not saying I'm the best conservationest ever, but I DO try to lessen my impact on the environment. But this quiz seemed to be based on a lot of general questions and there were some things I couldn't help.

For example: food. I try to eat locally-grown produce when in season, but I live in an area with a climate that doesn't have a long growing season. Any produce I buy outside of summer comes from a warmer place like California, Mexico or South America. Which means more than 200 miles away, thus a bigger footprint. But I can't exactly move to California over this, and I don't think avoiding fresh produce because it comes from far away is the most healthful option.
Also, I'm a vegetarian. I eat absolutely no meat, but do have some dairy every day for calcium and because I like it. But there wasn't an option for that so I had to pick the one that included me with the occasional meat eaters. Again, bigger footprint.

It asked about public transportation, and my answer was 0 miles. But not because I don't care, because it's simply not an option for me. Around Detroit, we don't have it. There is absolutely none near my home. If I wanted to take public transport to work, I would have to drive 20 miles to the nearest bus stop, then take a bus for the last 5. And I can't carpool because no one at work lives in my area. I'm not saying this should change how my driving habits are evaluated, I'm just saying some things are unavoidable.

Also, it didn't ask about all the small things we can do to help. For example, I replaced my light bulbs with the energy efficient ones, I use a cloth bag for my shopping instead of paper or plastic, I use reuseable containers instead of plastic bags or foil or plastic wrap, I recycle and I try to be careful about using electricity and not leaving appliances on unnecessarily. Just a few things off the top of my head. There are a lot of positive things we can do that that quiz didn't take into account.


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Ritu Bhanot  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:05
Member (2006)
French to Hindi
+ ...
Reasons Jan 5, 2007

I guess it's generalized... but tells us a lot about ourselves...

But the major difference, in my case, was probably that I'm a vegetarian (like the rest of my family) and as I work from home I rarely travel and so save a certain amount of fuel. I go out rarely and always use public transport or share the car with other people.

Otherwise all of us use the same things... I guess...

I don't see the reason how/ why could it differ otherwise.

Regards,

Ritu

[Edited at 2007-01-05 17:24]


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