Whilst the very nature of the type of work as I do as a photographer doesn’t, unfortunately, lend itself very well to being eco-friendly, there are some serious steps as a micro-business that I do (and that all businesses can do no matter what industry!) to be as eco-friendly as possible.
Being eco-friendly isn’t always about living off the grid and not using any technology but more about doing everything you can do within your means to be more aware, be more accountable, and be as least harmful as possible to our planet.
Why do I want to be eco-friendly?
OK so I am not going to go into the ins and outs of why everyone should be doing what they can for our planet (I think we can all conclude mother nature serving up a serious can of karma comeuppance for like the whole of 2020 has already done that) but I would like to tell you a little bit about what changed my life so much.
Around four years ago I worked with a company called Roots & Shoots over a series of events spanning a few years. If you’re not familiar with Roots & Shoots it was a programme founded by the wonderful Dr. Jane Goodall as a way of helping encourage young people to implement change for animals, people, and the environment. Children and young adults from across the world commit themselves to do what is best for our planet, it’s that simple.
A few things happened when I first worked with these amazing souls. Firstly, I had an immense sense of belonging. I had never met these people before and in a lot of cases didn’t even speak the same language and YET I had never felt so welcomed, at home, and inspired to learn as I did when I was with them. Secondly and without even realising it then, I was catapulted onto a path of learning. Learning about the type of human being I want to be, the type of planet I want to live in, and the ways in which I can do my part. Fast forward four years and whilst I am in no way perfect, still have a lot to learn and a lot to change I am so pleased with the developments I have made and the steps I take to ensure I can call myself an eco-friendly person - never mind an eco-friendly photographer.
We all have a responsibility to minimise our impact on the planet and I am pleased to just be doing my small part to help!
How am I eco-friendly?
So how do I as, a photographer be eco-friendly or to use a phrase that I prefer more (it encourages growth in everyone) eco-conscious.
An eco-friendly office
From day 1 I have opted for a completely paperless approach. And I have succeeded – for the most part!
Thanks to the digital world it’s been pretty easy. I don’t print any contracts to send to clients (and I ask they do the same by sending back a PDF), all my invoices, shoot questionnaires, brochures are all sent electronically and I keep all my files securely backed up in digital formats. My office doesn’t have a printer and in fact, the only way I encounter paper (and the reason I haven’t fully succeeded just yet) is in the form of my notebook. I have tried getting rid of this all together but for me personally, the screen break is essential when I am with clients (it looks rude to take notes on your phone) and for my own sanity I need to just get that “To Do” list wrote out with a pen and paper and start crossing them off.
Where possible to do so I will always use rechargeable batteries in my equipment which I just think makes sense in life anyway, to be honest! It costs less in the long run as you don’t have to keep buying batteries and I don’t have to worry about having enough on me when on a shoot. I just make sure everything is charged and I am ready to go.
In an industry when the latest camera/laptop/phone seems to last for around a measly 6 months until a newer version is replaced you can imagine a lot of good, high-quality second-hand equipment goes up for sale. I spent the first year of my business on completely borrowed equipment (even my laptop!) and then after making the initial bigger purchases from new I now look to source everything I need second hand. I try to limit the amount I buy to only essential equipment, I rarely buy new equipment unless something actually needs replacing or upgrading. It sounds quite daunting but thanks to companies such as MPB and Wex Photo who provide guarantees on used items it really isn’t that scary (anymore!). And again, as a bonus, they are usually a lot cheaper than the new counterparts and do exactly the same job.
So you can imagine as a photographer my list of electrical items is quite extensive. Luckily for me, Mr CB is also of the same viewpoint, so we specifically picked an energy provider that enables us to reduce our environmental impact – Bulb. Bulb is the UK’s biggest green energy supplier. So, I get 100% renewable energy firing up my laptop and charging those cameras every time.
Whilst I can’t avoid having to use electricity, I avoid taking it for granted and we leave nothing on standby. Everything gets switched off at the plug after use. Did you know 9-16% of the electricity consumed in homes is used to power appliances when they are in standby mode? Whilst it may not amount to much financially, think of all that wasted energy.
The Service I Provide
A big one for me, and one I feel quite passionately about since I copied my own wedding photographs from the USB onto my external hard drive and NEVER picked it up again is the fact that I don’t provide USBs with my images on from shoots and I don’t offer printing or albums.
Now I know a lot of companies out there are producing eco-friendlier USBs sticks (wooden instead of plastic) but I honestly find them redundant and a waste of materials (to create, package & deliver) when I can provide the same gorgeous images on a secure online gallery to be downloaded in exactly the same high resolution and enjoyed.
And I also feel the same can be said for printing, but I appreciate that may be a generational thing! Taking my own wedding photographs for example – we had a few printed to give as gifts and we chose a few to display around our house. I have the best digital album in the form of my phone homepage and laptop desktop. I can change the images as often as I like – set up slideshows to see a selection and I don’t have a hefty album collecting dust on a shelf.
Whilst I cannot avoid travel and using my car (and sometimes a plane) I do my best to make as many of my meetings as possible telephone conversations or video-calls. I know even video-calls aren’t ideal but I still want to provide my clients with awesome service and of course should they prefer an in-person meeting I won’t decline! I try to use public transport where possible but unfortunately due to my location it isn’t always that available. On the plus side though, I only really drive for work! We intentionally picked a village to live in that had everything we need within walking distance.
Whilst I am not quite at the stage of completely offsetting my carbon footprint I wanted to make sure I was on the way! One of the more noticeable changes in my photography packages has been the inclusion of planting a tree for my couples. It is a great initiative from the National Forest and my couples get a lovely e-certificate to keep.
Leave it as you find it shoot approach
And finally, when it comes to being out of my office on shoots, I have a strict leave it as you find it approach! For me this means:
Avoiding any distribution to get a shot – if something is in the way of my perfect shot, it is up to me to move not the tree/flower/sign, etc.
Taking out exactly what I take in – I was taught at a very young age not to litter, every decent human being was right?!
No keepsakes – sometimes that shell is so beautiful, or that flower so pretty it can be hard not to want to take it home but instead I will take a photograph (it will last longer anyway 😉)
I am proud of the small steps I have taken in my professional and personal life to be more eco-friendly (yay to one year vegetarian!) and will continue to carry on doing what I can and learning as I go! So if you have any awesome suggestions to help please do send them my way.