In another life I once wrote a long piece for Polaroid Australia’s Public Relations Department detailing the company’s efforts to make its products more environmentally friendly. It was so long ago I’ve forgotten the gist of the article. In fact, I’d forgotten that I’d written it until two things brought it to mind.

The first was wondering what I would do with the contaminated liquids produced by developing my own film and the second reading an article on a web site The Daily Green (the lead via Google Alerts) about a photography who really works at being green.

Solutions to my personal problem are limited. But I have decided that if I do start developing again, that I will drain the used chemicals into a trough and let the water in the sludge, evaporate then dispose of the remainder at our local chemical collection point. Just letting it run down the drain is not an option. Even if I wanted to, my property is not connected to the sewerage system and silver salts and so on, would probably give the bacteria in a septic system a severe tummy ache.

Courtney Dailey, the photographer, profiled in The Daily Green doesn’t use computer disks; doesn’t make her own prints to save on paper; makes her own light sources from LEDs and recycled material.

All of which, I guess, is a help but it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. The carbon footprint made by the making of a digital camera, computer and peripherals must be considerable. Do we really need to update so often?

Speaking for myself I have really slowed the rate at which I buy new computers. Lack of money is a reason, of course, but I run two computers – an ancient second generation blue and white iMac (533MHz) which I use for Photoshop and InDesign and a hand-me-down 2GHz Pentium 4 for everything else. Bother perform adequately and while the Mac is overdue for replacement, I wont do so until absolutely necessary.

Bother perform faster than I can type, and as I am not in a tearing hurry I can afford to wait for a few extra seconds while the slow processors chunder through the work. Where I am handicapped is in the area of disk storage. For while I have external drives on both computers (2 on the PC) I never seem to have enough space and this is an area of concern.

Just using more CDs and DVDs is one solution but as the Green Photographer says “They eventually end up in landfill” so  are there options? Buying a Hard drive vault is one, but at almost $A900 it’s expensive and I suspect the green house gases emitted for its construction would be at least as much as the equivalent capacity in DVDs.

All of this is a problem. I accidently ruined my Xerox laser printer and buying the new part would have cost $A1750 with almost no chance of getting someone to replace if for me out in the bush. So reluctantly I put it in the garage and am now looking for a replacement. By comparison I still have, in working order, a Durst M35 enlarger bought in 1966 that W could use to produce conventional B&W prints. And I suspect the pollution from the photo chemicals have been more than offset by inks and cartridges used.

Reluctantly I have to conclude that photography, per se, is not a very environmentally friendly activity.


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