Environmental Impact Tips for Virtual Employees
Ten tips to reduce environmental impact for those who work from home have been identified. Examples of actions that can reduce environmental impact in home offices include using energy-efficient bulbs and appliances, improving home insulation, using recycled/eco-friendly office products and furniture, going paperless, working from a laptop, using non-toxic cleaning supplies, utilizing natural light, maintaining plants, refilling printer cartridges and pens, and turning off or unplugging appliances not being used. Details of these ten tips are discussed below.
1) Use energy-efficient bulbs and appliances
Light bulbs are used constantly, both in the office and at home. Thus, it is very important for employees who work from home to invest in energy saving bulbs and other energy-efficient appliances, as they can greatly reduce environmental impact while simultaneously lowering energy costs.
Energy Star Products
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched a program called "ENERGY STAR". Any product, building, or home labeled with a blue energy star has been certified as using less energy, as well as causing fewer emissions that have been identified as contributing to climate change. Bulbs and household appliances with an energy star are recommended to save energy, and it has been reported that bulbs and other fixtures designated with an ENERGY STAR use approximately 70 to 90 percent less energy than regular, standard bulbs. Additionally, these products last an estimated 10 to 25 times longer.
For employees working at home, LED bulbs are highly recommended, as they use 85 percent less electricity than standard bulbs. It is estimated that there are currently 1 billion LEDs and CFLs used in homes in the United States, and these bulbs have saved approximately 50 billion kilowatt-hours per year, or 160 kilowatt-hours per capita.
2) improving home insulation
The EPA recommends everyone improve house insulation, which includes the home’s outer walls, ceiling, windows, and floors. A properly insulated house will increase comfort while reducing both heating and cooling expenditures. For homeowners looking for new windows, it is advisable to increase insulation, reduce air-leaks, and select an ENERGY STAR window.
3) use recycled stationery/office supplies and eco-friendly furniture
When working from home, it is advised not to rush into buying new stationery; people are likely to have plenty of pens, pencils, and old notebooks in their own homes. Employees should consider looking for those items in junk drawers before buying new ones. If new stationery is needed, it is important to choose eco-friendly options, such as pencils composed of sustainable wood or even old denim, white-board markers that can be refilled, recycled paper products, and packing materials that can be composted. Additionally, eco-friendly furniture is recommended. This may include desks made from bamboo, which is considered more eco-friendly, or "particleboard or medium-density fiberboard (materials which require more energy in production)". Finally, consumers should consider purchasing ENERGY STAR-certified office equipment. The Department of Energy suggests the use of a computer, monitor, and printer that have been certified with the ENERGY STAR designation can reduce electricity costs by $250 over the lifetime of the products. ENERGY STAR computers also have a power management setting that can reduce costs by $35 per year.
4) make efforts to go paperless
At home, there is hardly a need to print documents. Email, text messaging, and video chatting are all tools for communication that can eliminate paper waste. It is even possible to sign documents using online technologies. Use online billing for professional accounts with electronic invoices and direct deposit. Invest in a good scanner to shred documents (try reusing them as packaging materials), and navigate them as searchable PDFs. If the job requires printing, try to reduce the number of pages used. Buy recycled paper instead of new paper, and refrain from using paper as much as possible. There are free downloadable software programs that let people print the final, required pieces from websites without extra formatting, and Greenprint shows consumers the whole document before it is printed. They might then choose to print only the necessary pages. It is recommended that employees ensure the computer is always set to print on both sides.
5) use a laptop
Laptops consume nearly 80 percent less electricity than desktop computers, so they are recommended for reducing environmental impact. Additionally, laptops function on approximately one-third to one-fifth the amount of energy as a desktop computer. There are a variety of laptop models with different levels of energy efficiency for people to consider.
6) Use non-toxic cleaning supplies
When working from home, using non-toxic cleaning supplies protects not only the environment but also consumer health. Highly toxic cleaning liquids can be more harmful in this context, as employees working from home spend most of their time in the home. Ensuring that non-toxic supplies are used promotes better health.
7) make use of natural light
For home-based workers, turning off electric light bulbs and making use of natural light is a great way to conserve energy and help the environment. Moreover, utilizing sunlight will save on electricity costs, improve people's health, and beautify the home. This tip is particularly useful for homes that already have large windows.
8) have plants
At home, employees can reduce environmental impact by having indoor plants. Plants improve the quality of air and remove toxic chemicals inside the house, enhancing mental state. Moreover, while working at home, people can care for their plants daily, which encourages the important feeling of promoting environmental health. Once people are conscious of their appreciation for mother nature, they are more likely to adopt other eco-conscious habits around the house and their own office.
9) refill printer cartridges and pens.
Home-based workers can reduce environmental impact by refilling printer cartridges and pens. Ink printers and their ink are comprised of several ingredients, most of which are potentially harmful chemicals. Moreover, "more than 375 million empty ink and toner cartridges are thrown out every year," poisoning landfills. A printer cartridge is estimated to take 1,000 years to fully decompose.
Recycling printer cartridges will help conserve energy because via recycling, it is estimated that 11 millions gallons of fossil fuels can be saved in as little as seven months. Recycling toner and ink jet cartridges keeps them out of landfills when working from home. People can return used cartridges to stores (such as Walmart), as stores selling new cartridges are often willing to accept used ones back for recycling. Sometimes the stores also provides credits toward future purchases. For example, Staples offers a credit of $2 per cartridge, for as many as ten recycled cartridges per month.
However, people can also refill cartridges themselves. Refilling toner cartridges will prolong their use, and cartridges can be refilled three or four times. Refill ink at stores can be purchased for $7 to $10, and syringes for refilling cost about $2 per package of four. Home-based workers can reduce environment impact by using fountain pens for as little as $5 and refilling them often. Consumers can also buy refill ink cartridges or a bottle of ink ($12 and up) to refill pens.
10) turn off/ ideally unplug electronics when not in use.
For employees who work from home, it is important to pay attention to electronic devices. Turn off computers, printers, lights, heating, and air conditioning units when not in use. Streamline this process by utilizing units that automatically shut down at night. Moreover, use power strips that group all appliances (television, gaming console, powered speakers, DVD player, etc.) to reduce energy expenditures. An additional option is the use of smart power strips, which lower electricity use by shutting down power to products that are in standby mode. It is estimated that 25 percent of all residential energy consumption is expended on devices that are in some form of idle power mode, based on a study published by the Northern California by the Natural Resources Defense Council. As a result, devices that are in standby or sleep mode use the equivalent of the energy produced by 50 large power plants, which results in electricity costs of $19 billion annually. This contributes to climate change; 37 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions can be attributed to overall electricity production, and carbon dioxide's negative impact on the environment is well-established.
To sum up, ten tips to reduce environmental impact for those who work from home are identified: use energy-efficient bulbs and appliances, improve home insulation, use recycled stationery and office supplies and eco-friendly furniture, make efforts to go paperless, use a laptop, use non-toxic cleaning supplies, make use of natural light, have plants, refill printer cartridges, and turn off electronics when not in use.