Sure, telecommuting is eco-friendly. Office-bound workers pour pollutants into the air, while we telecommuters can feel pretty good about our carbon-free trek to the home office. However, the telecommuter's home office still uses energy and consumes goods, and so even a telecommuter can make a special effort to reduce, reuse and recycle and create an eco-friendly office.
Yes, these tips for a more eco-friendly office basically come down to that old slogan: "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." However, one thing you'll notice about all of these eco-friendly tips is that not only are they green, but they'll save you a bit of the green stuff too.
1. Reduce heating and cooling costs.
Keep in mind that as a telecommuter you’re heating and cooling an entire house for perhaps only one person. (The first utility bill after you start working at home is a reminder of this!) Create a more eco-friendly office by heating and cooling more efficiently.
Installing a new zoned heating and air-conditioning system is not practical unless you are already upgrading, but closing off vents to bedrooms and other unused areas during the day is. Put on a sweater and turn the thermostat down. In the summer, use a fan in your home office and keep the central AC set at a high temperature. Pulling the shades in the afternoon will keep your office cooler as well. And if you don't have central air, only cool the rooms you are using.
2. Reduce other energy usage for an eco-friendly office.
Make sure the lights are off in the rest of the house while you work in your office. Use energy-saving light bulbs. Put a chair by the window so you can make use of natural light for reading. However, glare may be a problem if you put your computer by the window.
At the end of the day, shut down office equipment such as computers, printers and other peripherals. (This will also improve family time.) This equipment draws energy while it's off, so to save more energy plug everything into a power strip, and flip that off too.
3. Reduce, reuse and recyle paper.
Reduce paper use by going electronic. Why send a fax when you can email a PDF? Free online office tools like Google Docs allows you to share documents online. With a scanner, you can consolidate your paper files with your electronic files by scanning them in and recycling the paper. Just be sure to backup in a separate hard drive or online!
Reuse paper when possible. When you do print, make double sided copies or print on the back of old documents. Just mark a line through the wrong side. Most of those colorful flyers that come home in bookbags are only printed on one side. Cut them in half and make a pile of scrap paper for use in the eco-friendly office and around the house.
Remember to recycle. Put a recycling bin in your home office.
More tips on saving on paper costs in your home office.
4. Reuse by shopping secondhand.
Not everything is brand new in an eco-friendly office. In, fact most of it isn't. Shop at secondhand stores for your home office furniture. Find new uses in your home office for shelves and furniture than you already own before purchasing anything new. A fresh coat of paint will do wonders to extend the life of old furniture.
Resist the urge to upgrade to the newest technology every time something new comes along. Wait until the need for new technology arises (rather than just the desire for it!). And when you do buy new electronics, dispose of the old ones properly.
5. Recycle more than paper in the home office.
Don't trash electronics and furniture when you do buy new ones. Think about how to recycle electronics (computers, printers, cell phones, etc.) and other large items. Either find an electronics recycler or sell your old stuff in a garage sale or with a newspaper ad or online posting. You may also be able to donate old technology, particularly cell phones, to non-profits and receive a tax deduction. And non-profits like the Salvation Army will take donations of furniture and some electronics. And don't forget abouts like printer ink cartridges, which can be recycled for cash or credit.