10 Ways to Green Your Home Office

green-home-officeIf you’re a freelancer who works at home full time or most of the time, give yourself a pat on the back. You’re doing the planet a great service. By working at home you’re reducing the use of fuels and limiting the amount of pollution generated by modern means of transportation.

However, there is still a lot more you can do to help protect the environment. In this post, we’ll show you ten ways to make your home office more environmentally friendly and an even better place to work.

Let’s start by reviewing the three Rs of eco-friendliness.

The 3Rs of Eco-friendliness

The three Rs of eco-friendliness are:

  • Reduce — Reduce the number of stuff you use and consume, as well as the amount of trash and pollution you produce.
  • Reuse — Reuse whatever you can before tossing it out.
  • Recycle — Participate in your city’s recycling program by segregating your garbage, or further reduce your garbage by recycling things instead of throwing them away.

Now that we’ve reviewed the basic eco-friendly concepts let’s move on to specific tips to help you make your office green. Here are the ten specific ways you can have a greener home office:

1. Use low VOC paint.

Volatile organic compounds (VOC) are chemicals that cause paint and other materials to have a strong, migraine-inducing odor. However, the smells are only part of the problem. These vapors can also have negative effects on our health, especially when you’re exposed indoors. So make sure to use low- or no-VOC paints for your home office.

2. Rest your feet on natural flooring.

Instead of a carpet, which requires a lot of energy and effort to keep clean, why not use natural tile, wood (more on sustainable wood below), or plain paint on your flooring. If you’re using rugs, look for those made of natural materials, like hemp or bamboo.

3. Choose “green” lighting.

Use natural light from a window, as much as possible. And, replace all your bulbs with CFL bulbs. Compact fluorescent lights (CFL) use up less energy, last longer, and produce less pollution than incandescent bulbs. They also give a warm, pleasant light.

4. Make sure your office furniture is eco-friendly.

For home office furniture, be creative and shop in thrift stores and garage sales for reusable or recyclable furniture. If you must buy something new, make sure it’s sustainable furniture — made from fast-growing woods, upholstered with organic fabrics, finished with non-toxic chemicals and paints, and locally made. Look for furniture made with wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

5. Be wise with paper.

Home offices use a lot of paper. Reduce the impact of your paper use by buying paper made with 100 percent post-consumer waste, chlorine-free, and FSC certified. That said, use paper only when you need it, and do use both sides of each sheet. By the way, you can even find paper that isn’t made from trees. You may enjoy this list of green and beautiful stationery.

Whichever type of paper you choose, make sure to put it in the recycling bin when you do dispose of it.

6. Be environment-conscious when you print.

Printer manufacturers are becoming eco-conscious as well. For example, you’ll find specific printers from HP, Dell and Samsung that claim to be eco-friendly. In general, you want a printer that’s Energy Star compliant, has a power save mode, and ink save mode. If your printer does duplex printing, then reusing sheets of paper becomes so much easier.

Refill ink cartridges rather than buying new ones. Or, dispose of your printer cartridges through companies that recycle them, such as Waste Farmers. Funding Factory buys used printer cartridges and raises money for non-profits and schools. Ewaste recycles printers and other computer equipment.

7. Be stingy… with energy.

Challenge yourself to keep reducing your electricity bill. This is good for the earth — and your wallet. Use solar-powered gadgets. Invest in smart power strips, which detect when a piece of equipment is not in use and cut power to it automatically. Otherwise, your office equipment keeps sucking up electricity even when you’re not using it.

8. Keep your air clean, fresh, and chemical free.

Add some green to your office, literally, by bringing some plants indoors. Plants absorb toxins in the air and look pretty, to boot. Use a programmable thermostat, set on a low temperature, to regulate your use of the heater in winter. Another winter tip: humidify your air naturally by hanging wet laundry indoors. In warmer months, open your windows and use an electric fan for as long as you can bear it before switching on the air conditioner.

