If 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