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My Sustainability Engagement

By Elena Vivaldi



If you’re visiting my website, you’ve probably read about my effort to run a sustainable business. But you’re probably wondering what I mean by “sustainable”.
Not only am I specialized in texts related to environmental issues and I provide interpreting services at conferences focusing on waste management or climate justice, but I also call myself a sustainable interpreter and translator.

What do I mean by that and how can that be interesting for you, as a potential client?

In this article, I’ll bring you behind the scenes of my business to show you how I manage every project, trying to be as green as possible in my choices. If you’re a colleague reading my blog, I hope you will find inspiring tips to replicate.

Sustainability has become a buzz word in some sort and it’s difficult to find a definition of what actions can be considered sustainable, especially in the industry of online services.
You’ve probably heard about compensating carbon emissions by planting trees, but I believe this is just a last resort solution when we are not able to do anything else.
My firm believe is that 90% of the times we have the chance to adopt up-stream solutions that are environmentally friendly, more ethical, and as efficient as the ordinary ones.

Transportation: saving CO2, time, and money

Interpreters are usually required to travel to the event destination. This could mean reaching a trade fair, or a fancy hotel downtown, or a conference center. I always try to choose the best option for the environment and for my clients, too. At quoting stage, I would explore all the different options.
Public transports are my go-to solution: I avoid using my personal car as much as possible. When the assignment is in the Milan area, I will just need to take a train and the subway. If the area is not served by the subway or by city buses - for example if the event takes place in the suburbs - I usually opt for car sharing services. The Lombardy region even developed a service to share electric cars that can be used in the whole region.

However, I sometimes receive requests for interpreting services in another region of Italy. For example, last year I was contacted by a client looking for an interpreter in Naples for an event related to waste management. When the event venue is far from my hometown, it could be tempting to look into flight options. With the growing popularity of low-cost companies, it’s now very common to use planes even for short distance business trips.
I personally try to avoid that. I always opt for the train: did you know that a high-speed train takes 3hrs from Milan to Rome?

Frecciarossa high speed train by David McKelvey - licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Now, why is this interesting for you?

  • First, if you are a green business yourself you will be probably happy to know that the contractor you hired is talking the talk and walking the walk (literally);
  • Second, you will also save money, as the interpreter will charge cheaper transportation costs in the final invoice because they didn’t need an expensive taxi ride to reach your location, but they used their bike.
  • Third, when I use public transports, I am more productive. I can revise preparation documents, glossaries and slides for your event.

Also, if you contact me for a service far from where I’m based (e.g. in another country or continent), I will get you in touch with a trusted colleague that you can hire locally, saving you money and CO2.

Recycled paper and digital notetaking for consecutive interpreting

In January 2020, my husband offered me for my birthday a set of notepads made of recycled paper knowing that I would probably need that for a busy consecutive interpreting season. We all know what happened later on, but I still really appreciated this gift as it was another way to incorporate a little change in my habits. Once these beautiful, flowered notepads were over, I kept on using recycled sheets of paper that I found everywhere. Printed documents that are no longer useful, letters that I receive by post, etc. Even though I try not to print as much as possible (actually, I don’t even own a printer), extra paper is always available.

One of my goals for 2023 is also to explore digital tools to take notes: I plan on practicing notetaking with a table so that I can say definitely goodbye to paper.

Reducing my digital footprint

It is not only important to pay attention to our carbon footprint off-line but also to our digital carbon footprint. Sometimes, this is a very difficult aspect for service providers, as digital pollution is less visible. Did you know that if internet were a country, it would rank as fourth highest CO2 emitter, trailing only the United States, China, and India? (source: "Exploring digital carbon footprints" report - JISC)

That’s where I realized that I could make a big step in making my business greener by taking into account my digital tools.

My first choice was to create a sustainable and inclusive website. This means having a lighter website, that is also beneficial to my clients: it loads faster, and it means you can find information about my translation and interpreting services more easily. To do that, I contacted an expert developer that was able to create a customized website for my needs while integrating the sustainability criteria both in my website and my blog.
I will dedicate a whole article to my website as I am extremely proud of it.

I also chose a green host with servers based in Switzerland, a few kilometers from where I am based.

Lastly, I am on an ongoing process of unsubscribing from newsletters I am no longer interested in and deleting emails that are no longer useful. That is actually a very small step that we can all take and that will also remove the overwhelming feeling of having more than 10,000 emails in our inbox.!

Giving a new life to tech tools

If my work as an interpreter requires me to travel, when I am wearing my translator hat or when I am on remote interpretation assignments, I am usually working from my home office. This means owning a series of tech tools to make my work possible (laptop, extra monitor, mouse, keyboard, RSI equipment, etc).

We know that digital devices pollute in the production phase and are hard to dispose of. Nonetheless, they are necessary for anyone working remotely in our globalized world. I then choose to recycle old (but still functioning) devices to limit the damage. For, example, I decided to take the mouse, keyboard and monitor that were cumulating dust at my parents’ place: they are now using a laptop and the PC was always off.

Also, I am currently trying to gear up my remote simultaneous set up and I am looking into recycled options. I would like to add an external professional microphone to reach a better sound quality for remote assignments and I will definitely buy it through a service like “Backmarket”, selling reconditioned devices, or I will look for a second-hand option on local online marketplaces. What’s better than giving a new life to something that will otherwise end up in landfill?

Believe in business as a force for good

My engagement is not only limited to the actions I implement on a daily basis to reduce my carbon footprint, but it is also related to what projects I decide to support thanks to my services. People are key in my approach to environmental issues. That’s why I love to work with ambitious entrepreneurs who are aware of the challenges we are facing and who are ready to do their part and who respect all the people they encounter along the way.

I choose to have the privilege of working with honest companies that pay decent wages to their employees and contractors, with businesses that are doing their best at integrating green practices in their processes, and to anyone who is willing to take a step in this direction. I also choose to refuse collaboration with companies in industries that are detrimental to the environment and people (e.g. fossil fuels or weapons).

If you also believe in business as a force for good, don’t hesitate to contact me for a free quote: I will be more than happy to support your ambitious project!