By Lena Milton
As the working world shifts its setting from large corporate buildings to at-home offices, those of us who work from home can look for new ways of improving our in-home sustainability. By avoiding long commutes, we’re already significantly lowering our environmental impacts, but small steps in our offices can further improve our efforts to “work green.”
This article looks at four ways we can build a sustainable home office.
One of the biggest and easiest things we can do to reduce our carbon impact is to turn off the lights. Our at-home offices usually need a lot of energy for our computers, phones, and other electronics, so we can take big steps in our sustainability by reducing the need for light.
Take advantage of natural light sources in your home by setting up your office space in a south-facing room, or a room with several windows. This is a small step in sustainability, but by doing so you can significantly reduce the lighting (and thus energy) needed for office activities in the long run.
When many of us first set up our home offices, we did so with the intent of short-term accommodations. However, two years since the start of the pandemic, this has become a permanent situation for millions of people. Investing in durable, long-term equipment is a good way to improve our home offices’ sustainability. Furniture can have a substantial impact on the environment due to unsustainably harvested lumber, heavy use of plastics, and the use of poor-quality materials that quickly need to be replaced. Investing in high-quality office furniture can significantly reduce the need to throw out and replace old furniture. Even better, buy second-hand or antique furniture to further reduce the impact of purchasing new products.
Sustainable equipment even extends to your office supplies. If possible, make sure your electronics are sustainably sourced and built to last. The chemicals that make up our electronics can be hazardous to human health and the environment when our tech goes to the landfill, so opt for products that are up-to-date on safety and environmental precautions. Similarly, look for brands that use ethical and environmental audits to ensure the company’s environmental and social impacts are being responsibly addressed.
Our office equipment is not always within our control, but by choosing sustainable equipment whenever possible, we can drastically reduce the environmental impacts of our offices.
Reducing the amount of energy we use can have big impacts on our personal carbon footprints. By working from home, many of us significantly increase the amount of electricity we consume. Energy efficiency in our offices can not only help reduce our environmental impacts, but save money on electricity bills.
As well as using energy efficient and sustainable equipment, switch to LED lights, which use an average of 75% less energy than conventional light bulbs, and last up to 25 times longer.
Many of us who work from home have amassed a large number of electronics in our offices, including printers, phones, shredders, and scanners. Make sure these are turned off or idle when not in use and are not needlessly consuming energy.
Most computers now have energy-saving features, which can prevent devices from running and consuming high amounts of energy unnecessarily. Take advantage of these features, and if possible, switch your desktop computer to a laptop or tablet, as these consume significantly less energy.
While almost everything is done online nowadays, our municipal waste still has major impacts on the environment, with almost 300 million tons sent to landfills every year in the United States. The majority of this waste consists of paper and cardboard, foods, and plastics.
Working from home, we can generate high amounts of paper waste from sticky notes, documents, and cardboard packaging. To reduce waste from your home office, stick to digital as much as possible, and recycle everything else. Unfortunately, only about 60% of the paper waste we send to recycling centers is fully recycled, so limiting your paper usage is key.
By working from home, we’re already significantly reducing our environmental impacts, but our efforts can still continue. Taking these small steps to improve our sustainability can add up over time and make big differences in the long run.
About the Author
Lena Milton is a freelance writer covering sustainability, health and environmental science. She writes to help consumers understand the environmental and ethical challenges in everyday life so we can find viable solutions for both.