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How to run a green home office and reduce your carbon footprint

6 May 2022

ClearPeople Operations Director Barry Wakelin published these tips on our company intranet for saving money and energy when working from home – and reducing your home office carbon footprint into the bargain. We thought they were good enough to share.

ClearPeople is a completely virtual company. We all work from home, which provides us with work/life balance and reduces our carbon footprint by removing the need to travel to an office every day.

These are fantastic benefits, but it also means that we are now individually responsible for our environmental impact - we are now in charge of reducing our carbon footprint in and outside of working hours; we’re now Chief Procurement Office and Energy Efficiency Monitor.

Our carbon footprint as a business has been dispersed to individual homes. And with the cost of energy being one of the biggest contributors to rapidly rising inflation in the UK, and our impact on the planet in stark focus, now's a good time to review our personal behaviour, consider energy choices and find ways to save money and benefit the planet.

Here are some ways a green home office helps reduce costs and helps the environment:

1. Improve your insulation 

The best thing we can do is to reduce the need to consume energy in the first place, and the best way to do that is to improve the insulation in your house. In the UK this helps keep heat in, and in Spain it helps keep heat out, reducing the need to run fans and air-con.

Something as simple as draught-proofing windows and doors can save £45 per year on energy bills and can be done without specialist skills.

Cavity wall insulation and loft insulation is more expensive but can save a lot more. Depending on your house type, thick loft insulation can save £150-£315 per year according to Which?, and there are usually grants available to partially or fully fund such work. 

If you have loft insulation but it’s more than 10 years old, it’s worth checking whether better material is now available that can improve its effectiveness.

Cavity wall insulation is more costly but around a third of all heat loss is through the walls of most houses. Homes built from around 1920 generally have cavity walls. Filling those cavities with insulation material can save up to £245 per year on energy bills and, in the UK, if your house is considered 'difficult to treat' you can claim a subsidy from the Energy Subsidy Obligation.
Also check the insulation on your hot water tank: improving its insulation from a thin spray foam or a 25mm loose jacket to an 80mm jacket could save £35 per year.

2. Switch off standby to reduce your home office carbon footprint

You can save £55 per year simply by switching off appliances that have a standby mode, an easy way to make your home office greener and more cost effective. 
If you're unsure whether an appliance is in standby mode, you can check whether its power-supply is warm. The power-supply for many gadgets is a wall-wart (the chunky plug you plug into the mains) or a transformer in a small box between the wall socket and the device.  If there's any warmth in the wall-wart or power-supply box then it's in standby and consuming energy.

3.  Use sleep mode

Turning off your laptop when you take a break or go to lunch may be a pain, but modern laptops work well with Windows' sleep mode. Every time you take a break, remember to click Power> Sleep. The machine's energy usage will be dramatically reduced from about 15-60W to about 1W, but it will quickly reawaken from its slumber when you restart work.

It’s a simple thing to do, but make it a habit and it will significantly reduce your home office carbon footprint.
Always turn off your computer at the end of the working day as this will save £25 per year.

4. Turn off the lights

Turning off lights when you're not using them or when you leave a room can save £20 a year. 

Replacing all your lights with LED ones can save 40Kg of CO2 a year, which is the equivalent of driving your car about 145 miles, so if you still have older-style lights, replace them with LEDs. When you do so, consider how many lumens of light you really need. The more lumens, the more watts will be consumed. Also consider the colour of the light. LEDs can be bought with warm, neutral or cool tones. Warm light creates a nice, cosy atmosphere, but a neutral or cool light uses less energy while producing better clarity in areas often used for tasks like reading or cooking, while using less energy.

5. Watch your water usage

Cutting your shower time to 4 minutes a day can save £70 a year. And swapping one bath a week to a 4-minute shower can save £12 a year.

6. Run appliances smartly

Working from home means we end up making our home appliances work more too. It’s worth considering your green home office goals before pressing a button or flicking a switch.

Running your dishwasher just one less time each week could save £14 a year and you could save double that saving by using your washing machine more carefully. Use a 30C cycle rather than a warmer one and try to accumulate washing so you run the machine fewer times per week.

Working from home also means we use our kettles a lot! You could save £11 a year simply by not overfilling your kettle.

7. Make conscious purchasing decisions

As your own Chief Procurement Officer, you can make a difference through careful purchasing decisions. An obvious area to make ethical consumption choices is with the food we buy and where or whom we buy it from. Instead of buying a plastic-wrapped sandwich, for instance, we can cook and eat at home.

We can also opt for green stationery for our home office by choosing recycled paper and other items and/or sourcing products locally.

It’s worth our while to look at who we use for energy, mobile, broadband, and who we bank and invest with. You might be ardently recycling paper but is your pension fund undermining your intentions by investing in palm oil plantations at the expense of rainforest? Examine what companies are doing with your money.

Some service providers offer ways to offset your carbon consumption by planting trees, or supporting sustainable projects, for instance. ClearPeople runs on Microsoft’s efficient cloud infrastructure and supports Microsoft’s goal to become carbon negative and water positive by 2030.

8. Consider your data storage and usage to reduce your home office carbon footprint

There are environmental costs attached to our internet usage, emails and digital communication. Every email we send and store has a carbon footprint so it’s worth considering each email’s purpose, if you really need to reply to all or save it, or if it’s just clogging up carbon and brain power.
Likewise, each Google search emits between 0.2 and 7 grams. Searches can rapidly add up to, and even overtake, your car emissions (the average car commute in the UK emits about 2.8kg of CO2). Obviously we can’t avoid using the internet, but we can do so more consciously and we can choose providers that offset emissions. In 2020 Google said it had compensated for all the carbon it had ever created, and the company aims to run all its data centres and offices on carbon-free energy by 2030.
You can even choose more ethical search engines, such as Ecosia, which plants trees as you search.

9. Do an equipment check

Working from home and working in the tech industry, it’s easy to allow the amount of equipment we have to accumulate. But how much of it do we really need and what’s the greenest way to source it?

With businesses cutting back on office space, it’s easy to equip – and decorate – your green home office affordably and more sustainably by choosing recycled or secondhand furniture and equipment.

10.  Managing waste for your home office carbon footprint

Cutting back on consumption saves money and helps the planet, but we still all produce waste and if you have a home office you’re now responsible for the waste produced as a result of work.
Fortunately, we’re probably wasting a lot less than we did when we worked from an office. We’re more conscious of providing our own supplies, we purchase more consciously and we print less, if at all.
However, it was probably easier for the business to get rid of some kinds of waste when we worked from a central office. Now it’s up to each of us to consider waste, and we have to rely on our local councils and what they offer for waste management. This obviously varies for each of us, but it’s a good opportunity to look at what your council provides and to hold it to account. Almost all councils have recycling services, and some provide green and electronic waste collection, too.
Composting food and some other types of waste at home is a quick win; you’ll contribute less to landfill, save money on compost and your garden (even if it’s a container or potted garden) will appreciate the input.

Hopefully these ten tips have given you ideas about how to reduce costs to offset rising energy inflation and to help reduce the carbon footprint of your home office.  We'd love to hear from you if you implement any of these ideas or if you have tips of your own for greening your work environment and saving money. Please let us know in the comments.

Author bio

Barry Wakelin

Barry Wakelin

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