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Green Translating
Thread poster: Mathieu Jacquet

Mathieu Jacquet  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:37
English to French
Jun 12, 2008

Each time I have a 350 page-long document to proofread, it kind of pinches my heart at the thought of trees being cut down for my translation to be perfect (not to mention the ink it takes to print it).

How do you proceed to make your translating greener?

I use really thin paper and print in very rough quality to save you personnaly print on recycled paper and bring your empty ink cartridges to ink recycling organizations?

Do you have any good plans about vendors/organizations that sell recycled paper/ink?

Thank you in advance for your help, and for the planet!



Ivana Friis Wilson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:37
Member (2008)
English to Danish
+ ...
Sort your waste paper Jun 12, 2008

I have a printer that can print on both sides, but I have been told that it doesn't really make a difference, does anyone know about this?

I bring all my paper and cardboard to the recycling station.

Unfortuntely there are not longer ink cartridge recyclers in my area.

I must admit I don't always print out my translations for proofreading, it depends on the job.


Elena Robles Sanjuan  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:37
English to Spanish
That´s an interesting issue Jun 12, 2008

Hi Mathieu,

You´re absolutely right in pointing this out. I don´t print anything, not only because of the environmental implications, but also because I work a lot better when everything is on my computer´s screen.

However, that also implies that I have to be very careful with the use of electricity, so I turn my monitor off every time I move away from the computer and put the system on standby if I don´t need to use it for a while. Besides, I never leave the computer on overnight.

I reckon that, unless you are working on legal translations (many clients still send the texts on paper), there is no reason to print anything.


Damian Harrison
Local time: 23:37
German to English
Power is the problem Jun 12, 2008

Printing your proofreading material on the back of used paper is a good idea. Why pay for a product and only use half of it? With so much of Europe's paper being produced from recycled fibres and the opportunities available to buy unbleached, recycling paper, the most effective way of reducing your impact is probably reducing your power consumption.
I have no idea how much power my PC / screen / printer / amp set-up uses, but it´s switched on for about 14 hours per day... Now if I knew how much power it was consuming, I could think about gradually replacing it with components that consume less. The only problem with that is that presumably a computer costs a few hundred litres of oil to produce... You can find an excellent podcast on oil and the cost of producing various items here:


Daniel Bird  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:37
German to English
Try to reduce use of online resources... Jun 12, 2008

...if the environmental impact of server farms is a concern.

"Server farms require energy to operate all that electronic equipment, and gobs more to keep the equipment cool. A typical data center can consume nearly 4,000 watts per square foot -- roughly 15 times what they consumed in the early 1990s, and more than half the power required by many homes, according to the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers."

ref: (not a primary reference but it makes the point)

Other ways:
Run your computer and other equipment right to the end of its life (just hope it doesn't expire two hours before that critical deadline after seven years faithful serviceicon_smile.gif)

When the PC finally pegs out, strip it down and put the bits in the appropriate recycling bin, but keep the old cards, monitor etc as backups.

Good question!


Lia Fail (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
Paper isn't the only issue Jun 12, 2008

I personally feel that reading on paper is a crucial part of the job. I recycle paper by printing on the other side, use recycled paper, and make sure paper waste is disposed of. Using paper and energy for my work is necessary. With being green, I prefer to take an overall stance that applies to both professional and private life.

The problem of paper trees isn't as massive as other environmental problems (like wasting non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels), as given political will, a lot of steps can be taken to rationalise paper use.

There are bigger issues at stake, and my general attitude is one of avoiding waste - of any kind. Wasting goods - food, energy, petrol, etc - means that a scarce resource has been used to no end. I especially try to save energy and water, walk (even cycle) everywhere I can, recycle water whatever way I can (especially after the drought scare here in Spain recently), never leave lights on unnecessarily or gadgets on standby etc.

