In the last few years, the number of people working from home has skyrocketed.
With a combination of technological advancements, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and growing demand for more flexible working habits, it’s understood that more than 40% of UK employees currently work from home at least once a week.
And while working remotely has undoubtedly had positive effects on the environment, such as lower carbon emissions and reduced commuting, it has also presented new challenges for the environment, given the rise in electronic usage and the unprecedented demand for home delivery services, to name just a couple.
As more and more companies prioritise achieving carbon neutrality and improving the sustainability of collective working spaces, it’s become increasingly important to also focus on how we promote greener ways of working from home.
What is sustainable working?
Sustainable working refers to the practices and policies adopted in work that considers environmental, social, and economic sustainability. This means that work is done in a way that minimises negative impacts on the environment, supports social well-being, and contributes to long-term economic viability.
In this blog, we’ve put together some simple tips that everybody can easily implement into their daily routine to support sustainable work from home.
How to create a sustainable working environment from home
Working from home means producing and disposing of waste differently. We may find we’re generating more waste in our homes than in the workplace, due to things like increased food consumption or lack of recycling infrastructure.
However, with over 40% of greenhouse gas emissions derived from the manufacturing or disposal of goods, it’s essential we are understanding how we can reduce and manage our waste.
The four Rs of Waste Management:
These are the pillars for managing your waste. Once you instil these into your everyday practices, you can significantly mitigate your impact.
You can apply them to your daily work habits in a number of ways. For example:
Say goodbye to single-use items. In the office, it’s easy to depend on single-use packaging and plastics. But at home, we can more easily control this by avoiding single-use packaging altogether and reusing kitchen items.
Consider using digital tools like MarkUp or the group review feature in Adobe Acrobat Reader when providing feedback on documents, rather than printing off pages and pages to physically jot down your comments.
As well as this being a better choice for the environment, it is also much more collaborative and user-friendly when working remotely.
Buy used and donate. Circular shopping models are becoming increasingly popular, as awareness of waste prevention continues to grow.
These models enable goods to stay in circulation for significantly longer, reducing waste. Whether it’s a new office chair you require, or you need to get rid of an old printer, consider whether they can be bought second-hand or donated.
Websites such as Freecycle can help you donate, sell and source preloved items.
Maintain and repair products. Investment in high-quality products can prevent the overconsumption of lower-quality items. Research and consider the longevity of the products you are purchasing.
Similarly, opting to repair instead of replacing will reduce the waste you are generating.
As well as diverting waste from landfill, recycling saves huge amounts of energy. Recycling one aluminium can is 95% more energy efficient than producing a new one.
Before you dispose of something, ask yourself if it can be recycled. Household items like electronic devices, fabrics, packaging, and green waste can all usually be recycled.
If you’re unsure about recycling in your local area, then you can find out what you can recycle and how by visiting GOV.UK and entering your postcode.
Diverting waste from landfill is becoming a priority for businesses and individuals alike.
Many businesses now making the impressive commitment to become ‘Zero to landfill’. This is achieved by recovering waste that cannot be reduced, reused, or recycled, and instead transforming it into energy through processes such as combustion.
The great news is, many UK councils will recover residential waste; however, you can confirm this through their website. You can also seek to use a registered private waste carrier if your council is not currently recovering waste.
We would recommend always using a waste carrier with a ‘Zero to landfill’ policy.
Recycle old devices
When it’s time to upgrade or replace electronic devices, make sure to recycle them properly.
Whilst you may not be throwing away an old electrical item every day, they are by far the most toxic component of household waste streams. Many electronics contain toxic materials that can harm the environment, so it’s important to dispose of them responsibly.
As mentioned before, you can find out exactly how to do this in your local area by visiting GOV.UK.
Power down and unplug equipment
Turning off your computer, printer, and other electronic devices when you’re not using them, can save a significant amount of energy. Even when in standby mode, devices can still consume power, so it’s best to turn them off completely.
Apply this rule to all items around the home, not just your work equipment. For example, your TV, kettle, and phone charger can all be switched off at the mains when not in use, to help conserve energy.
Chargers for laptops, phones, and other electronic devices can still use energy even when they’re not charging anything, so make sure to switch them off at the mains and unplug them when they are not in use.
Use power-saving settings
Set your computer to sleep or hibernate when you’re away from your desk for short periods of time, and opt for ‘battery saver’ mode on your electronic devices to help reduce energy consumption, rather than charging your device throughout the day as you work.
Adjusting the brightness on your monitor to a lower level, and using features like ‘night’ or ‘dark mode’ – which can be found on most modern-day devices – not only reduces the blue light emitted by your screen and minimises energy usage. This can also prevent eye strain and improve your sleep quality.
Opt for energy-efficient devices
When it comes to purchasing new electronic devices, opt for those that are TCO or Energy Star certified. These are kinder to the environment and will consume less energy, whilst helping you save money on energy bills at home.
Use energy-efficient lighting
If possible, try and make the most of natural lighting when illuminating your workspace throughout the day. Working in a room full of natural light and ventilation is also great for your well-being.
You might also want to consider switching your lightbulbs to energy-efficient LED bulbs, which will consume less energy and last much longer. And remember to switch off lights when they’re not needed.
Adjust your thermostat
Lowering the temperature in your home by just a few degrees can significantly reduce your energy consumption and save you money on your heating bills.
Use a timer or install a digital thermostat, such as Nest, to regulate the temperature of your home and keep track of how much you’re expending.
Insulation is key in winter months, when it comes to keeping warm and conserving household energy.
There are some simple steps you can take to affordably achieve this, such as identifying and sealing up any air leaks or making use of draught excluders. For more advice, take a look at GOV.UK for home improvements that could make your home cheaper to heat.
Reduce water usage
Small actions such as turning off the tap whilst brushing your teeth, taking shorter showers, and reusing household water when watering plants are all very simple steps to take but can make a big difference to your water usage.
Consider investing in water-efficient appliances and fixtures that can be easily installed within the household, such as water-saving shower heads, low-flow high-efficiency faucets, and dual flush toilet conversions, to make an even bigger difference.
When purchasing groceries, think and shop local. Opt for seasonal produce as much as possible. This will help to reduce the carbon footprint associated with the long-distance transportation of food.
Buy ethically sourced food, and look out for products certified as Fairtrade or B Corp. These certifications ensure that those farming your food are being treated and paid fairly, whilst also ensuring sustainable agricultural processes are being adopted.
Keep it homemade
Supermarket meal deals can be tempting on a busy day, but did you know a shop-bought sandwich emits up to three times more carbon equivalent than its homemade counterparts?
It’s much more sustainable and often cheaper (and let’s face it, tastier!) to make your sandwich from scratch.
Don’t overfill the kettle
The kettle can be one of the costliest household appliances. Be careful not to overfill it, and instead only boil the water you actually need.
If you like your regular tea breaks, it may be worthwhile purchasing a Thermos to conserve your hot water and cut down on your kettle use through the day – whilst still having your hot drinks on tap!
Grow your own food
Planting and growing your own herbs and vegetables could be a great and enjoyable way to lower your reliance on store-bought produce and reduce your carbon footprint. Eating fresh and homegrown produce also has plenty of nutritional benefits for your health.
So there you have it, sustainability tips when working from home
By taking these small and simple steps onboard, you can make a significant difference to your environmental impact and create a more sustainable working environment from home. We hope that you found this post useful. If you have any further sustainability tips of your own, we’d love to hear them in the comments below!
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