COVID-19 unarguably brought about dramatic changes to the world — especially in the way we work. For instance, experts are now seeing remotely working or working from home as the new normal. Although there are still challenges to this new arrangement, many are also embracing this as an opportunity to promote a sustainable lifestyle.
If you are looking to jumpstart a greener lifestyle this year as you work from home, here’s how to create a sustainable home office:
1. Buy second-hand office furniture
A conducive workspace and viable setup is the key to a productive work from home arrangement. The best thing about working from home is that you get to work in an environment that you’ve styled yourself, that is in line with your design aesthetics. Instead of buying new office furniture, opt for second-hand. There are many e-marketplaces nowadays where you can easily source second-hand office furniture online such as Facebook marketplace and eBay. You can even get furniture for next to nothing which you can refurbish to fit or create a more unique look for your workspace if you fancy a DIY project. Also, by making a conscious choice to reuse old furniture, there is less virgin materials and resources needed which means you’re minimizing your carbon footprint.
People dispose of great working furniture often because they want an upgrade or they simply do not want it anymore. By choosing second-hand furniture, not only will you be saving heaps of money as preloved items are generally way cheaper than brand new ones, but you are also helping to reduce waste. Just imagine the amount of used furniture sitting in landfills right now – all the upholstery, non-biodegradable bits and pieces and chemicals that could have detrimental effects to the environment for years to come.
2. Manage your energy consumption
Sometimes, if you’re working in corporate headquarters, suggestions for energy conservation may fall on deaf ears, but when working from home, you are in total control. For example, a smart home energy tech startup Dcbel even developed a technology that learns and adapts to your family’s energy consumption patterns and needs.
To reduce energy consumption, make sure to unplug office devices such as the printer, scanner and desktop when not in use. You can avoid turning on air-conditioning and heating systems since there is no operational policy for keeping the office at a set temperature for the comfort of all employees (since you’re the only employee you need to consider) and you can also make use of more energy-efficient appliances like those which are ENERGY STAR certified.
3. Maximize the use of natural light
Did you know that hours of exposure to artificial light could have detrimental effects on your mental and physical health? Working from home, you have the opportunity to maximise the use of natural light instead of turning on artificial lights. Not only will you save on your electricity bill but you’ll help boost your immune system and help fuel your productivity by taking in natural light. Set up your home workspace in a spot that receives lots of natural light to enjoy its benefits.
4. Think before you print
Cliché it may be but the best way to waste reduction is to champion a paperless office. Take a stand and limit printing to those necessary official documents and print on both sides if you can. Otherwise, take advantage of digital tools available for office communication, invoicing, and even record filing. Need to a document signed? Then make use of Docusign or other similar software which enables signing e-documents to be more convenient and eco-friendly.
Nowadays, you can also choose to go digital when it comes to marketing and advertising. Instead of printouts and leaflet campaigns which are so yesterday, bring it online via banner ads, hyperlocal advertising and advertising on various social media platforms. You’ll find in the long run that this is way more productive as you get to see performance data and tweak your marketing, have access to better targeting tools and can even broaden your advertising reach.
5. Choose eco-friendly stationery and other office supplies
There are instances when going digital won’t work for you especially if you find writing down notes therapeutic. If this is the case, choose eco-friendly organizers, planners, stationery and notebooks. You can also extend this mindfulness in the procurement of other earth-friendly office supplies such as refillable pens and markers, recycled papers, and similar items you’d need in conducting your business. Granted, it might not be as convenient as getting the normal supplies you are used to having but nevertheless, it allows you to do your part in helping conserve natural resources.
6. Conduct your business remotely wherever possible
The pandemic has taught the world the promise of conducting business remotely. You don’t always need to leave the comfort of your home to close a business deal, attend a seminar, or even meet up and consult with your colleagues. You can still be as effective doing it in the comfort of your home via Zoom, Google Hangouts Meet, Cisco Webex Meetings, and similar platforms. By travelling less, you are helping to reduce transport-related carbon emissions which contribute to climate change.
7. Buy new clothes only when necessary
One of the perks of working from home is that you can dress comfortably in your workout clothes, sweatpants, and even pajamas as you get on with your work day. There is no pressure in dressing to the nines unless you need to be presentable for a meeting. You can take this as an opportunity to recycle your old clothes by shopping your own wardrobe and getting creative by mixing and matching what you already own to create a new look. If feeling like investing in a ‘new’ outfit, aim to shop second-hand first. If shopping second-hand isn’t really your jam or you don’t enjoy the online hunt, you can also choose from ethical and eco-friendly brands that produce work attire which do not compromise in terms of style or values.
8. Decorate with indoor plants
There are many advantages to integrating houseplants in your workspace. Plants give the space a touch of life and a splash of greenery and brings with it all the benefits of nature. For instance, plants literally breathes fresh air into your indoor surroundings as it absorbs carbon dioxide and emits oxygen in return. As such, you will feel refreshed and invigorated.
Related Post: 8 Low-Maintenance Indoor Plants for Your Office
Houseplants are also known to have a positive impact on mental health because they help to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. Overall, they make you feel better which is why it isn’t surprising that many have turned to tending to plants during enforced quarantines and lockdowns.
9. Switch to renewable energy sources
One unfortunate impact of working from home is the surge in fossil-fuel powered electricity use and costs. To reduce your home office’s environmental impact, make sure to switch to renewable energy sources. Whether you install solar panels or you make the switch to a green energy provider that provides electricity sourced from cleaner energy such as solar power or wind power, you’re helping to make a big leap forward in battling climate change.
10. Make a conscious effort to live sustainably
The fast-paced work environment often leads individuals to make less-than-eco-friendly choices. Oftentimes, when you are pressed for time, it seems easier to settle on convenience over doing what is right. As you work from home, consciously eliminate the use of single-use plastics and disposables and find greener alternatives throughout your home, not just your work space. Make it a practice to buy your food supplies in bulk and not in smaller packages that are individually wrapped. Instead of paper towels, switch to reusable and washable hand towels and rags. Implement a recycling station and compost bin and aim for zero waste– limit the amount of items you need to send to landfills. Remember that no matter how small your contribution, it still makes a huge difference to the our planet.
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Cover image by Vlada Karpovich.