Energy efficiency and emissions, recycling… whether you’re a sole trader, a small company or a consumer, these are matters of the utmost importance.

I suspect that translators these days are far more environmentally friendly than we were 20 years ago. Not so long ago, I had to go to the post office almost every day to buy envelopes and stamps to send out bills and printed work to clients. Now I get through a pack of paper about once every three months and I only go to the post office to pick up birthday cards and Christmas presents!

In my youth, the translator’s desk was a veritable mountain of office equipment. Piles of dictionaries and reference books, the Vademecum, Encyclopaedia Britannica and endless biros, pencils and erasers. We could not exist without pads of paper, paper clips, hole punches, pens, rulers, staplers, and post-it notes. Then there was my angle-poise lamp… and I even had a magnifying glass! Now, a computer, mouse and router have replaced everything.

But who says we can’t do better? As well as being a moral obligation, sustainability can boost profits by presenting a better image. By way of example, two local supermarkets in my town recently switched to biodegradable bags for fresh produce. I was delighted, and you wouldn’t believe how popular this has been, and how many people have mentioned the improvement.

More than half of all companies on the Ibex 35 assess their suppliers according to environmental and social criteria. Spanish law holds that government contracts go to companies that do not pollute the environment and studies show that more than 70% of young people under the age of 35 prefer responsible companies. It may just be that in the future, investors will shy away from companies that don’t have these certificates. Some are already required by law, like the energy efficiency certificate and the environmental device, while others certify the sustainability of their products and services.

Translators need to do our bit too. The main areas where we can make improvements are quite obvious: paper use and recycling, printing and toner cartridges, lighting, heating and use of electricity from sustainable sources and, if we travel about for work, vehicle emissions. I wonder when the day will come that our clients ask us about our environmental practices and, when that day comes, will you be ready?