“When I cannot sing my heart
I can only speak my mind, Julia.”
My adorable, talented, hard-working author friend Julia Park Tracey–who often and abundantly speaks her mind–graciously agreed to stop at my modestly followed Writer in Residence blog during her virtual tour for the re-release of her novel Tongues of Angels. “Write anything you like,” I told her. And she chose to write green: an enlightening piece on how she makes her livelihood–writing–sustainable for our planet.
- This woman is a powerhouse. She blasts all possible stereotypes that one must be low-to-the-ground to be green. She zips through her work and her life, baby. That she touched down here at Writer in Residence is a testament to the miracle of literary life. We writers tend to like to visit each other, no matter how different our work may seem at first. And Julia and I have the tree-hugger connection above and beyond the author thing.
I invite you to checkout the following post by journalist and memoirist and novelist Julia. And, when you’re done, visit her at http://www.modernmuse.blogspot.com/ to read her illustrious bio.
Becca Lawton and I have something in common – besides writing books. We’re ecofreaks. What’s good for the planet is good for us, and what ain’t – ain’t. I thought I’d spin this a bit from talking about my novel, Tongues of Angels (I’m on a blog tour to promote TOA, which is why I mention it at all), to talking about how to be a working writer and leave a light footprint on the planet. Or lighter than you maybe do right now.
I work at home, in the dining room, which is in a sunny room with big windows. I use daylight to light the room until the sun goes down; I use blinds to filter the light and heat in summer, and welcome the solar warmth in winter. I sit on a vintage Danish office chair (rescued from my parents’ barn) and a maple drop-front desk that I inherited. No manmade Swedish formaldehyde-laced pressboard furniture for me; no VOCs, no off-gassing, thank you very much. Using vintage, found, or thrifted office furniture is better for the planet than buying new (and this advice holds for all forms of buying new); use what’s there already instead of creating a need for more resources to be used.
Next most important item is the laptop. I bought a new one last year and was able to recycle my dying old laptop and desk models. It’s very important to recycle all electronics; they are full of toxic metals that will leach into the water and soil if dumped in landfill. I had a second-hand laptop before that, given by my daughter, and I had used it for three years. When it started crashing too much for safety (I was writing a book, after all), I shopped around and bought “forward,” that is, anticipating my needs for another five years. I plan to give it regular maintenance, and this laptop has the ability to add more memory when I need it. I am not one to buy new technology just because it’s pretty and shiny. Take care of what you have and extend its life so the powers that be are not mining for these minerals and metals, endangering the planet and ecosystems, as well as causing or adding to political instability in Third World nations.
I’m a writer – what about paper and pens? First of all – I buy only recycled paper, a case at a time (bulk buying saves on trips to the store or from the delivery van, uses less packaging, and gives me a break on price). I buy recycled paper envelopes, packing materials and even tape for sealing packages. The ballpoint pens I bought most recently are made of 100 percent recycled plastics and are also 100 percent recyclable. I am a fanatic about sorting trash for recycling. I tear apart envelopes to get the plastic out; I return packing pellets to Kinko’s, and I recycle bubble wrap. Plastic is a no-no at my house if at all possible.
Postage? I walk to the post office if I need to, but I also set myself up on www.stamps.com so that I can weigh and stamp my own packages and mail, saving me trips in the car to the PO, and allowing me to use my own recycled labels and envelopes. Postage funds are sent directly to my laptop.
I write books, and those are made of paper, yes. But the book business has changed. No more the warehouse full of unsold volumes to be pulped, nor the attic full of vanity-pressed unreadable books. As an indie author, my books are print-on-demand (POD), so that each one is like a wanted child. No book-babies left behind. Ebooks are even less of a drain on the paper stream; electronically delivered and stored by the hundreds in my Kindle, ebooks are a very green alternative to the old-fashioned paperback. My books are all available as POD or ebooks – except one. My volume of poetry, Amaryllis: Collected Poems (Scarlet Letter Press, 2009), was small-press published and printed on recycled paper. In fact, the paper used had bits of flowers and flower seeds in the paper so that the book itself was literally fodder for the environment. Soy inks and a small distribution model (hand-sold, not trucked anywhere) made Amaryllis my greenest book ever.
I use recycled ink cartridges in my printer and send them in to be refilled after use. I scan documents so that I don’t need to make and keep a pile of paper in a filing cabinet. I use the backs of printed pages for everything from grocery lists to giftwrap. When the battery pack on the laptop fails, I have a typewriter. And I have a notepad (the backs of printed pages, stapled together) and a refillable ink fountain pen, in case the power goes out. Looks like I’m ready for the zombie apocalypse.
If I am to make one shameless green plug for my novel, it’s that Tongues of Angels is recycled, too. The book was first published by a small press, POD, in 2003, before social media had come to be. I am lucky enough to have the novel re-released as a POD and e-book by www.Indie-Visible.com in 2013. If you’d like to read it, check it out at Amazon or your local indie bookstore (via Ingram). You can also find me on GoodReads, Facebook, and Twitter.
Peace out and keep it green.