9. Clean your home office naturally.

Cleaning supplies can also bring plenty of VOCs and other harmful toxins into your home office. Fortunately,  green cleaning supplies are becoming fashionable and increasingly available. Look for cleaning supplies that don’t contain chlorine and other bleaches and are bio-degradable. Or, learn how to use nature’s cleaners: vinegar, water, baking soda, and borax.

10. If you must leave the house…

It’s inevitable; you’ll have to leave the house sometime. If so, consider walking, biking or taking the bus or subway to your destination instead of automatically reaching for your car keys. And, if a car is in order, find somebody who can carpool with you.

How Green Is Your Home Office?

Going green is a gradual process. If you begin taking baby steps to green your home office now, you’ll soon find yourself wanting to green your entire home and your whole lifestyle. If you’d like to learn more about going green, visit our sister blog, EcoSimply.com.

In the meantime, do tell: how green is your home office?

Photo by JeffWilcox

Comments

  1. says

    Great article…

    One thing to make sure you go green is electricity….
    We tend to have outlets full of cords.. why not try this… use one power cord, and plug in all of your cords into that.

    Every night or whenever you leave, just shut off the power bar… It will save loads of electricity.

  2. says

    Thanks for posting such an achievable, comprehensive list, Lexi. For years, I didn’t own a car and used a car-sharing program like Zipcar. Even though I have a vehicle now, I still plan and group my errands to be fuel- and energy-efficient. I also always bring my own reusable bag when I have to purchase office supplies.

  3. says

    Great article with wonderful insight!
    In my office I have all recycled furniture and furniture in it’s “second life”. While I only have one plant due to a puppy who likes to chew on plants, I burn soy candles and candles that clear the air instead of polluting it.

    Another great tip is to move to a sunny place in your house when you get cold instead of running for the thermostat. I love this in the Winter!

    And of course, I turn off those power cords and recycle!

  4. says

    I believe my home office is quite green. I work at one corner in my living room. I just sit at a carpet (which is cleaned frequently with my own hands) and have my laptop on a small desk. No chair. No complicated power socket. No air conditioner; only an opened door, so that fresh air comes in to the room, and big windows that reflect sufficient light from the sun.

  5. says

    “CFL lights give out a warm light” – maybe they are different in Australia – here they changed the law to outlaw the normal lightbulbs – overnight buying a light bulb went from less than A$1 to over A$7 and light is awful – and much worse for doing fine work!

  6. Cheries Dutton says

    We’ve just moved into a new home & as i work from home i wanted to repaint our home using Eco Paint as i would be spending a large portion of my life surrounded by it… I found a great directory offering eco products…

  7. says

    Hello Lexi! What a really nice article you have on for the Green!

    I would like to ask your permission to featured your article in our new Green Online Campaign at http://www.fightforfuture.org.my

    We are going to launch the site very soon. We are looking for more writers to write for us :)

    Thanks.

    {hy} – hasrimy.com

  8. danny says

    yeah, it would be nice to do all those things. But it’s worthless if only you and me are doing it. We all need to be doing this things to make a difference, which I doubt it will happen

  9. says

    Anything that each person can do to help “save the planet” is a good thing in my book. I don’t work from home but I do take the bus in every day and then car share on the way back. Recycling is important to me also, in fact in our county everyone has to recycle and they do wheelie bin collections every second week for recycling.

    Had never thought about the negative impact of carpets on the environment, before!

  10. says

    @Diar A – Your work environment sounds peaceful and relaxing. Wish it were always warm enough here to leave the windows and doors open.

    @Lis Sowerbutts – Sorry to hear that! But CFL bulbs last longer, so they shouldn’t be more expensive in the long run.

    @Hasrimy – Please contact Freelance Folder about reusing this article.

    @danny – I disagree. Every little bit you and I do helps. Change begins with individual action. That means you and me.

    Thanks for everybody’s comments. Looking forward to more of your thoughts.

