To keep the dystopian worlds in our books and not outside our window, we ought to think about our impact on the environment. The good news is that writing is already a fairly earth-friendly pursuit. The days of trash cans full of crumpled up drafts is long gone. We don't have to travel much, and do almost everything electronically. If a writer so chose, they could write, edit, query, and even publish a book without ever using a scrap of paper. So we can feel good about ourselves, but there is still plenty we can do. You may already do a lot of these things, but here are some tips just in case:
1) Arrange your work space near a window so you can use natural light during the day. Bonus points for using open windows or fans to avoid using the air conditioner. Use CFL or LED lights in your office for night time writing, and if possible, use only one well-placed lamp.
2) Shut down your computer at night or when you're done using it for the day.
3) Change your settings so that your computer goes into sleep mode after 10 minutes of inactivity. On a PC, go to "Control Panel" and "Power Options". Use the "Power Saver" setting.
4) Don't use a screensaver. These are a waste of energy. Modern monitors do not need them.
5) Use a laptop instead of a desktop. In addition to enjoying writing under a tree or at a coffee shop, laptops use less energy.
6) Plug your computer and all it's accessories into a surge protector and put it in the off position when you're not using your computer. Electronic devices use energy even when turned off. Unplug or turn off the surge protector.
7) Recycle and re-use. In the writing world, there is not much you really need to throw away. Recycle electronics, printer cartridges, and of course, paper. Local electronics and office supply stores often have options to recycle electronics and printer cartridges. Give away or sell your books. If they're in bad condition, recycle them.
8) Don't print. Not ever. Okay, maybe you might need to print every once in a blue moon, but there are very few reasons why you need to do this as a writer. Get used to reading and editing work on the screen. Tracking changes and inserting comments are a great way to edit in Word. Remember, if you don't print much, keep your printer off and unplugged.
9) Do a home energy audit. Writers work from home, which is good for the environment because we don't commute. But it also means that we have our heating/cooling/lighting systems on all the time. Go to http://hes.lbl.gov/consumer/ to complete a do-it-yourself energy audit.
10) Invest in a Kindle or Nook. Listen, I'm not against paper books. I like the way they smell and feel as I flip through the pages. I love walking through real bookstores and looking at the pretty covers on all the real books. I often fantasize about smelling my own published book one day. Okay, now I sound weird. To get back on topic, I still think you should try to limit your use of paper published books, especially if you're a voracious reader. Not only do e-readers save paper, electronic books do not require fossil fuels for delivery to your house or bookstore.
11) Put agents who don't accept email queries at the bottom of your list. I'm not saying you should shun paper-loving agents (we can't really afford to be too picky, right?), but maybe query them last. Trust me, you'll want to anyway. If you're not used to sending things in the mail, it feels like a real pain. "Stamps cost how much??"
If you already do a lot of these things, congratulations! But remember, there is always room to do more. Think about other ways to live green with books like Green Your Home All-in-one For Dummies and
Shift Your Habit: Easy Ways to Save Money, Simplify Your Life, and Save the Planet.
Happy Earth Day!