Now that our “campus” is wherever you are, we want to share some ideas for how you can bring sustainability into your home office. Whether your office is a dedicated room, a kitchen table shared with your family, or wherever you can find a quiet space, we have some tips for greening your space and your day.
Can’t start the day without a cup of coffee or tea? Make sure you’re not generating unnecessary waste. Several low-waste options include brewing loose leaf tea or using a French press or drip coffee pot. If you'd rather stick with using bagged tea, make sure that the bag isn’t made of plastic (which can leach into your drink!). Finally, if you typically use single-use, disposable Keurig cups, we recommend switching to reusable capsules.
Try setting up your work area near a window. Having access to natural light can increase your productivity and brighten your mood. Plus, using natural light instead of artificial lights and lamps can save energy and money on your electric bill.
Indoor air can be 2 - 5 times dirtier than the air outside of your home. Open a window to let some fresh air circulate. Remember to replace your HVAC filters regularly, ideally with ones that have high MERV ratings. If you have allergies, live near a busy street, or experience poor air quality where you live, consider purchasing an air purifier. Look for models with True High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters and a high Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR).
Becoming a planet parent is a great way to green your home, literally and figuratively. Common houseplants might help filter indoor air, and like natural light, studies have also shown that plants can improve mood and concentration.
Making lunch at home can save you money and greenhouse gas emissions. Consider this: dairy products and meat have large environmental footprints, while many food items in your local grocery store may have been shipped from far away farms and factories. Can you purchase locally grown and produced food instead (ex: from a farmers’ market)? Can you try eating meals without meat at least one day per week?
Composting uneaten food prevents food waste from ending up in our landfills and producing greenhouse gas emissions. You can purchase an inexpensive indoor compost bin or make your own backyard bin. If you do not have a yard, find out if your community or neighborhood in DC has a compost drop-off and consider freezing your scraps in the meantime.
Many common household cleaning products contain harmful chemicals that can negatively impact indoor air quality. Instead, use green cleaning products that are certified by third party organizations like EPA Safer Choice or Green Seal. Only use harsher disinfectants when and where you really need to and avoid aerosol sprays. You can also make your own green cleaning products using simple, non-toxic ingredients like baking soda and vinegar.
Even if you’re at home during the day, you can still employ energy-saving techniques for heating and cooling. Take advantage of mild days during the fall and winter to turn down your heat, and mild days during the spring and summer to turn down your air conditioner. The Department of Energy estimates savings of about 1 percent for each degree of thermostat adjustment per 8 hours.
If you have a home printer, ask yourself these questions before using it: Can this document be saved and shared electronically? Do I really need to print it out? If yes, can it be printed double-sided? And then next time you need to purchase paper, make sure it’s made of recycled content. (Remember: misprints make great scratch paper!)
Take inventory of your home office supplies so that you know what you already own. Use and reuse what you can. Then, reduce what you purchase going forward. Before purchasing anything new, consider whether or not you really need it. If you really do need additional furniture or supplies, consider purchasing secondhand or select items that are refillable, reusable, or made from rapidly renewable materials like bamboo.
Set your computer to go into power-saving or sleep mode if unused for 10 minutes. Prevent vampire power by unplugging any unused electronics. Better yet, plug your desktop electronics into a power strip that can be clicked off when you’re done using them for the day.