2020 is likely the year when many of us started working from home for the first time and it has meant big  changes, to our routines, workspaces, and more! After having time to adjust and adapt, it may be the right time to reflect on how we can ensure we are reducing our impact now that we have shifted from shared offices to thousands of individual home offices.  The good news is, a few small changes can make a big difference to whether you have enlarged your environmental footprint, or decreased it. The following tips and tricks can get you started so your home office has a sustainability policy of its own!

1. Reduce your Energy Waste

Did you know that electronic devices draw energy when they’re plugged into an outlet even though the item is seemingly powered off? Even when switched off, these use standby power – electricity used while they are switched off/not performing their primary function. That power is consumed by power supplies, circuits and sensors and it also generates heat and, which then requires additional cooling.  If you want to improve sustainability while you’re working from home, take the time to unplug electronics that aren’t in use, and unplug your device when it has fully charged! When it comes to your computer, you can set it to go to sleep or a power-saving mode when you break for lunch. At the end of the day workday, unplug your computer and the external monitor. Additionally, if you’re not using your television during the day, unplug it from the outlet, plus any accessories like the cable box, game consoles, video players, and more to save energy.

2. Sustainable Food/Drink

With less time commuting to and from work, you may have a little extra time before and after work to try out new recipes and meals. It may be tempting to order takeout using your favourite delivery platform, but the packaging from takeout boxes and bags creates a lot of waste. If you’re someone who orders takeout nearly every day, cut back to a couple of times a week. Now that you spend your days working from home, a nice break from work may be trying out some new recipes. While you’re honing your newly-found cooking skills, it may be worth checking out some meat-free recipes. Reducing your meat consumption is a significant action you can take to minimize your carbon footprint. 

Calling all coffee and tea lovers! While we’re on the subject of sustainable foods, let’s talk about how we can make the cups of coffee and tea we drink more sustainable. You may not know this, but your cup of tea may contain up to 11 billion microplastic particles. Because of these microplastics, many tea bags aren’t biodegradable, meaning it will never dissolve into the earth. That is where plastic-free tea bags come in. Many plastic-free alternatives like Pukka, Mighty Leaf Tea, and Tetley contain organic materials such as unbleached paper, organic cotton, and veggie inks. If you’re a coffee-lover, you may use a Keurig or Nespresso to make your coffee. These types of coffee makers typically use plastic pods to curate the perfect cup of coffee. However, it can be wasteful if you’re only using single-use pods. Instead, consider using reusable plastic pods from Keurig or compostable pods from Balzac’s to make your coffee. These pods can be reused or are single-use and can be disposed of in a composting bin when you are done with them.

3. Invest in Sustainable Office Supplies

Find yourself using a substantial amount of paper throughout the workweek or going through multiple pens? If so, it may be time to commit to using waste-free or biodegradable office supplies. For example, you could try a paperless notebook, like Rocketbook. These notebooks are gaining popularity as a cost-effective solution to cut down on paper usage. How does a paperless notebook work, you may ask? Well, you can write as you would with traditional pen and paper, then scan and store your notes with the Rocketbook app and upload your notes to your favourite cloud service. Once you have finished the process, erase the pages of your Rocketbook with a damp cloth!

Biodegradable pens are also a great way to cut down on waste in the home office. Once a plastic pen stops working, you’re likely to throw it out. However, with all of the plastic parts a pen typically contains, this causes harm to the environment. Here is where biodegradable pens come in. Once these environmentally-friendly pens run out of ink, they can be recycled or put in the compost where the pen will decompose. Some of our personal favourite biodegradable pens are Tree Canada’s tree seed pen, Good Earth’s pens, and Zebra pens.

4. Cut Down on the Online Shopping

If you’ve been working from home for a while, you may have found yourself indulging in some online retail therapy on your work breaks more often now that others can’t look over your shoulder. While it is so easy and tempting these days to hop online and order anything at your fingertips, try to limit this habit to once a week and buy in bulk when you can. 

Or if you want to level up, if you typically do your online shopping when something needs replacing, ask yourself if the item can be easily repaired? Maybe there is a DIY solution on the internet to reuse and repurpose any broken item. 

5. Prepare Your Single-Use Plan

Now that Canada has banned the use of single-use plastics by the end of 2021, start your plan to transition to single-use plastics. Throw away the disposable mentality and replace everyday items with reusable alternatives. To start with this transition, ditch the paper towels, use a designated reusable cloth rag ready to clean up any spills. To help with this, consider a product like Unpaper Towel – 12 reusable towels that can snap on and off and can replace typical paper towels on your paper towel holder. Another single-use item you can transition to is a single-use water bottle like a Klean Kanteen or an EarthLust bottle to cut down on unnecessary plastic from water bottles.

As you can see there are so many little changes that can make the rest of our work from home journey a little more sustainable, and we hope that you’re able to incorporate some of our tips into your workday and workspace and come up with your own as well! Have you incorporated sustainable practices while working from home? We’d love to see it! Tag us on Twitter with your photos at @SustainableWat. Want to learn more about waste-free alternatives? Keep an eye on our blog for more tips and tricks!