Five Way for Writers to Reduce Waste

April is Earth Month, home to Earth Day, which is coming up on April 22nd. Around this time, I usually try to examine my life and see where I can improve, and where I’ve been getting lazy, in terms of reducing my environmental impact.

While the impact of individuals’ choices can be debated, that’s not what this post is about. I believe that we have the responsibility to be mindful of our resource consumption. I am not perfect when it comes to going green, but I want to be better. Today, I have a few ideas for authors and writers that can help us reduce our waste. This isn’t an exhaustive list, and I could certainly write more, but these came to mind first.


1. Do most of your editing digitally.

I like to edit my work on paper, but I try to do the first few read-throughs on screen. My first draft edit is usually such a mess that digital editing works better. I can move paragraphs around, add sentences, delete info dumps, all with the delightful ease of cut and paste short cuts. Trying to do this sort of heavy editing on paper would get tedious and confusing.
But what about once you get closer to a final draft? There is something to be said for reading your work on paper as you look for finer issues like typos and sentence flow. I think the best time to print is when you think you’ve got your truly final draft. Another decent time to consider printing is the draft right before you hand your work off to beta readers. I like to give beta readers my best possible version, so I’ve done a paper read-through at that point before, as well.


2. If you need to print, do multiple pages per sheet, and make sure you haven’t already changed your margins to match your paperback dimensions.

Until you get into paperback formatting, there’s no need to set your margins to 8” X 5” or 9” x 6” or whatever you’ve chosen as your paperback size. Keeping the margins standard for an 8.5” X 11” sheet of paper will save you a lot of paper (and money).
If you want to save even more paper—and ink, too!—print multiple pages to a sheet. This is an option you can adjust once you get to print options. For longer works, I like to do two pages to one sheet, but I’ve done four pages before with no problem. Just make sure you have your glasses handy!

3. When critiquing pieces for your writing group, give feedback orally or via email.

While I still like to print people’s stories sometimes, I’ve started giving more oral feedback, or providing it via email. If I do print, I stick to multiple pages per sheet.
My writing group has a template for submitting pieces that most people use that asks you to include your name, email address, word count, synopsis, story. If the writer hasn’t included that information, you can always ask them for their email.


4. Stop buying new notebooks and journals if you already have some at home.

I struggle with this one. I’m a sucker for a beautiful new journal. I’ve been hoarding them since middle school. In high school, I bought a notebook at Borders (yeah, back before the chain closed) that stayed blank for years. It had a beautiful, literally shiny cover designed to look like a stained glass window. I didn’t use it until my junior year of college, and even then I just wrote some notes for a Dungeons & Dragons game I was running. Since then, I’ve jotted down a story idea in it, but it’s still lying around, not even close to filled. One day, it will be.
I’m not the only one waiting for just the right content to fill a certain notebook’s pages. That time is now. Gather your old, unused notebooks and vow that, instead of buying the next beautiful journal that catches your eye, you will instead use one from your collection.
And while I’m at it, don’t be afraid to fill these notebooks. I’m certainly guilt of filling a notebook halfway then moving along to a newer and shinier notebook for no good reason. Go back to these older notebooks and fill them up all the way.


5. Get your daily caffeine/beverage fix at home.

I bet a lot of people already do this, but it’s worth mentioning. I like to have a cup of tea or coffee every morning as I write, and making it at home has a lot of pros, aside from the fact that it’s cheaper. I don’t have to remember my reusable cup or feel the guilt of throwing out a single-use cup. Also, I can compost the tea leaves or coffee grounds in my worm bin (or garden), which means they aren’t going into a landfill.


Happy (Green) Writing!

So, there it is. Five simple ways writers can reduce their environmental impact. No one’s forcing you to do these things, or saying you must do them every single time. I certainly fail at these things sometimes. There’s more I could be doing, that we all could be doing, but that’s not the point. The point is to examine our lives and ask ourselves where we can realistically improve. If enough people ask the question, it adds up.

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