Writers go through a lot of paper when we write in notebooks, print out manuscripts, and even have our books printed. We also create a lot of plastic waste through the use of pens and ink cartridges. If you are becoming more conscious of your impact on this earth and wonder how you can be a more environmentally-friendly writer, I have several techniques that you can try, and none of them are hard. Anyone can do these things with little effort.
Use dry erase whiteboards to plot out your stories or to jot down ideas. This technique can be used in the place of index cards and Post-it notes. You can get a large whiteboard for one of your office walls, if you have the means. A couple of normal-sized whiteboards could work very well to plot out several chapters at a time. Even a bunch of small whiteboards, that you can find at Dollar Tree, can be effective for plotting purposes and would be a lot easier to put on the wall with double-sided sticky pads.
Another alternative is to use Black Latex Charcoal Paint and turn a wall in your office, or even just a section of it, into a blackboard.
2. Print Double-Sided
Sometimes, writers can’t get away from having to print out their manuscripts. Editing on paper can be a lot easier than doing it on the computer, and that could mean having to print out hundreds of pages. A good way to cut down on the paper you use is to print double-sided. If you have a newer printer, you have this technology at your fingertips. All it takes is to select this option when you are preparing to print.
Having less paper, means you’re saving trees, but also you don’t have as much paper weight to haul around.
3. Refillable Pens
If you’re like me, you write a lot by hand, and that means that your pens run out of ink quickly, which leads to tossing out dead pen after dead pen and buying more. A better strategy would be to buy a refillable pen and a pack of ink refills. Unfortunately, ink refills aren’t recyclable, just as the barrel of a pen is the only item that can be put into plastic recycling bins, when taken apart and all other bits (plunger, spring, ink tube, etc) are removed. However, with ink refills, you are creating less waste.
I've known about The Pen Guy for years. I mailed him a box of pens I had collected years ago so he could use them for his pen art. Once, he created a Mercedes Pens, a car covered in pens! The Pen Guy, Costas Schuler, collects pens (even markers and highlighters) and creates amazing works of art with them. I bet he may even take ink refills and could create a lot of art with them.
If you want to continue using pens that aren’t refillable, set a box by your desk and toss your old pens into it. When you fill the box, send them to The Pen Guy. Or you could create your very own pen art. I hot-glued a collection of used pens to a large coffee cup and to a binder that holds my printed manuscripts for editing.
5. Recycle Ink Cartridges
Empties4cash.com will pay for your used ink cartridges and the shipping, too! It's even free to sign up. I created an account, printed out my free shipping label (after verifying how many I had and the type through email), put it on a manila envelope, and sent off my ink cartridges. The kind I have is worth .25 each. You need to have a total of $5+ before they'll send you a check. They prefer to get 8+ when you mail in your empties, so if you go through a lot of ink, this is a great option for you. Even if you have to save up enough empty cartridges, it’s better than throwing them in the trash.
Also, when you sign up for Instant Ink through HP, they send you free recycling envelope so you can send in your empty cartridges.
6. Recycle Used Paper
When you’re done with your printed manuscripts, or if you have a stack of them you don’t need anymore but don’t know what to do with, shred them, put the bits into a paper bag, and put the whole thing into your recycling bin. Do not put it in a plastic bag as this defeats the purpose. And don’t put it in a package with staples or tape. A simple paper bag is appropriate.
7. Recycle Used Notebooks
I stock up on notebooks when it’s back to school season. I use them to write on my stories in the evenings when I’m away from my computer. Because of this, I’ve had to recycle many notebooks once I don’t need the content anymore.
To recycle spiral notebooks, you need to separate the meta spiral from the paper. Rip out the paper and the remove the covers. You can then shred the paper and put the shredded pieces into a paper bag for the recycling bin.
8. Use Products Made with Recycled Paper
You can purchase 100% recycled copy/printer paper for the manuscripts you need to print. These papers are tree-free from the start, so you can have a good conscious when printing hundreds or pages. Even better when you do #6 and recycle that recycled paper when you’re done with it.
For your notebooks, you can use eco-friendly notebooks made with 100% recycled materials. I love these notebooks, especially to use as my bullet journals. They have such a neat, natural look and feel to them.
9. Donate Used Books
Writers tend to collect books. I know I do, and I go through my books a lot to make room for even more books. When I do this, I donate the books I don’t want anymore. I bring them to my local libraries who use then them for book sales to earn money for necessary library purchases. I even bring in used magazines, since my local libraries have spots by the doors for patrons to put free books and magazines that anyone can pick up. Someone will want the books you don’t think anyone would want.
You can also donate books to Goodwill, The Salvation Army, and local thrift stores.
For more ideas on where to donate books, check out this article by MoneyCrashers.com.
10. Sprout Pencils
Sprout Pencils are special. The top is biodegradable and contain non-GMO seeds. There are ten different kinds you can get. You use the pencils as you normally would. When you reach the stub, you plant it, putting the top first, so the point (granite) is pointing up. From that used pencil you will sprout a herb, flower, or vegetable. You get 8 in a pack for $14.95 on Amazon. Talk about good for the environment.
Whatever you can do to take a step toward being an environmentally-friendly writer, do it, and feel good that you are doing something kind for you, the earth, and for the next generation.
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Chrys Fey is the author of Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication. She is also the author of the Disaster Crimes series. Visit her blog, Write with Fey, for tips on how to reverse writer’s burnout.