Is It Possible To Be An Eco-Friendly Digital Nomad?
One of the most significant changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic has been the revolution in remote working. Initially coming about as a matter of necessity as many countries ‘locked down’, remote working became something both employers and employees found to be a positive.
Indeed, it looks to be the case that a certain level of remote working is set to be simply a normal part of life as we return to normality. But, our understanding of remote working is still evolving. There is a large contingent of workers who see remote working as an even bigger opportunity to change up the way they work – and live.
This has led to the rise of the ‘digital nomad’. In fact, in 2020 alone, the number of digital nomads rose by about 50% from 7.3 million to 10.9 million – but what exactly is meant by the term – and is it all as positive as it sounds?
What is a Digital Nomad?
The concept of the digital nomad is relatively simple. They do not work in a specific industry, rather the ‘digital’ in their name refers to their use of digital communications in order to carry out their work. However, as they work remotely, they have complete freedom with how they work.
With this new found freedom, many workers have seen the opportunity not just to work from home, but to work from anywhere! A huge number of remote digital workers have taken the chance to move to warmer, or more sought-after, locations to allow them to enjoy a blend of working and travel. Popular destinations have included those traditionally appealing to younger travelers, such as Spain and France.
“Marbella is well-known as a holiday destination, but it is growing in popularity as an area for remote workers too,” says Christopher Clover, Managing Director of Panorama, an established real estate agency in Spain’s Costa del Sol. “We offer long-term rental properties and these allow workers to rent for a specified period before moving on”.
While this might sound like an idyllic lifestyle, there are undoubtedly some issues with this type of work. Indeed, some might argue being a ‘digital nomad’ is bad for the environment and for business.
Some Eco-Benefits of Being a Digital Nomad
The first thing to say is there certainly are some potential ecological benefits of being a digital nomad. Perhaps the first key one is, unlike many office workers, digital nomads typically do not commute and, like hybrid working, in some ways are working sustainably. They are much more likely to have a base where they work their days – this is quite often the same place they are living. The daily commute has a huge ecological impact on the planet and avoiding it is definitely beneficial.
There is actually some evidence to suggest many workers are less likely to be eco-friendly when they are at the office. This could mean remote workers, such as digital nomads, are more likely to follow eco-friendly practices while working remotely than they would in the office.
This all sounds very positive, however there is another side to the story; one which says digital nomads are actually having a negative impact.
Ecological Downsides of Being a Digital Nomad
There are actually a number of ways being a digital nomad could have a negative impact on the planet. Perhaps one of the first is digital nomads are more likely to fly overseas and travel – and unfortunately, air travel is one of the most polluting things you can do.
Additionally, it can be argued digital nomads are less green when they work. This issue comes from the fact that if you have ten workers all working remotely, they have to power their lighting, heating, air conditioning, and more, individually. If they were in an office, the power used would be enough for the whole space. Of course, if you’re working outdoors most of the day, or using renewable energy, the impact is negligible.
There is also an argument which can be made that due to the way businesses rolled out remote working, this practice has actually had a negative impact on the environment. This is principally because when workers began working away from the office, they didn’t use their old work equipment. This means new equipment had to be bought, creating far more new items, when these items weren’t really needed.
The fact is it is possible to be an eco-friendly digital nomad, but doing so requires making a conscious effort. Making choices such as avoiding air travel wherever possible, using existing equipment, renting or buying used equipment, and finding ways to work with multiple people in one space can make a big difference to the overall sustainability of the practice.