Creating an environmentally friendly home-office is not just about caring for planet – it’s about caring for you and your health too. Research (and common sense) tells us that healthier, more live-able work spaces can enhance our sense of wellbeing – and increase our productivity.
So how can we improve the environment of our home-office space? Here are 15 tips – pick the ones that work for you!
1. Insulate your home. Insulation in your loft and walls can significantly reduce your energy usage and costs. It’ll keep you warmer in the winter and can even keep you cooler in summer! Check out The Energy saving Trust for more information on insulation and the grants that are available. http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk
2. Clean and maintain your mechanical systems. Mould, dust, and other contaminants can collect in your heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning ducts over time. Keep yours clean. Many can be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner or a damp cloth, others may need a professional service and scrub each year. It’ll create a healthier environment for you as well prolonging the life of your systems.
3. Use non-toxic cleaners to clean your house / office. Many modern household and office cleaners contain toxic chemicals which can affect your health and even the health of the building (yes, buildings can suffer from something known as “sick building syndrome”). Look out for natural, chemical free cleaners, or make your own. If you’d like to know how check out “The Self Sufficiency Bible” by Simon Dawson
4. Fix any moisture or leak problems immediately. Mould and mildew are biological indoor air pollutants that can also contribute to sick building syndrome, aggravate allergies, and deteriorate the fabric of the building.
5. Use natural lighting and ventilation where possible. Appropriate natural lighting and ventilation helps to create a healing environment. It’ll help to make you feel more connected with the natural world outside your office, and it’s also another good way to save on energy costs.
6. Avoid using building materials with chemical emissions such as formaldehyde, solvents, and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). These compounds can be found in chip-board, many paints, vinyl floor and wall coverings, certain types of carpet, and even insulation. These materials have been linked to headaches and tiredness. Instead, use building materials with minimal chemical emissions such as ceramic tile, linoleum, formaldehyde-free chip-boards, low-VOC paints and sealers, low-VOC adhesives, and non-toxic cleaners.
7. Use recycled products. When buying consumables for your home-office look for ones that contain recycled content or better still, that can be re-used. Refill your ink cartridges, recycle your old mobile phone, buy recycled paper, and repair appliances rather than throwing them out and buying a new one.
8. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Set up an easy to use system in your office to collect recyclables like waste paper. I have a small tub in the home office that I fill with waste paper and then once every few days I take it downstairs to the main recycling bin that the council collects. The key is to make it easy for yourself!
9. Beware carpets! Avoid chemically treated carpets, adhesives, and backings can emit numerous chemicals. If necessary consider airing-out the carpet prior to installation. Use low-VOC adhesives for the fitting.
10. Use energy efficient lighting. Replace your traditional high energy incandescent light bulbs with the energy saving ones. There are plenty to choose from and apart from a smaller electricity bill you wont notice the difference.
11. Choose energy efficient computers. Look for the European Union’s energy star (it relates to your PC’s power supply and indicates that it achieves at least 80% efficiency) or computers recommended by The Energy Saving Trust. Laptops tend to consume less energy than desktops, but whichever route you take turning off the monitor when you are not using it will generate the biggest saving. And size does make a difference – a 24″ LCD typically uses about twice the energy of a 19″ LCD.
12. Only buy what you need when choosing the spec. of the computer. For example; graphics cards are some of the worst energy offenders. A second important consideration is that, in general, wired uses less energy than wireless. In addition some claim that wireless technology is bad for your health. If you are concerned take a look at www.phoneshiled.co.uk to protect yourself.
13. If you are not using it – turn it off. “Standby” power on almost all our home and office appliances accounts for between 5-10% of all household energy consumption. Unplugging your computer equipment when it’s not in use is a good habit to get into.
14. Dispose of electronic equipment responsibly. EU rules now oblige electronic equipment manufacturers operating in Europe to make available free and ethical disposal procedures for their products. Greenpeace maintains a regularly updated “Guide to Greener Electronics” which ranks the major equipment manufacturers according to how responsible their toxic chemical and e-waste disposal policies are.
15. Give yourself a pat on the back. By working from home you are reducing the amount of fuel you use buy cutting out the daily commute. So celebrate with a cup of fair-trade tea or coffee – just remember to only boil the amount of water you actually need.
Chantal Cooke is a professional journalist and co-foudner of PASSION for the PLANET radio.
You can listen via DAB or online at http://www.passionfortheplanet.com or visit http://www.passionforfreshideas.com for hundreds of podcasts to help you live a green and ethical life.