10 tried-and-tested ways to promote remote work sustainability


Rachita Jain


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In addition to its implications on productivity and work-life balance, the rising trend of remote work has drawn attention to its possible environmental effects. While working remotely has certain environmental advantages, there are some difficulties as well, which is why we need to implement sound practices of remote work sustainability.
  • As remote work relies heavily on electronic devices such as computers, monitors, and peripherals, there's an increased likelihood of electronic waste generation.
  • Expanding digital infrastructure, for instance, modems for internet connectivity to support remote work, can lead to higher energy consumption and environmental impacts.
  • The duplication of office resources such as printers, scanners, and office supplies can lead to inefficient resource use and contribute to environmental impacts associated with production and transportation.
  • To suit your demands for remote work, you might need to spend more money on bigger spaces, resulting in higher resource and building material consumption.
  • Many workplaces incorporate sustainability measures, including waste reduction initiatives and energy-efficient heating, cooling, and lighting systems. These centralized initiatives could not be as successful when you work remotely.

What does remote work sustainability mean?

Simply put, remote work sustainability means carrying out remote work that is conscious of the environment and conserves resources. This approach considers the ecological footprint associated with traditional office-based work as well as remote work setup. It aims to reduce resource consumption, energy usage, and emissions while also fostering a more sustainable lifestyle for employees.
All in all, remote work sustainability is a term that encompasses many different factors, from corporate practices to personal lifestyle choices. By being aware of the environmental impact of your actions and being mindful of how to lessen it, you can help to make remote working sustainable and eco-friendly.

Benefits of practicing sustainability at remote work

  • One of the most significant benefits of practicing remote work sustainability is the reduction of carbon emissions. By eliminating the need for daily commutes to an office, you can significantly lower your carbon footprint.
  • Fewer people commuting to centralized office spaces can reduce the strain on urban infrastructure, such as roads, public transportation, and utilities.
  • The use of physical resources like paper and other office supplies gets reduced in remote work setups. This aids in resource conservation, waste reduction, and forest preservation.
  • Large office space requirements may contribute to urban sprawl, resulting in deforestation, habitat loss, and increased stress on ecosystems. By enabling you to operate from different areas without contributing to urban development, remote work helps promote sustainability at work.
  • The need to build new office buildings or expand existing ones, which may necessitate destroying forests or other carbon-absorbing landscapes, has been lessened by remote work. Therefore, incorporating remote work sustainability can preserve existing carbon sink regions.

Importance of finding a strong balance between productivity and sustainability at work

  • For the long-term health of our planet and society, a balance between productivity and ecological sustainability is essential. To guarantee that we can satisfy our needs today without jeopardizing or hurting the ability of future generations, we must strike this balance by promoting remote work sustainability.
  • Without taking ecological sustainability into account, an overemphasis on production might end in the degradation and destruction of many ecosystems, which would mean the loss of crucial services necessary for human existence and well-being.
  • Uncontrolled productivity-focused activities, whether office-based or remote, can lead to overexploiting natural resources, including fossil fuels, minerals, forests, and fisheries. Over time, these can disrupt ecological balance and harm both the environment and human societies that depend on these resources.
  • Overemphasis on short-term productivity gains can lead to economic instability in the long run. Ecological disruptions, resource scarcity, and the impacts of climate change can undermine economic systems and create unforeseen costs.
  • Ecological balance is essential for preserving biodiversity. Loss of biodiversity can have terrifying effects on ecosystems, leading to reduced resilience and adaptability to changing conditions.
Maintaining a balanced ecosystem helps protect the variety of species and genetic diversity that is vital for ecosystem stability and resilience, which is why it becomes all the more essential to exercise remote work sustainability.

The best ways to promote remote work sustainability

1. Opt for energy-efficient equipment

  • To encourage sustainability at work, invest in energy-efficient computers, monitors, printers, and other devices. These will help you promote remote work sustainability by saving on electricity bills and contribute to diminishing your carbon footprint.
  • Incandescent bulbs are hugely wasteful, converting only 10% of the energy they consume into light. Instead, choose more efficient LED bulbs.
  • Therefore, make sure any technology you use in your remote workspace is energy-efficient and runs on renewable energy.
  • LED-backlit monitors are more energy-efficient than older technologies like CRT or traditional LCD monitors.

2. Utilize natural lighting

  • Whenever possible, arrange your workspace near a window or in a well-lit room to take advantage of natural light. This remote work sustainability practice not only reduces your dependence on artificial lighting but also helps improve productivity and overall well-being.
  • Use adjustable blinds or curtains to control the light entering the room. You can open them fully for maximum light during the day and adjust them to reduce glare.
  • Try to schedule your work hours during the time of day when natural light is brightest. Morning and early afternoon are typically the best times for maximizing natural light exposure.
  • Keep windowsills clear of clutter or obstructions that may block sunlight from entering the room. Furthermore, arrange furniture, shelves, and other items so they don't obstruct the flow of natural light from windows.
  • If possible, set up a mobile workspace that can be moved around to follow the sun's path throughout the day.

