The coronavirus pandemic has meant that many of us have had to adjust to working from home.
There’s a lot to get used to, whether it’s competing with other members of the household for space, or feeling isolated from colleagues and the outside world in general.
As I had already spent a few years working from home as a freelancer in the early 2010s, I didn’t find the transition too difficult, so was quite lucky in that respect.
Something I’ve thought about more this time round, however, is the environmental impact of working from home.
You generally end up using more electricity working from home than when you’re going out to an office every day. A BBC article looking at research from WSP recently suggested that for this reason, people working home could have a negative environmental impact, particularly in the winter, when everyone would need to heat their homes for longer.
It’s a very complex topic with many layers, but one thing I know is that taking a few steps to being more eco-friendly when working from home can only be a positive thing.
I’ve put together a list for myself and others with some small changes that can be made for a more eco-friendly home office. I tried to stick to small actions that don’t require too much time or expenditure, as I know not everyone has the luxury of these things!
For anyone wanting to make a bigger commitment to cutting your carbon footprint, there are tons of articles, blogs and books out there to tell you how.
My tips centre on being more mindful of your impact day-to-day and making manageable changes towards being more sustainable
- Watch how much you fill your kettle
If you’re used to doing big tea rounds in an office, you might automatically fill your kettle to the max without thinking about it. Heating that extra bit of water uses unnecessary energy, though! If you’re just making a hot drink for one or two of you, only heat the water you need.
2. Turn off lights when you leave a room
We all know we’re meant to do it, but it’s easy to forget. Since planning out this blog post I’ve found myself noticing it more and have definitely switched off a few more unnecessary lights.
It’s just a small thing, but every little helps.
3. Unplug unused appliances
This is another easy one to forget, especially when working from home. Because you’re only going to the next room (or another part of the room!) for your lunch break, you can easily leave your monitor, lamp and other appliances running.
An hour a day of energy can make a big difference though, so it’s good to get into the habit of unplugging things when not in use.
4. Decrease your monitor brightness
Something you might not have thought about – does your monitor need to be as bright as it is? Turning it down a few notches probably won’t make much difference for working, but will save a bit of energy.
5. Turn down your thermostat
Heating is the single biggest factor that could make working from home less environmentally-friendly than being in an office.
Of course, if it’s cold, you need to make sure you’re warm. Keep an eye on the thermostat though, to make sure it’s not turned up higher than it needs to be.
Something else to bear in mind is that if you’re working in just one room, you don’t need to heat the whole house. You could turn the rest of the radiators off during the day, especially if you have smart radiators that can be individually programmed.
6. Grow vegetables from your scraps
The food industry is another big culprit when it comes to environment damage, due to harmful farming practices and the emissions involved in shipping food over long distances.
The more local you can go, the better for the environment – and it doesn’t get much more local than home grown!
The easiest thing you can do is grow fresh food from your scraps, such as lettuce, carrots and garlic. Quite a few of these can be done inside, which is perfect if, like me, you live in a flat without a garden.
7. Use your microwave to reheat food
A lot of people will do this anyway, for speed and convenience. However, I thought I’d add this tip in, as I recently read that microwaving food is more eco-friendly than cooking it in an oven, which is something I hadn’t thought about!
8. Cut down on meat
It’s widely known that eating less meat is better for the environment. Farming livestock produces much more CO2 than farming grains and vegetables, and in many places is a driver of deforestation.
Everyone has their own dietary and lifestyle requirements, so it’s up to you to decide what you can manage. As a start, why not try and make your lunches veggie while working from home?
9. Make sure the dishwasher is fully-loaded
This one should actually be easier when working from home, as we’re all using a lot more mugs and plates than before. However, don’t be tempted to switch on your dishwasher when it’s only half full, as you’ll end up using more water and energy that way.
Also, scraping off excess food instead of rinsing things under the tap saves even more water!
10. Review your shopping habits
This last one is quite open-ended. In this post, I wanted to focus on small changes that you can implement straight away. I’m also aware that eco-friendly products can be more expensive, and not everyone is in a position to purchase them.
However, if you are able, reviewing your shopping habits is a big thing you can do to have a positive impact.
Maybe have a think about what changes you could make when it comes to your next big shop.
For example, you could switch to eco-friendly cleaning products such as ecover, or plastic-free toilet roll like Who Gives a Crap. You could also try and buy more groceries from local greengrocers and farm shops where possible.
And when you need a new shirt to put over your pyjama top for that next Zoom call, maybe try and find a second-hand one on ebay, or buy from a sustainable clothing company!
I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips and find them useful. If you can think of anything else, do let me know in the comments!