Right now, though my mobile phone of one year is not working properly, and that really kills me, becuase I feel that the way we are encouraged - even forced - to buy and renew at the drop of a hat is criminal. Not too long ago I had to replace the charger, so the old one is now added to the other useless chargers I have - all becuase phone companies won't standardise (which would be both cost-effective for consumers and friendly to the environment, although not so profitable for them). I have an ancient Nokia, probably about 10 years old, ugly as hell, buy it's hugely robust so is always there when the others let me down. Maybe I'll just use that, and be green rather than fashionable:-)

I absolutely agree with Julia about heating. In recent years - is it my imagination? - but on TV and in offices in winter we see people dressed in clothes that they would previously have reserved for summer. It often happens that in mid-winter in Barcelona, one goes from the street into a sauna - not an office - where everyone is in T-shirts and short sleeves!

Oh, and another thing, those hugely ridiculous and massively wasteful patio warmers, which are a huge waste of a scarce resource, heating the atmosphere. Can't people just sit inside and wait for the sun?

And cheap flights just have to be on the way out. It simply makes no sense to be using a scarce resource so often so frivolously.

[Edited at 2008-06-12 08:31]


Julia Esrom  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:38
German to English
+ ...
eliminate phantom power Jun 12, 2008

This is an interesting thread.

Standby Power (see I use a surge protection power strip with a red button. When I turn off the computer I also turn off the power strip. We also have the TV/DVD system and stereo hooked to a power strip to save energy.

Paper: I use recycled paper for most purposes and print on both sides for proof-reading. Printing on both sides for one document doesn't really work as reliably as I wish it would with a standard home printer. Mine is second hand and gets confused with the pages, so in the end I waste more paper. It is easier to make a pile of scrap paper for proof-reading purposes. As soon as proof-reading is completed and both sides are used, the paper goes straight into the shredder to avoid confidentiality issues.

Weekly electricity readings: We are taking an electricity reading once a week to make sure that nothing "funny" is happening. It's interesting to see how consumption changes over time, e.g. after installing a new heating pump.

Lighting: Only use energy saving light bulbs for lights that stay on for more than a couple of minutes, they make a huge difference and the light isn't bad at all.

Heating: warm socks and sweaters are wonderful:) and avoid an overheated house

The list goes on... but this is what relates to the office.


Damian Harrison
Local time: 23:38
German to English
Cycle power Jun 12, 2008

Spot on Lia! Cycling and walking is definitely the way forward. When I was growing up my family didn't get a car until I was 15 and even then it was more of a whim than a necessity. When I look around me at my friends and family I can see that most urban car use is totally unnecessary and it shocks me every time. (Don't drive those kids to school, make them walk...)


Mathieu Jacquet  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:38
English to French
As long as possible... Jun 12, 2008

Yes you're right Damian, power consumtion is a real problem, thank you for the podcast. I guess maybe I could generate the energy by myself...I just need an apartment bike and a strong pedal stroke!

Relying as little as possible on online ressources sounds a good idea, but who can really afford that in technical writing? I had to translate a powerpoint presentation for the CNES (Space Studies French Center) yesterday, about electrical, chemical, solid and so on propulsion systems, I just spent hours on the Net. When I translate a book that's a different story...a paper dictionary and some reference readings are generaly enough.

When it commes to IT ressources, the problem is that nowadays, you can quickly be forced to upgrade your material if you don't want to lose hours...( waiting for Trados to skip to the next segment for instance).

I still use a laptop (tashiba satellite) that i bought more than 2000 euros in 2001. I reinstalled many times Windows and upgraded from 256 Mo to 1Go. Last week, I wanted to add another 1Go, but the laptop would not accept I now feel it is time to change (but 7 years with the same laptop is not that bad, and I will give it to my mother anyway).

At the same time, I do not know if seven years ago, It companies were that much concerned about using low consumption components...(?)



Αlban SHPΑTΑ  Identity Verified
Member (2008)
English to Albanian
+ ...
Why print? Jun 12, 2008

I do not understand why do you have to print your work. I print only agreements and other stuff I really need to keep in hard copy. Other than that, I almost never print any translations or proofreading jobs. I don't have to. I use the track changes option and I'm very comfortable with it and my typing is at least 5 times faster than my handwriting.

And if you want to think greener and worry about the electricity you are using, why not work on a laptop? I have a desktop and a laptop, but prefer to use the latter. Mine uses even less power than a normal lightbulb (I've checked).


