Picture this. It’s 2040 and the local government has issued a mandate to close all the schools and universities for a month. The air pollution level has increased drastically, with mandatory air purifiers installed everywhere, even at your home.
The children are sitting on the floor asking for more sheets of paper to draw on. You reply with a curt no because the basic necessities that were abundant before (paper, stationery, single-use items) are either no longer available or are so scarce they are unaffordable.
Scary, isn’t it?
What if I tell you parts of this is a reality in some places. Schools close for days on end in places like Bangkok, Delhi, Indonesia due to the pollution crisis.
Did you know that approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper is thrown away every year, just in the U.S.?
We have a responsibility towards the environment, now more so than ever. We need to take steps to save our planet from the impending global warming, climate and environmental crises.
In a revolutionary move to promote a sustainable environment, Bank of America conserved 200,000 trees a year by recycling 30,000 tons of paper. There’s an extended list of companies like BOA that are fulfilling their responsibilities towards the planet in exemplary ways.
If you are someone like me who works from home, you too can contribute to the green movement (and also save some bucks in the process).
Below are six simple ways that you can get started;
Photo by Stock Photography on Unsplash
1. Instil energy-saving habits
Switched off your computer at night, thinking your job was done?
Well, not exactly.
A study by Duke Energy states that electric power is consumed by many devices when they are switched off but are still plugged in, this can account for as much as 20% of your electricity bill.
You could either unplug those devices when they’re not in use or make use of a smart power strip.
A smart power strip detects when a device is not in use and cuts off the power automatically. You could even set this strip to cut off power to everything on your desk when you switch off your laptop.
Many of your electronic devices come with an eco mode. When you don’t need the device to be working at peak capacity, enable this mode to conserve energy.
If you’re going to take a break, put your laptop on sleep mode.
Yet another habit we can all adopt is to make use of natural light that comes in during the day. It not only saves you money but also makes you more productive and alert.
But what if your home office doesn’t have a source of natural light? Worry not. You could replace incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs.
Better yet, you could go to your local cafe to work in the daytime. That’s what I do. My reason being, it gets very hot during the afternoons at my place. So, instead of turning on the air conditioner, I get away from home during that time of the day.
Similarly, you could open the window, put on a jumper or use an environmentally friendly solution that works for just the room you are working in.
2. Adopt the 5 R’s (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle)
According to World Bank Researchers, the world generates at least 3.5 million tonnes of solid waste a day, which is 10 times the amount generated a century ago.
Landfills and dumps are getting filled up, with many receiving close to 10,000 tons of waste every day.
In light of this, a growing number of people across the world are taking part in a zero-waste movement.
One of them is Cincinnati’s Rachel Felous who managed to cut down her waste to 1 bag a year. Considering that up to 80% of household waste is organic matter, she stores all such organic waste in the freezer. At the end of every month, she takes this waste to a local farmer for composting.
While we may not be able to minimize our waste to one bag a year, let’s see how we can adopt the 5 R’s to create an environmentally friendly home office;
Refuse: Say no to products that damage the environment. Refuse to print invoices if you could send them digitally. Every time you think about purchasing something new, give yourself a day to think, “Will I be using this item for a long time? If not, is it worth buying it?”
Reduce: Instead of writing down things on paper, reduce paper usage and type things out on your laptop or phone. Buy items you need in bulk to reduce the number of trips to the grocery store. The fewer items you demand, the less strain on the environment.
Reuse: Instead of using disposable items, carry a mug for your coffee, pack your lunch in a reusable lunch box and reuse papers that are lying around in the house.
Repurpose: Instead of buying new furniture, you could change things around your home office to give it a new look. Here are some creative ways to get started. Eliminate the use of single-use plastic bags, make sure you repurpose reusable plastic bags and never throw that bag away.
Recycle: Instead of throwing away things, recycle or donate them. Recycling is not just for garbage, paper and bottles. There are a number of charitable organizations like The Salvation Army and Goodwill that accept furniture, books, clothing, etc.
Infographic by National Ocean Service
3. Invest in eco-friendly furniture and office supplies
Just yesterday, I was at a friend’s place who works from home too. Instead of stacking her room with cupboards for storage, she did something creative.
