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For a healthy mind, body and business

How to be more sustainable when you work from home

green workspace: sustainability when working from home
Photographee.eu - stock.adobe.com

Going green is not a new concept. The debate over climate change is huge, varying, and at times, controversial and open to scepticism. What has been dubbed 'The Attenborough Effect' seems to be driving the health of our planet to the forefront of our minds, particularly since the release of his latest film, David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet. So with more of us becoming increasingly eco-conscious, how do we become more sustainable when working from home?

When you work from home with no commuting, it might seem we have the eco box ticked. But there are many other considerations: from the energy you use to the materials you buy, and the practices you adopt on a daily basis. You are now the chief procurement officer and the energy efficiency monitor. You are in charge of reducing your carbon footprint both in and outside of working hours. What was decided at an organisational level, is now devolved to us as individuals. 

The carbon footprint of businesses has not simply reduced, it has merely been dispersed to the thousands of individual homes, and there are no guarantees that those homes are running efficiently.

The full article with our experts is available in The Sustainability Issue of The Homeworker magazine. To read the full article and the whole issue, you can subscribe here.

The Homeworker speaks with sustainability experts

To help us address the issues related to homeworking and how to be more sustainable when working from home, we spoke with three environmental experts:

Helen Waddington: Founder of HKW Risk Management
Health, safety, quality and environmental consultancy specialising in making management systems simple and helping businesses gain ISO certifications.

Kris Atkins: Founder of Ocker Environmental Ltd
Environmental management and compliance consultancy, specialising in engineering, utilities, energy, and waste.

David Trevelyan: Founder of SustainYou
Environmental management consultancy, specialising in information security, using technology to track data to make sustainable changes.

In this article, we will be exploring:

  • Ethical purchasing
  • Electronics and equipment
  • Waste managemnt
  • Data storage
  • Energy supplies
  • Investing and banking

Also check out our interview with Alex Hughes in Volume 5 on growing a sustainable business.

Explore the print issues


Ethical purchasing

When working remotely at home, we can make the most of having more choice available.

We can choose a home-cooked lunch, instead of popping out for a plastic-wrapped sandwich. We can source greener options for our stationery and paper, and we can choose how we furnish and decorate our homes and workspaces in a more sustainable way.

Energy usage is going to be a primary concern over winter with many more of us needing to heat our homes in working hours. Switching to a greener energy tariff could be one solution to reducing carbon emissions. Read here for more ways to cut your energy bill (and stay warm) while working from home.

Looking at what we buy and who we buy from is a good way to start being more sustainable when working from home.

Helen Waddington says: "There is quite a lot that individuals and corporates can do. These include making decisions about what kind of stationery we buy and the food we eat to where we source our energy and internet hosting… I make the conscious decision to buy recycled paper and pens. Everybody can do something like that."

Another way to help lower the carbon footprint of the items you purchase is to source your products locally. This extends to businesses who are looking at building a more resilient supply chain. David Trevelyan notes that some business are more willing to pay a slightly higher price per unit to limit supply chain vulnerabilities and reduce the risk of having items stranded on the other side of the world.

Electronics and equipment

One of the issues with homeworking from an environmental and waste perspective is the amount of duplicate equipment. If somebody works a few days at home and a few days in the office, they are likely to have extra devices. "If we’ve all now got two laptops, four screens, and two phones, that’s a huge amount of electronic stuff that we perhaps didn’t have before," says Waddington.

The added environmental concern with electronics is the WEEE (Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment) waste it generates, which is more difficult and expensive to process

Trevelyan adds, “Unless you’ve got very specific technical needs, why do we need people to have two of everything? These are the kind of decisions businesses are really going to have to take on board if they’re committed to sustainability – and individuals as well.”

As businesses look to cut back on office space, we’re also likely going to have a lot of excess furniture and office items. Businesses could look at ways to share out the surplus to help provide for their remote staff or donate it to charitable causes.

sustainable waste management recycle reuse reduce, sustainable practises at home
Holly Harry - stock.adobe.com

Waste management

With a shift in responsibility, comes a potential shift in attitude. Individuals footing the bills may make much more careful decisions about what they spend money on and whether they need to buy something in the first place.

On a positive note, Kris Atkins believes we’ll be generating a fraction of the waste at home compared to the office. “When people are in offices, all the A4 paper is free issue, all the pens, there’s all the food waste you generate and packaging. When you work from home you print less, you produce far less.”

This article also appears in volume 2 of the print magazine. The Homeworker is dedicated to helping you work from home better.

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