Maria Amorim (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:38
Swedish to Portuguese
+ ...
Opportune issue! Jun 12, 2008

This is a very good subject for discussion.

About the paper: use chlorine free paper made from wood from sustainable forests. I reutilize papers and try to print only absolute necessary pages.

Ink cartridges: Hewlett-Packard sells the ink cartridges with a free post package to send them back to the producer after use. I have done it for a long time and I still use it but the new one, an Epson fax-printer, has not this alternative, so I have to check with the vendor where should I dispose it.
The question is that we have to be aware of our single choices and sometimes accept to pay a bit more to help the environment (the ink cartridges from HP have a higher cost).

I think for those that intensively use the computer the best is to put the monitor off every time you don’t use it because it consumes a lot of energy.

It is not clear to me if we should put the computer off every night. For two reasons: computer safety (virus) if you have a bred band installed and computers integrity. May be someone can clear that.

I think we can reduce power consumption at the very first moment, when we buy computer, printers and other electrical equipments with a lower electrical demand and also sorting waste. Recycling is a good way to avoid using raw materials and expend less energy.


Nathalie Elson  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:38
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Use paper from another business Jun 12, 2008

I have found a way of getting free paper for printing before proofreading.
I have spoken to my village mairie and they receive a HUGE amount of printed paper (French administration and paperwork... don't get me started on that one) which is only recycled/binned/shredded. Once I have used the clean side of the paper, I take it for recycling. In the end, everybody in my household uses that paper for drawing, gluing, printing, etc..

When printing, I generally print two pages on one A4, the writing is small but still very readable.

I also agree with using your equipment until the end of its life, my laptop is really old now, and as you Mathieu, I keep it going by upgrading it (fingers crossed...). My mobile is 7 years oldicon_smile.gif , yes it doesn't take pictures and other flashy things, but I can receive and make calls. Friends make fun of it, so what...

On a day to day basis , you can be green, recycle/compost your waste whenever possible, have a water tank for the garden if you are in the country-side.

And last but not least, many of us work from home, we don't commute to work, so that's got to be a bonus.


Spanish to English
+ ...
hmm Jun 12, 2008

In some ways, I think the people with the greenest mindsets are the new Puritans. Do away with low-cost flights (I very rarely take one, but if I did I wouldn't lose any sleep over it)! Read by low-energy light bulbs (ugh, I am preparing for their coming disappearance from the market by stocking up on incandescents)!

I confess, to my shame, that I am not entirely unsusceptible to environmental propaganda and as a result keep my thermostat at 19 or 20 degrees in winter. And I suffer for it. Even with a sweater. Next winter I'll go up to 21. After all, I'm not really all that concerned about slowly melting ice banks off some distant continent.

It seems to me most translators shouldn't be pulling their hair out over these problems. You can work at home and usually don't have to drive somewhere every day. You don't really use that much power. The thing that does give me pause is that much of what I translate is published in thousands of copies. That in itself wouldn't bother me. But I've read the stuff--it's my job--and come to the conclusion that nobody in his right mind, if he wasn't paid to, would willingly read any of it.


Daniel Bird  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:38
German to English
Online resources Jun 12, 2008

Salut Mathieu

I agree it's difficult to cut down on online research, but there are all those stored e-mails, online backups, flickr/photo storage (not always work related admittedly!)

Overturning the "waste pyramid" certainly isn't a one-man job. Prevention/minimisation are the places to start, even before reuse. I haven't seen the figures on working from home but from personal experience, saving EUR1500 on petrol alone per year by not commuting by car is a perfect example of enlightened self-interest.



PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:38
English to Polish
+ ...
Food Jun 12, 2008

Wasting power is one thing, but nothing pains me more than food thrown in the garbage. Sometimes I see food thrown out that hasn't even been unwrapped!

In my 15+ years of translation I have never replaced all of my computer - just the parts which needed replacement. I have only ever had one laptop.

Whatever old stuff I have, I auction off - I figure someone will always have a use for it and that's always better than simply throwing it out.

Pawel Skalinski

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