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The Earth-Conscious Writer
by Brenda Stokes

Being a writer is tough business. Scrapping together enough money to pay rent, utilities and other necessities leaves us without much else to work with. But the next time you take a trip to your local office supply store, don't groan at the vast amount of money you'll be spending. Be savvy! With a little research, you can find plenty of super cheap paper products and other great items that are easy on your wallet and even easier on the environment.

The Office Bane Otherwise Known as Paper

Unfortunately, paper is one of the most essential things a writer needs. Printing out writer's guidelines, e-mails, query letters and submissions leave you running back to the store often for another ream (and another and another). There is a pretty wide variety of paper available, from laser, inkjet, copy, presentation, and others, but I know I just grab whatever is the cheapest and go about my business. Unknowingly, the cheapest paper out there is made from (at least partly) post-consumer products! What does this mean exactly? Post-consumer means that the paper was used to its fullest extent, and instead of going to a landfill, was recycled. Most government agencies require at least 30% post-consumer content in their paper goods, so that should be a good practice for your own writing business as well. The Green Earth Office Supply (http://tinyurl.com/9c6x9) offers 100% recycled copy paper for only $7.00.

You can also find 75% to 100% recycled vinyl binders for under $2.50 and pens made from post-consumer rubber tires! The beauty of buying post-consumer is you're helping out the environment in a big way by not contributing to the world's waste problems, and you're saving loads of money!

Ink Drain

It seems like I'm running out of printer ink every month. Printing out all of those queries and writer's guidelines can be detrimental to your writing funds, but luckily cheap ink isn't hard to find. Kencode Computing (http://www.prorefills.com) offers ink cartridge refills for only around $13! All you have to do is purchase their refill envelope, which includes the cost of shipping and cleaning, put your empty cartridge in it and mail it off. They say you should have your refilled cartridge back within 72 hours. Just think of the resources you'll be saving by not purchasing a whole new cartridge, which would waste large amounts of plastics. Having a printer that's nearing ancient, brand new ink cartridges are somewhere around $40. This is a huge money saver for me.

Computer Scraps

This is the big one. The ultimate expense for a writer, but absolutely necessary. Everything is online these days, so having a computer that works and complies with programs editors have is crucial to getting things done. Luckily, there are stores that sell computers for sometimes half the price of their retail value. Why is this, you ask? They're refurbished! When someone goes out and buys a new computer, their old one typically goes into a landfill. This isn't good, because comps contain super-hazardous materials and toxins. However, people are now donating their old, worn-out computers to refurbishing centers, who then revamp the machines to like-new working condition. The best part about it is these computers work great, and can cost half as much as they did when they were new; sometimes less!

A great place to check out is Affordable Computers (http://www.affordablecomputers.com). They sell refurbished, recycled and used computers all at reasonable prices. Once you do get a new or new-to-you computer, consider donating your old one to such a center. Even if the machine is obsolete, parts can usually be harvested for use.

A Waste-Free Office

Buying recycled products is a definite help to the environment, but in order to complete the process, you should take on some waste-saving measures. Follow these tips to save energy, reduce waste and lower your expenses.

* Designate a box for recycled papers, just large enough to allow the pages to lie flat.

* Print using the "draft" setting. This saves ink and energy.

* Print on both sides of the paper. When you're printing out things that will never see an editor's desk, conserve! This goes for your drafts, guidelines and anything else to be put in the file drawer or recycle bin eventually.

* Save e-mails, writer's guidelines, acceptances, rejections and market info on CDs rather than making hard copies. Only print out what you absolutely need.

* Be sure to purchase "Energy Star" computers that have a sleep mode when not in use. Remember: your screensaver does not save energy.

* Use a dry-erase board for important reminders, dates and deadlines rather than post-it notes.

* Use pens that can be refilled rather the disposable kind.

* Try to e-mail queries rather than snail-mail them, although this just isn't possible all the time.

* Recent studies have indicated that personal computers draw energy when even just plugged in. If you don't plan on using the computer for the day, unplug it. The same goes for any other electronic device that has a light signaling it's receiving power, such as TVs, VCRs, etc.

Saving the environment is a cost-effective way for writers to maintain their businesses without busting their bank accounts. So next time you're at Staples or some other supply store, check out the content of each product, and you'll be amazed at how much money you save.

© Copyright 2005, Brenda Stokes

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