Four ways you’re already saving the planet by working flexibly, and three more to try!

We look at the environmental benefits of working from home, and three tips to become even more eco-friendly.

23rd Apr 2021


Benefits of Working from Home

This week we marked Earth Day – an annual celebration of the planet and a time to consider ways we can all support the environment. This year’s theme was ‘Restore Our Earth’ and focused on ways innovative thinking and individual responsibility can help us to help our planet thrive. If, prior to 2020, we had been told that overnight the entire nation would have to work remotely there would have been countless arguments and reasons why this was not possible. Yet, we did it.

LESS POLLUTION

One of the top ways working from home benefits the environment is the lack of commuters on the roads. The daily commute is a huge cause of global warming and has a large impact on all of our health as it affects the air we breathe. The UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology found that between 8am and 8pm CO2 emissions in London were reduced by 58% during the first lockdown and Breathe London found there was a reduction of nitrogen dioxide in the air of 20-24%. As nitrogen dioxide harms our lungs, we have all benefited from this dramatic decrease in air pollution.

If we were to continue to work remotely after lockdown at this same rate, we could eliminate 11.3 billion miles of commutes from the air. This would do wonders for the environment, just ask Attenborough.

LESS PAPER 🗞

Working from home also means we use less paper as files are transferred into digital formats in order to be sent to employees across the country. This reduces the amount of paper being used for printing, as well as the amount of pointless memos you have to pretend to read from Bob in accounting.

While you might not think you are saving a lot of paper on your own, but the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average office worker goes through about 10,000 sheets of paper every year. If your whole office that was previously hundreds, if not thousands, of workers has cut their paper use, that adds up to a lot of trees saved. And when you remember that just a single tree can remove up to 14.7 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year, you start to see the full scale of the effect this can have.

LESS PLASTIC 🛍

(I urge you to picture a cute turtle or friendly dolphin when you read this next bit, as opposed to one of those terrifyingly ugly fish with seven rows of teeth that lurks on the ocean floor).

Plastic waste is littering our land and our water, being consumed by birds and marine wildlife, resulting in the deaths of 100 million marine animals each year. It has gotten so bad that some researchers think that in terms of weight, there could be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish by 2050.

The good news is, if you’re working remotely you are also likely to be making your own morning coffee instead of buying it in a takeaway cup. You’re also probably not buying your lunch in a single-use plastic contained and instead cooking yourself something (or just eating leftover pizza from the night before). The reduction in single-use plastic like cups, cutlery, containers, and water bottles from you making lunch in your home instead of having to buy it from the supermarket is a huge fringe benefit of remote working. The turtles, dolphins, and even that scary fish, thank you.

LESS ENERGY

Much like the energy they drain from your soul, office buildings take a large amount of energy to run. A study by Sun Microsystems found that it uses approximately twice as much energy to work in your house as it does to work in an office. With most employees currently working remotely, businesses have been able to shut down these electricity and heat guzzlers across the country, saving large amounts of energy.

Additionally, another study found that employees are far less motivated to conserve energy in an office as they don’t personally benefit from any cost reduction, whereas at home they will turn off lights and shut down their computer at the end of the day in order to save money on bills. This reduction in energy use is yet another positive impact remote working can have on the planet.

Top Tips for Being Environmentally Friendly While Working from Home

So, let’s just assume I’ve convinced you: working from home is amazing and you’re excited to get back some of that time you lost to sitting in long traffic jams, yelling at the Mercedes that just cut you up on the round-a-bout (because let’s be honest, isn’t it always a Mercedes?)

But how can you make sure that you are doing absolutely everything you can to help the planet while working remotely? Funny you should ask! Here are some top tips I’ve compiled to help you help the earth:

Unplug appliances not being used 🔌

Unplugging appliances like your laptop when you’re not using them reduces the amount of electricity, and therefore carbon emissions, you are using. There are items like your laptop, phone or television which still use energy while plugged in even if you aren’t using them! This costs you money and hurts the planet.

Change to LED lights 💡

The cost of lighting our homes is around 20% of the average UK electricity bill. As LED lights are more efficient, they will not only lower your bills but also reduce your carbon footprint. Energy Saving Trust reported that if you replaced each lightbulb in your home with an LED light, you could reduce your emissions by up to 65kg a year. This is the same amount of carbon dioxide emitted by driving your car approximately 220 miles.

If you want to go a step further, you could even change to a green energy supplier like Octopus Energy, who use 100% green electricity on all their tariffs.

Cultivate a garden 🌵

Still killing cacti? Now that you aren’t commuting, perhaps you can use that time to start learning how to cultivate that beautiful garden. Even if the only space you have is a windowsill, being able to sustain a range of herbs that you can then use for cooking is healthier for you. It is also healthier for the planet as the United Nations’ Rome-based Food & Agriculture Organisation says the world will need to product 70% more food by 2050 if we are going to keep up with the current rate of population increase.

Growing some food yourself, even if it is just a few different herbs, takes some of the pressure off the planet and also cuts some costs for you!

Final Thoughts

We only have one planet, and while it is worth mentioning that the number one way to stop climate change and make the biggest impact on the environment is for big corporations and governments to be held accountable and make changes, there are still some things we as individuals can do to reduce our carbon footprint.

There are lots of benefits to the environment when we decide to work from home even some of the time. Many of these are mentioned here and they aren’t revolutionary – not commuting, not printing anything and not using single-use plastics are obviously going to be good for the planet. But perhaps the lesser-talked about environmental benefit of remote working is simply having time.

Time to think about how you want to live, time to think about your carbon footprint, time to cook your own meals and take better care of yourself, time to walk more and tend to some plants, and even time to just spend outside with your family in the open (slightly less polluted) air.