Reducing your office’s carbon footprint... from home

For many of us, 2020 has been the year of “working from home”. Covid-19 forced our hand. But working from home, short term or long term, doesn’t mean our green ambitions have to be put on hold.

Office owners around the world are rejoicing at the moment. With their buildings relatively empty, their carbon footprint has shrunk dramatically. But the reality is that our carbon footprint hasn’t necessarily been reduced – it’s just moved. Now it’s in our homes instead. So what can you do to reinforce your company’s eco-friendly credentials, without even setting foot in the office?

We’re going to focus here on tips that are relevant to home working, considering the carbon that has been shifted from the office to your home. This doesn’t cover all your home energy use. But you’ll find plenty of guides online that will help you there!

Turn off the lights

How often do you turn on the light when you walk into a room? How often do you leave it on when you leave the room? Break the habit, and only use artificial lighting when you absolutely need it.

If you do need lighting, make sure it’s energy-efficient – LED bulbs are really affordable now[1]. In fact, if you’re at your desk and need a little more light, consider using a small LED desk lamp to light up just the area you need, rather than lighting the whole room.

1 “Over 60,000 hours one 60 watt lightbulb is will set you back around £700 whilst a 6 watt LED bulb will cost in the region of £80-90. So, whilst an LED bulb will cost you about £15 to £20, the initial outlay is by far outweighed by the savings over time.” - https://www.renewableenergyhub...

Give your tech a break

What’s using your electricity? If you don’t need it right now, turn it off.

  • Only have your printer on while you’re using it.
  • Turn your monitor’s brightness down a few notches.
  • Unplug unused chargers.
  • If you leave the room, put your computer to sleep[2].

If you’re doing more intensive computer work, you might want to consider how efficiently your computer is able to do its job. If the air vents are clogged up with fluff, the fans will be working overtime trying to keep everything cool, which uses more electricity.

2 "System standby and hibernate features reduce notebook power draw to 1–2 watts." - https://www.energystar.gov/pro...

Keep in the heat/cold

The ideal room temperature is somewhere in the region of 18-22°C. Depending on the time of year and where in the world you are, it’s unlikely to be exactly that temperature outside. But the more you can keep your home office’s temperature constant, the less energy you’ll use to change it.

To avoid losing your glorious heat in the winter, make sure your house (or even just your home office room) is as insulated as possible. Close the curtains in the evening[3]. Seal off any drafts. Keep the heat in, and you won’t need to touch the heating.

In the warmer months, make sure your heating is definitely off! Open the windows and let a breeze through, and only resort to a fan if it gets sweltering. If you live somewhere that requires you to use an air conditioning unit, close the windows and make sure it’s doing as little work as possible.

3 “Drawing the blinds at dusk can reduce heat loss by 13-14 per cent and curtains from 15-17 per cent” - https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/...

Keep your car happy

If you’re working from home, you probably won’t be using the car. That’s great! But it’s still important to keep that car in tip-top condition, so that when you do get back into it it’s still as efficient as possible. Now might be an ideal time for the car to be off the road having some TLC.

  • Get your car serviced.
  • Check your tyre pressure and battery charge[4].
  • When you do drive, go easy on the accelerator pedal!

4 “Without being used regularly, car batteries can lose charge meaning they may not have enough power to start the engine”, “If a car is left for a long period of time this can lead to flat spots and your tyres losing their round shape” - https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/ad...

Eat and drink responsibly

How many cuppas do you brew each day? And what about those snacks on your desk – do you know where they came from?

There’s a scientific formula to calculate how much energy it takes to boil water[5] – Google it if you’re into that stuff. But the principle is pretty straightforward. If you boil half as much water, you’ll use around half as much energy (depending on your kettle’s efficiency). You could do that by reducing the number of cups of tea you drink. Or you could ensure you’re only boiling exactly the right amount of water in the first place.

Depending on what you eat for lunch, there may be some savings you can make there too. Cooking a jacket potato is far faster and more energy-efficient in a microwave than in an oven[6], for example.

When it comes to food, we need to consider not just the energy we use in its preparation but the rest of its carbon footprint as well[7]. Nuts and fruit are great. Meat and dairy are not.

5https://sciencing.com/calculat...

6 “Choosing to cook with a microwave vs oven can use from 30% to as much as 80% less energy” - https://blog.constellation.com...

7 “What you eat is far more important than where your food travelled from” - https://ourworldindata.org/foo...

Go paperless

How green is your paper? Taking notes digitally might turn out to be more eco-friendly. Even if you can’t doodle in the margins.

Using recycled paper is definitely a good step. And if you’ve got yourself an eco-friendly pen or pencil too, even better! But if you’ve already got a computer in front of you (and chances are you have), there are lots of advantages to typing your notes instead. There’s no wastage, because deleting a file put anything in the bin. There’s no practical limit to how many notes you can take. And having your notes stored digitally means you can easily search them to find what you want – you can’t do that with a notepad!

Use renewable energy

Once you’ve reduced your energy usage, make sure the energy itself is as green as possible.

It’s relatively easy these days to switch your energy provider, and there are plenty of companies out there who offer renewable energy tariffs. You might even be able to go a step further and install your own solar panels to make your own electricity!

Round up - the 5 R's

There are plenty of ways we can help the environment while we’re working from home. To help us keep it top-of-mind, remember the 5 R's:

  • Refuse. If you don’t need it, don’t get it in the first place.
  • Reduce. If it’s not great for the environment, cut down how much of it you’re using.
  • Reuse. If you can safely use it more than once, don’t throw it away.
  • Repurpose. If it’s outlived its intended use, try to find some other way for it to be useful.
  • Recycle. If it’s reached the end of its life, try to ensure it’s recycled.

Full disclosure – we didn’t come up with the 5 R's[8]. But we do endorse them at TBT.

What will you do?

8 We’re not even sure who came up with the 5 R's first, but here’s a great article going into more detail: https://www.roadrunnerwm.com/b...