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May—20

3 Ways to Improve Sustainability as a Remote Worker

COVID-19 has many teams around the world working remotely for the foreseeable future. Some even say the future of work has arrived early, and that this pandemic will cause companies that previously resisted remote work to embrace its potential.

Remote work already improves company-wide sustainability by eliminating or reducing employee commutes and in-office energy usage. But how can individuals boost their sustainability efforts while remaining productive at home?

In this article, we brush up on 3 ways to improve sustainability while working remotely.

1. Reduce Food Waste

Many of us are cooking more meals at home as a result of COVID-19. The global pandemic, however, risks making existing food waste issues even worse.

Restaurants forced to close or reduce hours are discarding unused food as a result. Some farmers are also struggling to find labourers to harvest crops, causing even more produce to go to waste.

Two ways you can reduce food waste at home are:

  • Composting
  • Growing a home garden

We go on about it a lot, but with more time at home now is also the perfect time to try new ways to reduce food waste in your own homes and kitchens.

Composting

Compost is organic material that can be repurposed to fertilize plants. Organic material includes any plant-based products such as fruits, vegetables, paper towels, and coffee filters.

Composting helps the environment by keeping plant-based materials out of landfills. It also reduces food waste in the home.

To start your own compost system at home, research local composting guidelines and facilities. Some areas will require you to have specialized containers and drop off points for storing and disposing of organic materials.

Investing some time in creating an at-home compost system makes you a more sustainable remote worker, and prepares you to start a composting program in your office when you return.

Growing a Home Garden

Getting to the grocery store during this pandemic can be a challenge. Fewer customers means higher amounts of produce wasted at grocery stores.

Try growing a few vegetables at home if you are working remotely during this time. Whether you live in a home with a garden or a flat with a windowsill, plenty of video tutorials exist for how to repurpose vegetables in your refrigerator for a small home garden.

Green onions or scallions, for example, can be re-planted in water and grow to full size in your kitchen.

This helps reduce food waste and improves your at-home sustainability.


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2. Save Energy in the Home

Why saving energy at home is important

A few ways to reduce energy consumption at home include:

  • Unplugging devices when they’re not in use
  • Adjusting your thermostat or heat pump

Unplug Devices

Devices that are constantly plugged in not only add to your monthly energy bill, they contribute to your overall energy consumption. “Phantom power use” is the term for devices that expend energy when they are plugged in but not being used.

You can conserve energy by simply unplugging a few household items, such as:

  • Chargers for smartphones, laptops, and tablets
  • Televisions or other entertainment devices
  • Small kitchen appliances such as blenders, microwaves or coffee makers

Unplugging these items when you are not using them will save energy for your home.

Adjust Your Thermostat

This period of remote work coincides with a change in seasons. In the United States and Europe, warming temperatures outside will drive many to turn on air conditioners that worsen the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

If you have an air conditioning or heating system in your home, you may be tempted to constantly change or adjust it as you work. Instead, open windows to moderate temperatures inside the home.

Standing or ceiling fans are one solution for people experiencing hotter temperatures while working at home.

For those experiencing colder weather, simply adjusting your thermostat to a few degrees cooler while you work will reduce the greenhouse gasses entering the environment as a result.

Finally, be sure to ask your company leadership what steps are being taken to reduce energy spend in the office building.

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3. Brush Up on Your Local Sustainability Policies and Initiatives

Now more than ever it is important to make sure your household is complying with local sustainability policies and initiatives.

Recycling and composting policies vary across the world. In the United States, for example, most citizens are not required by law to compost or separate recycling materials. In some European countries, however, citizens are required to separate glass, metal, and paper as well as food waste.

The best way to learn more about specific policies in your area is to check local, state, or national government websites. Many will have landing pages that provide specific guidance on how to properly recycle materials in your area, and also outline other initiatives for you to get involved in.

You can also use these policies as a reference to ask your employer about your unoccupied office building.

Improve Your Sustainability While Working Remotely

Remote work means more time and opportunities to improve your sustainability while working.

Remote workers can start by reducing the amount of food they consume or waste at home by composting or regrowing produce.

You can also increase your sustainability at home by looking for energy-saving alternatives at home, such as adjusting a thermostat.

Finally, remote workers can use this time to brush up on their local sustainability requirements and initiatives. All of these will make for a more sustainable workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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