In an ideal world, I would love to be an eco-friendly photographer, but is that even possible?
I know I’m only one small person trying to make a difference in a world of seven billion, but as Galadriel said to Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring movie: “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”
OK, so I can stop ordering 200 6x4 prints for a client and instead create one or two big statement wall art pieces, but there will still be other papers: contracts to sign; order forms to write on, cross out and add up on; questionnaires to fill in, price lists, business cards and gift cards.
Of course the best solution here is to find paper and printers that are sustainable, putting back what they take out, planting a tree (or two) for every one they chop down.
I try to be digitised wherever I can, emailing invoices and receipts, however there will be occasion when a physical paper piece is unavoidable whether for the benefit of my clients or my own records. I don’t mind keeping the post office in business (I was doing it almost single-handedly a couple of years ago, I wonder if they’ve noticed I don’t order things online as much anymore…) by sending the odd USB stick or album by post if it is too far away for me to drive.
In fact, being digital in itself leads to more consumption of electrical power. Charging camera batteries - still better than throwaway ones that end up in landfill, though, powering my iMac, charging my laptop, lighting up a room or a subject.
It is all well and good me taking pretty photos of stunning sunsets and lions in Africa going “oh, wow! Look at this! We have to protect and treasure this forever!”, but what about my own carbon footprint in getting to my location, whether it is the Lake District or the Masai Mara? Petrol, airline fuel, plane tickets, travel documents, vaccination certificates.
In this instance out in the English countryside or African wilderness it is perhaps best to have a simple rule: leave nothing that does not belong here. If that means taking every last sweet wrapper, drinks can, dirty hankie and used loo roll (apparently that will be an issue while on safari) home with me to dispose of properly, then so be it. On a visit to the Grand Canyon in 2008, the first thing I saw was the Canyon, the second thing I saw was a discarded Coca-Cola can in it. It was heartbreaking.
I bought a t-shirt from an outdoor shop the other week. It’s my favourite colour (purple) and has some simple yet beautiful words printed on the front that perhaps we can all live by, whether we are trying to be eco-friendly or not. Try and take a moment and think that these words are not just for when we visit a national park and are not allowed to pick wildflowers, but rather they can be interpreted in the wider sense for humanity’s relationship with the planet as a whole:
“Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures, keep nothing but memories.”