Ten Tips For Reducing Your Home Office Footprint

by Nicola Temple on November 30, 2011

These days, many people have a home office and telecommute part of the week, or do all their work from home.

Though it may seem as though a home office is a more environmentally friendly alternative to commuting to an office, this isn’t always the case.

Depending on a number of factors, including how often you work from home versus how often you go to the office, a home office can actually increase your overall carbon footprint.

Surprised?  Don’t worry, there’s always a way to go greener.

Here are some tips for reducing the carbon footprint of your home office.

If you commute to the office part-time:

Many people don’t work from home the entire time, and find it necessary to still commute into the office on some days. Here are some ways to reduce your carbon footprint if this is your situation:

  • Reduce commuting time: People who only have to commute part time often end up living further from the office and therefore actually commute more overall than someone who commutes more frequently but not as far. Try and reduce your commuting time, whether it’s going in less frequently or moving closer to your office.
  • Take alternative transportation: It’s easy to say that because you only go to the office one day a week, you don’t feel guilty about driving. However, you can significantly reduce your annual emissions by braving public transportation or, if you can, biking. You’ll arrive at work less stressed out and you’ll have done the planet a favor.
  • Don’t duplicate office space: The biggest issue with splitting time between a home office and a workplace office is that there’s the risk of duplicating office space. If you maintain an office or cubicle at work that isn’t used while you work at home, there are resources going into maintaining that as well as your home office, and suddenly your footprint has grown substantially. You can prevent this by having a “floater” desk at the office that can be used by employees that usually work from home but come in one or two days a week.  Set up a schedule around the use of the desk as well as some policies around using a shared workspace that’s respectful to everyone. This could allow the workplace to reduce its overheads by operating in a smaller office and therefore reduce energy use.
home office

Natural light in a home office like this can help reduce energy consumption. CC image courtesy of Jeremy Levine on Flickr.

General tips for making your home office greener no matter how often you’re there:

  • Use Greenpeace’s guide to greener electronics to help you in the purchase of electronics for your home office.
  • Look for eco-friendly options for office furniture. I furnished my entire home office for less than $100 by buying a used desk, chair, printer, and bookshelf!
  • Look for resource materials you might need online or at the library rather than filling your bookshelf with our forests.
  • If you are home alone during working hours, drop the thermostat just as you would if the house was empty during the day and then get a space heater to heat just your office, rather than heating the entire house. This will also discourage that lunchtime television watching as it will simply be too chilly!
  • Choose a space for your home office that has lots of natural light to reduce your energy needs.
  • Recycle your printer cartridges and electronics responsibly.
  • Look for eco-friendly options for office supplies, including 100% recycled paper.

Tax deductions, reduced commuting time, and flexible hours are all wonderful advantages of working from home.  Employers often report higher productivity and greater employee satisfaction among employees that telecommute, not to mention it means they can always get into work regardless of the weather! For the self-employed, like myself, it means low overhead costs, which makes a big impact on the bottom line for your business.

However, even with a home office you have to be conscious of your environmental impact and take steps to reduce your carbon footprint. Hopefully some of these tips will help you do just that. Beyond being green, here are some tips in this video about being organized as well. I hope they recycled those old printers and electronics they got rid of!

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