She found some salvaged wood panels and put these up on her wall. Not only did she save floor space, she also saved a lot of raw materials that go into making a cupboard or a similar kind of storage space. (bonus: it gave her office a unique and rustic look too)
If doing so is not possible, don’t worry. We have two more ways for you to help keep your office beautiful and green.
One way is to buy used furniture. Not only does it save you a lot of money but also ensures you don’t add to the already burdened landfill.
If you can’t get your hands on used furniture, try to buy furniture made from eco-friendly materials. This guide by Independent names such materials and the places from where they should be sourced.
Here is a list of 10 companies that provide exceptional eco-friendly furniture. And while you’re at it, look out for green office supplies like recycled paper, pencils made from sustainable wood, refillable pens and markers, etc.
If you’re buying furniture to give your home office a new look, consider painting as an alternative. Instead of resorting to regular paint brands, look out for eco-friendly options.
Regular paint brands often contain harmful pigments, toxic metals and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). VOCs that get mixed with air are known to cause headaches, dizziness, visual and respiratory impairment and even memory loss.
A study by the EPA states the effects of VOCs are 2-5 times higher indoors than outdoors and it could skyrocket to 1000 times during a paint stripping project.
Here’s a guide for which eco-friendly paints you should be using.
4. Greenify your office
Looking at those green plants automatically makes you feel a little relaxed, doesn’t it?
But wait, there are a lot of other benefits too.
A research conducted by NASA reveals that indoor plants reduce up to 87% of air pollutants within 24 hours.
Some of them are Peace Lilies, Chinese Evergreens and English Ivies. They are known to improve the overall air quality and absorb harmful pollutants such as Carbon Monoxide, Formaldehyde, Trichloroethylene and Benzene (bonus: these plants need very little maintenance)
If you live in hot environments, indoor plants like Ficus Trees, Snake Plants, Aloe Vera and Golden Pothos help to cool the room. The reason is that they lose water during transpiration. This phenomenon can reduce air temperatures in offices by 10 degrees, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In an analysis of 10 UK studies, it was found that greenery had a positive effect on mood and was even shown to increase self-esteem, especially among young people.
Apart from all these benefits, studies suggest that staying among greenery increases productivity and cognition levels, reduces sick days and enhances sleep quality.
If you’re confused about which will be the ideal plant for your home office, hop on to this article to find out.
Photo by Bench Accounting on Unsplash
5. Work smart
There are a multitude of ways in which we can work productively and also help save the environment.
Just take a couple of hours away from your work schedule, preferably on the weekend when you aren’t pressured from work, to think about your day-to-day activities and your working environment.
What activities could you eliminate? Which habits could you adopt?
In one such session, I came up with the following;
Instead of buying plastic water bottles, I could keep a metal reusable water bottle on hand. It would help me stay hydrated without having to spend extra bucks.
Whenever I spilled coffee on my work desk, I reached out for a box of tissue papers. Instead, I could use a cloth or handkerchief. (if you have some old clothes lying around, you could cut them up into rags to use around the house)
I use Focus Booster to work in sprints. In the five-minute breaks, instead of scrolling through Facebook, I could get my butt off the chair and water the plants, try to repair something that has broken or just take a walk.
I could put my phone on aeroplane mode and place it away from me when I am working. Research states that even if cellphones are switched off, its mere presence could distract you. So, keep those phones away from your site and in rest mode. You not only save the phone’s battery from draining quickly, you learn to be more focused on work.
I have a habit to reach out for food every hour or so. So, instead of giving in to packaged foods, I could keep a glass jar filled with dried fruits on my desk.
I could follow a meal plan so that I don’t waste too much time on trivial decisions and also don’t waste food and just buy what I need from the local farmers market.
Just take some time out to do this exercise and you’ll find out many ways to lower your consumption and switch to better habits.
6. Start a conversation
What would motivate you more - someone just talking about climate change or someone showing you little ways in which you could join the green movement?
The latter one, right?
Promote your environmental values and the little things you’re doing in such a manner that it’ll motivate others to join you.
You could start a conversation with like-minded people, get involved in local committees and projects on forums and websites like Care2 and Change.org.
There’s an app called Sustainable Development Goals wherein you can see what actions other people are taking to achieve goals related to climate change, poverty and inequality. You can even take part in events happening around you or create an event and invite others to join.
So, what are you waiting for?
Let us know what changes you have made or are in the process of making for your home office. Or, share this post with a picture of your sustainable home office and tag us on Instagram!