How to sustainably work from home

sustainablyworkfromhome_large 

There are some fantastic tips from Ohio State about how to make the most of working from home. But as we celebrate Earth Day this year, many of us are considering our own environmental impact and thinking about how to celebrate this special event. Here are some tips to reduce your impact while working from home.

Energy

At work, there’s often a team of people thinking about this. Now that many of us are working remotely, it’s up to us to consider the impact of our energy use. The good news? It can save you money.

One way to assess the overall energy efficiency opportunities within your house is to conduct an energy efficiency audit. Since having a professional home energy audit isn’t possible for many of us under stay at home orders related to COVID-19, check out the Department of Energy’s DIY home audit suggestions.

Here are some additional ideas:

  • Convert all of your indoor and outdoor lights to LED lights. And be sure to check for rebates through your local utility — there are often discounts available to you at certain point of sale retailers or through a formal rebate.
  • Get a smart thermostat. Utilize the “eco,” or schedules, setting to save energy throughout the day when you need less heating or cooling.
  • Use the services of a company that makes renewable energy more accessible by helping you find sources and savings.

Waste

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average waste generated is 4.9 pounds per person per day. Reducing waste starts with preventing that waste in the first place, then moving onto recycling and composting. Here are some suggestions to prevent waste:

  • Reduce single-use plastics. One great place to start is by skipping bottled water, but there are other opportunities in our households, such as buying toiletries or hand soaps in refillable containers.
  • Skip the printing. Who needs paper with all of the electronic device options?
  • Stop the junk mail with these four great tips.
  • A huge portion of household waste comes from the clothes we wear, with the EPA estimating 17 million tons of waste annually. Consider donating clothes, but also purchasing gently worn items or buying shoes, bags and other items with recycled plastic content as the material.
  • A recent study from Penn State estimates that the average U.S. household wastes nearly 32% of food. To deal with this staggering number, consider instituting meal planning to prevent food waste and start composting at home. 

Food choices

Researchers found that if Americans made the switch from beef to beans, the U.S. would meet its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions goal. And while that widespread change isn’t realistic, what we eat does impact the environment. Here are some actions to consider:

  • Eat a vegetarian or vegan meal once a day or at least once a week.
  • Get fresh vegetables and support a local farm through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership. Find one here at Local Harvest.
  • Try out a service that provides misshapen yet still delicious fruits and vegetables on your doorstep at 40% of the cost. This helps reduce food waste in our supply chain.

Water conservation

As water scarcity becomes a real problem for many communities, consider the following options to conserve water and save money:

  • Install low-flow fixtures — faucets, showerheads and toilets — to reduce water consumption.
  • Install a rain barrel in your yard for watering.
  • Cut back on watering by planting native landscaping.

Wellness

Sustainability isn’t just about reducing and using less. It’s about connecting back to the amazing natural resources are all around us, and having an appreciation for all that nature does for us. Think about celebrating Earth Day and staying well in the time of COVID-19 with these ideas:

  • Take a walk, a bike ride or a hike in nature.
  • Meditate using an app and find one that relates directly to celebrating Earth Day.
  • Stay connected to family and friends through your technology platform of choice with an Earth Day “get-together,” if you aren't yet able to see one another safely in person.

Lauren Koch is a sustainability specialist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.