10 tips to create a planet-friendly home office
Working from home and loving it? Why not take a few steps to make your home office the sustainable sanctuary we all need?
Remote working means fewer traffic jams, fuel usage and pollutants in the air, so it may be more sustainable than working in the office - at least in the summer.
Whilst your employer’s headquarters keep off the heating and air conditioning, you may be left feeling like the carbon footprint of your company has been transferred to your home. But it’s easy to set-up your eco-friendly office with a few tips and tricks!
Let’s start easy with 5 tips for beginners…
1) Take advantage of natural light
Exposure to sunlight improves attention, performance and mood. Position your desk near a window and make use of natural light during the day. At night, turn on LED or other energy-efficient light bulbs. Try your favourite desk light where it’s needed rather than multiple ceiling lights for an entire room.
2) Unplug your devices when you are not using them
Did you know that many plugged-in devices continue to draw power when they are switched off? This type of usage is called ‘vampire power’! Too lazy to unplug all your appliances? Consider using a smart power strip; it cuts off power automatically when a device is not in use. In addition, if you’re going to take a break longer than 20 minutes, don’t forget to put your laptop on sleep mode. In most devices it’s possible to set an automatic sleep mode after some minutes of inactivity. Plus, most devices have “eco modes” to reduce energy waste. Have you put them on yet?
3) Reduce paper usage and search for recycled stationery
Producing recycled paper causes 74% less pollution than making virgin paper. In addition, recycling involves about 40% less energy consumption, less water use and generates fewer emissions than producing not-recycled paper - plus, more forests saved! Try to only buy recycled paper and use it as little as you can! To save on paper, take notes on your laptop or smartphone. Try recycled pens and recyclable ink as well. Always print both sides and in grey scale, to limit ink and paper waste… and did you know, in many places it’s super easy to recycle your print cartridges/toner too!
4) Decor with plants
Plants are great allies for productivity and a good mood. Research has shown that plants in the office increased workplace satisfaction, self-reported concentration and perceived air quality. Some studies showed that plants reduce pollutants in the air - although there is no evidence this will be beneficial for household air quality. Add as many plants as you like to your home office to green-up your day.
5) Adapt to the temperature, don’t turn up/down the thermostat
Turning down your main thermostat to 18° will cut your heating bills straight away, and you should not feel much difference. Wear more layers if you start feeling cold, or place a hot water bottle or heating pad on your lap and you’ll instantly feel the difference. You can also wear a blanket, no-one but your housemates will see you dressed like a piece of sushi for work! Delaying the start of heating from October to November can be a great tip as well.
When it’s hot, instead, refresh the room by opening windows early in the morning or whenever it’s cool, rather than keeping them closed; the air will stay fresh! In addition, you can buy a table fan that reduces perceived skin temperature by a few degrees. It really makes a difference - running a desk fan for an hour will use on average 60 Watts electricity, whereas a medium window air conditioning unit can use on average 900 Watts per hour.
… continue on with 5 intermediate tips!
1) Benchmark energy usage in the house
Understanding how your home operates in terms of energy and water use is the first step to make effective improvements. Look at your current energy usage and suppliers and have a think about what savings can be made. Then set your targets for consumption and decide how best to fulfil them!
2) Invest in technology to reduce your home’s energy usage
It’s been calculated that about 10-15% of household energy usage in the UK could be saved with better energy management. There are some great tools you can use to help you understand your electricity usage better... It could be useful investing in a smart thermostat that will learn your temperature preferences and reproduce them automatically over time. As an alternative, you could consider warming only the most attended rooms with an energy efficient individual heater rather than the whole house (or, simply switching on radiators where you need them). To save on lights, it could be useful to install a motion-sensor tool for your home’s less used rooms.
3) Use eco-friendly paints
Paints which do not impact the environment are water-based and mostly made with natural materials. They are also low in toxic chemicals (Volatile Organic Compounds or VOC), which can have a harmful effect on our bodies. Major brands are offering more and more eco-friendly options in a wide range of colours and finishes. Look for your favourite eco paint if you need to refresh your home workspace.
4) Buy second hand furniture or sustainable furniture
Whilst wood is renewable, trees do take years to grow. Furthermore, not all wood is created equal! Check-out bamboo - a good substitute for some of the more traditional wood materials: it grows faster than most trees and is also great for flooring, as it’s cost-efficient and durable.
Recycled furniture also helps to reduce the need for wood and prevents waste. It’s not only flea-markets today; there are a number of apps which will help you find the perfect second-hand piece for your workplace. Social media groups for local communities can also be quite active on this front. A quick search should help you find what you are looking for in your specific part of the world.
5) Make sure that your windows are as energy efficient as possible
You could save about 18% of the heat produced in your house by taking care of your windows! Consider double or triple glazing your windows if it's appropriate, or apply window treatments to prevent heat escaping. There are so many innovations in the housing sector to check-out!
We hope that these simple tips will help you optimise your own eco-office-sanctuary at home. If you plan to continue working from home for the next few months, implementing even a few of these suggestions can make a real difference - not only for your wellbeing, but for our planet too!
Next year at Capture, we are planning to help users include home energy tracking in the app, along with food and mobility-based emissions... We’d love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to write us via twitter or instagram @thecaptureapp, or say hi via email at firstname.lastname@example.org