Working from home and sustainability has brought to mind questions of what can we do to improve our impacts when it comes to sustainability at home. Many of us are working from home for the first time or more often due to the COVID-19 crisis. In April 2020, sixty-two percent of Americans reported they have worked from home during the pandemic, which is double the number in mid-March, according to Gallup. With offices and homes being intertwined more than ever, the MeetGreen team is getting questions about how to be more sustainable at home, which is also now the office for many.
Anecdotally, we’re hearing how much money is being saved from things like not driving as much, eating at home, fewer store visits, etc. Below are some tips you might use that save both money and the planet while you are working from a home office.
Waste While Working from Home
To get a sense of how much each family member is wasting, try a trash challenge. There are many ways to do this. One easy way is to give each member of your family a trash bag and compare them at the end of the day, week, or month. Reductions can come from some of the ideas that follow.
Try a Clean Plate Challenge to reduce food waste at home with your family. All you need is a “slop” bucket (SLOP: Stuff Left On Plate) and a scale. Challenge your family to zero food waste during your meals or beat a weekly baseline. This encourages all to take only what they will eat!
Due to working from home residential waste is up more than 25% during the last three months as reported by Waste Management, a major waste hauler in the US. Now is the perfect time to up your family’s recycling game by setting up or optimizing your home recycling systems.
Working from home you may have more opportunities to try composting. If your city has a composting program, you’re all set. Another fun and educational option is home composting. With just a little space (even indoors), you can create a worm bin; or, you can do a full composting bin or tumbler if you have more space.
With COVID-19, most aren’t allowed to bring our reusable grocery bags into the store or so it would seem. Some have reported you can still bring them in and just bag yourself into your cart (which are getting regularly sanitized). Another idea is to have the store employee load your un-bagged groceries back into your cart which you can then bag yourself at the car.
Disposable & Single-Use Items
Set a disposable, single-use avoidance challenge for your family, with waste-free prizes for the winner(s). Here’s some inspiration if you need it.
Health, Wellness, and Community While Working from Home
A home garden has the added benefit of getting you outside and moving around throughout the day as you plant, water, weed, and spread your homemade compost! There is also the benefit of controlling your food supply, which has come into sharp focus of late with:
- Panic buying
- Virus safety at grocery stores
- Growing concerns about the food supply chain
Another fun and educational way to get moving with the whole family is to pick an area to do a garbage cleanup. This can be at a nearby beach, park, or walking path or field. You’ll be amazed at what you find, you’ll meet some of your neighbors and you might just inspire others to do the same!
COVID-19 and the resulting economic challenges are making it difficult for businesses to survive. When dining out, giving gifts, or purchasing something you need, think about how you might be able to purchase locally. The ‘people’ part of sustainability is every bit as important as the environmental piece.
Carbon While Working from Home
With many summer trips altered for 2020, now is an excellent opportunity to discuss carbon and emissions impact and savings with children.
Local & In-Season Produce
Buy local and in-season fruits and veggies. Here’s a handy guide to seasonal produce.
COVID-19 and the subsequent shutdowns have shown us we don’t NEED to drive as much and air quality has improved in many locations as a result. As things somewhat return to normal, really think about:
- If a trip is necessary
- Can you make do with what you have
- Borrow the items you need
- If you must go out, combine trips
Energy Efficiency for Your Home and Office
During the summer months, is a great time to teach children about energy efficiency:
- Using natural light
- Cooling set-points
- Energy consumption and billing (Who left those lights on?)
- Change over your lighting to LED or CFL
- Weather-strip doors and windows.
Water While Working from Home
Check your water footprint and the water footprint of the various items you eat.
Here are some examples:
- Choosing chicken over beef for a family of 4 for one meal saves 3,874 liters of water, which is enough to fill 12 bathtubs!
- Choosing vegetarian over beef for the same family of four saves even more. (Source: My Event Footprint)
- Think about ways to reduce your water usage:
- Turning faucets off while brushing your teeth
- Upgrading to water-efficient fixtures when it’s time to change them out to make more water-wise food choices
Admittedly, many of these tips could fit into multiple categories. Whatever your sustainability focus, pick one or two of these ideas, or create your own and get going!