How to Lessen Your Environmental Footprint as a Remote Worker
If there were any positives from this dreaded pandemic, it would be the rise of remote work. Although working from home was certainly gaining popularity beforehand, COVID-19 has demonstrated to businesses working from home can hold significant benefits for productivity and flexible scheduling. Because of these benefits, 91% of workers reported they want to continue working from home at least some of the time.
In some ways this represents good news for our planet, too. Industries cause quite a bit of environmental damage due to waste and energy inefficiency, and on-site activities can reduce these damages as part of a business’ corporate social responsibility plan. However, it’s important to understand simply shifting work activity away from a single site doesn’t necessarily combat damaging activities entirely; it serves to decentralize them.
A key lesson while working from home is the need to take responsibility for your environmental footprint. For companies to make a better impact on the Earth, individual employees should take a look at their environmental actions, and examine practical tools that can support further action.
Due to your remote work, your energy impact from home is typically a lot higher than if you left for a 9-5 job. This has the potential to use finite fuel sources, create excessive waste, and put additional pressure on residential utility providers. Although you should be actively finding ways to reduce your waste throughout all of the COVID-19 quarantine, you can provide additional help to the Earth by applying an environmental perspective to your remote work as well.
You can do this by focusing on:
- Efficient Appliances
Chances are your office includes devices to make remote work easier. However, devices like computers, printers, and phones consume significant amounts of electricity. To reduce energy consumption, it’s important to change habits oriented around these devices. If you’re buying new equipment, research whether they are Energy Star rated — this is the government-backed standard for energy efficiency in appliances. It can also help to check if your equipment is working properly and batteries in devices are holding the correct charge.
- Efficient Home
If you’re used to working in a communal office, you may not know how much energy is drawn as a result of heating, ventilation, and lighting in the average working day. Now that these elements are your responsibility, it can be environmentally- and financially-wise to ensure your home is operating efficiently. Install energy-efficient light bulbs throughout the home. Check your windows for proper sealing, and your walls and roofing for functional insulation.
- Efficient Behavior
Much of our waste doesn’t necessarily come from electric devices or homes, but as a result of our behavior. Be mindful about turning off lights when they are not in use. Switch off computers entirely, rather than leaving them on standby. Wear layers rather than relying on constant heating and air conditioning. On behalf of your mental health and energy efficiency, don’t work unnecessary overtime hours.
When working from home, it’s important to put together an office space that helps you to maintain comfort and productivity. This also helps to delineate an area to separate your work and your home life. However, your home office design choices can also have an impact on your environmental footprint.
When buying office furniture, consider second hand, or upcycling a thrift store find. Producing new items puts a strain on natural resources, creates more wasteful products, and often produces harmful emissions. If you can’t source suitable used items, seek out office furniture created from sustainably sourced materials such as bamboo, hemp, and organic cotton.
Additionally, lighting choices are vital for the mood of your home office and your environmental impact. Not only can good lighting have a positive effect on productivity, but it also helps to improve your overall mood while working. Using ambient, low-wattage bulbs above your desk can eliminate screen glare and reduce electricity consumption. However, designing your office to take advantage of natural light is a more effective and greener route. Position your desk close to windows, and keep the blinds open. This exposes you to mood-enhancing sunlight and cuts down on power consumption — which is vital in saving precious resources.
Businesses have to be conscious of the resources they and their employees use. This is largely due to financial reasons. However, the same kind of attention to the small details can help you reduce your environmental footprint when working from home.
You should consider:
- Paperless Processes
Even with recycled paper, resources can be wasted and greenhouse gases emitted during production. Look into whether it is practical to go entirely paperless in your work activities — is it really necessary to send physical invoices, or can you store files in the cloud? Take the same approach with your interactions with other businesses and colleagues. Encourage them to send you items electronically, rather than physically.
- Reduced Travel
Working from home full-time can indeed leave you a little isolated. However, making client visits or attending in-person meetings uses non-renewable fuel resources, and pollutes the atmosphere. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most companies have remote communications and meeting tools set up. It’s wise to utilize these whenever possible. However, if in-person events are imperative, look into taking public transportation or carpooling with colleagues.
- Minimal Deliveries
There may be times you order essential supplies or equipment online. Aim for strategic planning when purchasing these. Commit to making a single order each month from a single supplier. This cuts down on packaging resources and minimizes fuel emissions as a result of the shipping process. Moreover, refrain from relying on delivered food. It may be a nice treat every once in a while, but depending on it can result in wasted finite resources.
Remote Work and Your Environmental Footprint
Remote working has the potential to reduce industrial environmental damage, but it can only succeed if individual employees also take steps in their home offices. Adopt energy-efficient practices, design your working space with green considerations, and remain conscious of the resources you use. When each of us takes responsibility for our environmental footprint, we have the chance to make a positive impact in the fight against irreversible climate change.