3. Implement power-saving strategies

  • Enable power-saving settings on your devices, such as automatic sleep or hibernation modes. Additionally, remember to switch off equipment when not in use and unplug chargers once devices are fully charged.
  • Use energy-saving settings on your device. You can add motion sensor lighting to your workspace and ensure your home or office is well-insulated.
Enabling power-saving settings, utilizing energy-efficient lighting, and adopting mindful practices during video conferences are all actionable steps that align with remote work sustainability.

4. Reduce the video resolution

In the realm of remote work sustainability, even seemingly minor adjustments can yield substantial energy savings. Changing video resolution is indeed a practical way to reduce energy consumption. Higher-resolution videos require more processing power to render and decode, which in turn requires more energy from your device. By watching videos at a lower resolution, your device's processor works less intensively, leading to energy savings.
Furthermore, if you're watching videos on a device with a display (like a computer monitor or a smartphone), higher-resolution videos can require the display to illuminate more pixels, using more energy. Lowering the resolution means fewer pixels need to be illuminated, leading to energy savings. As per the Software and Sustainability S2 Research Group, the decrease in video resolution can benefit the battery life of the device and help consume less internet data.

5. Use eco-friendly supplies

  • Choose stationery made from recycled materials or sustainable sources, such as FSC-certified paper and biodegradable pens. Opting for eco-friendly products reduces the waste generated and supports environmentally conscious manufacturers.
  • Many people now use paperless systems such as digital filing and cloud storage to store their documents. You can also evaluate your current paper needs and see if you can reduce the amount of physical paper you're using.
  • To promote remote work sustainability, use both sides of the paper where possible.
  • Use a reusable water bottle to avoid single-use plastic bottles. This will not only reduce waste but also prevent you from being prone to micro-plastic elements.
  • Choose laptop sleeves made from sustainable materials like organic cotton or recycled fabrics. Use phone cases made from biodegradable materials.

6. Print judiciously

  • Minimize printing by using digital files whenever viable.
  • If you must print, use recycled paper and duplex printing to save resources and reduce waste.
  • Adjust margins and font sizes to fit more content on each page.
  • Use the draft or economy printing mode to use less ink or toner.
  • Opt for recycled paper with high post-consumer content. Look for papers certified by organizations like FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or Rainforest Alliance.
  • When feasible, print in black and white instead of color since color printing uses more ink and energy.
  • To avoid printing several drafts, proofread papers digitally before printing.
  • To fit more information on a page, use slightly lower font sizes (within the bounds of readability).
  • Print several pages on one piece of paper. In printer settings, this option is easily accessible.
  • Before printing, remove any unnecessary graphics, logos, and photos, especially those that don't contribute to the content.
  • Use one-sided printed paper as scrap paper for notes, drafts, or informal use.

7. Recycle responsibly

  • Set up designated bins for recycling paper, cardboard, plastic, and electronic waste. Proper segregation ensures smooth recycling processes and prevents unnecessary waste from being sent to landfills.
  • Keep non-recyclable items out of recycling bins to prevent contamination. A single contaminated item can lead to an entire batch of recyclables being rejected.
  • Before recycling, consider donating items that are still in good condition or finding creative ways to repurpose them.
  • Electronic waste (e-waste) should be recycled through proper channels to prevent harmful materials from entering landfills. Find local e-waste collection programs.

8. Reduce, reuse, and repurpose

  • Before purchasing new items for your home office, assess whether you can make use of existing items, like repurposing a shelf as a standing desk. This not only saves money but helps decrease the demand for resources and energy to produce new goods.
  • To incorporate remote work sustainability, swap single-use disposable items such as pens and notebooks for reusable versions made from recycled materials.
  • Small changes such as using reusable mugs and glasses for drinks can do wonders to promote sustainability at work.
  • When sending items to clients or colleagues, switch to recycled and compostable packaging materials instead of plastic.

9. Invest in plants or vegetation

To help boost local air quality and encourage remote work sustainability, look at adding some greenery to your remote workspace. Choose busy, flowering plants that help oxygenate the air and create a more pleasant atmosphere.
A Norwegian study from 1995-96 proves that there were 23% fewer neuropsychological symptoms when plants were around, and the reduction in fatigue was around 30%. Some indoor plants are known for their air-purifying properties. Such plants can help remove toxins from the air, leading to better respiratory health.

10. Think green while traveling

If business travel is necessary, think green. Choose environmentally friendly modes of transport such as trains or buses, and where possible, avoid air travel.

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