    Lexi

  11. says

    I was recently asked to produce an “Environmental Policy Statement” for my business as part of a public sector proposal. I very much resented this process. I am one-woman working from home in an online service business, but I was being asked to “bureaucratize” myself as if I was a chemical-belching factory. The last time I checked, web designers don’t produce a lot of toxic sludge or harmful emissions. It’s wrong for bureaucracies to lump ALL businesses into the same category as potential environmental villiains. And the only thing worse than having to waste your time writing a “Policy Statement” for your home business is to be lectured by some well-paid civil servant about cutting down car trips (I don’t have a car), not printing every email (which I’ve never done), and turning down the thermostat (we don’t have central heating). Said bureaucrat, of course, drives a BMW and works in an office where they keep the lights on 24/7.

    A little environmental common sense is always good, but not as a box-ticking exercise. Small businesses have enough on their plates these days without having to fill out more paperwork. And lest anyone think I’m some sort of reactionary, one of my current clients is my country’s national Green Party.

  12. says

    Most ideas are indeed common-sense, but I do find some of the tips to be far-fetched, at least in my case. Since I have a web design firm at home, it’s clear my consumption of gas is very small, I don’t print too much stuff (I don’t print anything right noe to be honest, even if I do have a working printer on my desk).

    I can’t see why I’d give the advantage of my own car to use public transportation or even “share”. My time is very pretious. If I have to go in the city, then I need to solve some stuff “stat”. I can’t afford wasting time waiting for buses (even with a perfect public transportation system you cannot depend on the vehicles as you can on your own car), having to take on weird roots to be able to get “as close” to my destination as possible. Not to mention carrying a laptop, cards and money is not making you too “relaxed” when you have to share space with people on god knows what suburb line.

    So, since I have my own car and am still paying for it for 2 more years, I like to use it. When I made some calculations on how much an ‘all line’ transportation “card” would cost me for 1 month compared to what I pay for gas, I realized using my own car actually means saving money. It’s a brand new one, top notch, created based on the latest environment specifications. I doubt it pollutes as much as some of the buses we have in my city :D

    Anyway .. the entire aricle is inspiring. Let’s hope we each take some ideas into account

  13. says

    There are some great tips here that we should all be taking up, whether we are eco conscious or not! The points about paper and print are extremely important as it is so easy just to waste piles and piles of paper and not think anything of it. Modern printers and ink cartridges can reduce you ink and paper usage considerably, and simple changes such as printing on both sides of the paper can really make a difference.

    Smart strips appear to be a great way to reduce energy bills. Having anything that automatically detects power hungry devices and switches them off when not in use is a fantastic step forward.

    Hopefully we’ll see businesses as well as freelancers taking up these steps soon, as if this becomes universally accepted we will really start to see a difference.

  14. says

    And combination of 7th and 10th tip – before leave a house turn off the computer. I must admit I turn defragmenter of some antivirus scanning when I go out but scan last about an hour and I’m not at home for several hours. Totally unnecessary using electricity.

  15. Mary says

    Two more tips about paper:

    1) Make friends with people in businesses close by who use paper for non-confidential products that only use one side. For instance, I have a friend in a car showroom – they print dozens of car lists every month that are given out freely to customers (so not at all confidential), and that are printed on only one side. Each month, my friend collects all the unused car lists, and instead of dumping them in the recycling bin, which costs the company money, she gives them to me, and I use the blank side for printing. Once they’ve passed their useful life, I shred them and put them in my recycling bin.

    2) As a follow-up to this one, I’m able to use much more of this once-used paper by not returning work on paper. If I do need to print off work (for instance, proofs), I mark up on paper, scan the marked-up pages, and send the work off as a TIFF/PDF file. Thus, it doesn’t matter what’s on the other side of the page, as no-one else is going to see it. It also saves money in stamps and envelopes, and saves time too.

  16. says

    what I noticed about CFL lights is they burn out like regular incandescent ones. Maybe its just my bad luck but I’m trying to save money using CFL but then I’m not sure if the energy savings is worth it when I have to buy new ones so frequently.

  17. says

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  18. says

    10 Ways to Green Your Home Office | FreelanceFolder I was recommended this blog by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about my trouble. You’re wonderful! Thanks! your article about 10 Ways to Green Your Home Office | FreelanceFolderBest Regards Lawrence

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