I was watching a documentary about how climate issues have caused a country like Pakistan to heat up.
Scorching temperatures have brought about heat waves, death, food scarcity and water shortages. People are feeling the heat, in the most literal sense, of climate change.
While this documentary focused on Pakistan, it’s not surprising anymore to switch on the news and hear about some devastating climate-related disasters in all corners of the world. Ice caps are melting, forests are burning.
I’ve always been careful with how I live. I try to consume less. I’m pretty minimalistic with the things I on. I can do with very little.
But that’s my personal life.
Now with the rage about working from home, I started to wonder how freelancers like me, solopreneurs, home-based business owners and even corporate workers who operate from home can be mindful about doing work in an eco-friendly manner.
Working from home as a content writer
I picked apart my own life as a content writer. I’ve been working from home since late 2018, the day after I left my desk job in an oil and gas firm.
Since then, I’ve been living a pretty nomadic lifestyle. My home office isn’t the only office I have. Where my laptop goes — that’s where work is. I’ve tried working from a desk in my sister’s house to the bed there, working while travelling, registering at a coworking space. Been there, done that.
I’m now living in Brunei with my parents. I have a small desk set up in my room where I lock myself in to work. I write blogs, social media captions, and website content for c-suite level executives, agencies, small business owners and solopreneurs.
My need to be eco-friendly started before I worked from home. I would say no to plastic cutlery and bring my metal ones when eating out. If I got a drink, I had my own straw. I would even bring food from home sometimes and use my own water bottle instead of buying from the store (unless I was dehydrated and had no other option!).
Living with my parents who are pretty set in their ways doesn’t make the eco-friendly quest easy. It’s taken me time to educate them about what I do. I try to get them to use less plastic . Fortunately, we live in Brunei where multi-chain supermarkets don’t give out plastic bags anymore, we bring our own. It’s a good start but there’s a long way to go.
While I can’t change the lifestyle of my parents, I can try to be more conscious when I’m working from home as a content writer. Here’s how I do it.
5 ways to be more environmentally conscious when working from home
Go easy with furniture
When I first moved into my parents’ home, I had no desk, no chair for work. So I got a sturdy yet plain, simple one — invested some good dollars in that and a good office chair because I know how posture is important.
Five years later, aside from some chipped-off paint, the table and chair still serve me well. I often need a pillow for my back (I’m getting old!), and I’ve recently bought a stationery holder from Ikea, but that’s about it.
I’m extremely tempted to buy more stuff for my desk. A little shelf would be helpful to store my books and files but I don’t have many clothes so my books and files now are in my wardrobe. I also have a box of stationery I use for craft making but instead of fancy, I recycled a cardboard box for it. Done.
Do I still want a bookshelf? YES. But it’s the only thing I really want and I’ll probably only get it IF I actually need it.
Be mindful of technology
When you work from home, your office setup is everything. You need a good laptop or desktop, probably even a second display screen, some good microphone, a webcam setup, etc. There may even be a need for additional gadgets like a tablet, a ring light, a tripod — depending on what your profession is.
But that’s the thing. Some of us, even with a profession that doesn’t need all these fancy setups still want it.
I’m a writer. I need a good laptop. I have a very old LCD monitor. On my old laptop, when my webcam died, I decided to get an external one. My tripod which was also a hand-me-down broke butleaning my phone on my tissue box works just fine. I’m not a videographer nor do I record videos that much, so why bother?
I do have two external hard disks, one of which I’m about to discard because it takes up too much energy. I don’t own a tablet because I don’t like writing on one and I think I need to minimise screen time, not increase it.
My point here is to get only what you need. It’s VERY tempting to see what’s in the market and hit add to cart. I mean, I’m obsessed with mechanical keyboards but I realise neither do I have the desk space to get one nor do I really NEED one. I’ll just go to the store and test it out and be satisfied for now! Take it out for a ‘test drive’. Haha!
Invest in sustainable stationery
I’m obsessed with notebooks, pens, highlighters. I’ve always been this nerd who hoards Pilot pens because… do I really to give you a reason? 😜
But because I’ve moved so much in my life, I’ve stopped being so attached to my stationery. Yes, post-its are still life-savers and I’m still tempted to buy that pretty notebook when I enter a stationary shop, but I’ve become better.
I only use post-its for reminder items. Instead of buying new notebooks, I scrap old paper and flip it to the blank side for my scribbles. My biggest problem was my planner. I have a notebook that I use as a diary but I’ve always used paper sheets for weekly planners. That was until I found a magnetic, erasable weekly planner. All I need is that and two coloured whiteboard marker pens. No more wasting paper!
Find a routine
What are your ‘working hours’? This might not be the typical 9-to-5 if you’re a freelancer or a business owner working from home.
I typically work in the afternoons, once I’m done with lunch, all the way until just before dinner time. When I head up to my room, I carry a full bottle of water (I have a bottle of my own that I use — it’s not plastic!).
As I live in a country with a tropical climate, afternoons are usually pretty sunny so I leave my curtains open and do not switch on the light in the room unless it’s cloudy and I have a call.
I also don’t have a habit of repeatedly charging my devices. I charge my phone and laptop once a day. The work I do on both my devices aren’t very visual (phone more than laptop, actually) and with my new laptop, the battery can even last me up to two days. I also don’t like to use my laptop while it’s charging so I charge it while having lunch/dinner until it hits 100%. This isn’t only eco-friendly for the planet but also healthy for your laptop’s battery life, I believe (correct me if I’m wrong, please!).
That’s it. It’s a simple act of knowing what you have to do and creating a routine out of it so you don’t use up more than you should.
Understand your space
I mentioned how I understand the lighting situation in my room when I work in the afternoon. This is just part of understanding the space I’m in.
What else do you need to know? I know when my room is sunny and what I need to do if it gets cloudy or if I work at night — duh, the lights.
But what about the heat? I’m not fond of the air-conditioner because (1) I have sinusitis and (2) I have old lady bones (not an actual diagnosis, but yeah, lol). I only switch on the aircon to cool the room down for about 15 minutes IF it gets unbearably hot. Once in a blue moon, I also switch on the aircon when I have a big call or need to record a video because my fan can get noisy. I also shut the curtains when I’m not in the room so the heat from the sun doesn’t come in — leaving the room cooler for me to work in.
My workspace is just my desk and my chair. I often change things up just to give my workspace some freshness but I have a certain order that I like. With the addition of essential oils to my workspace (they help me!), I needed to move my notebooks around a little. I do my best to use little plastic or single-use disposables on my desk so I don’t feel guilty about not taking care of the environment while taking care of my clients and myself.
There you have it. There are obviously many more ways you can conserve energy in your home. Less plastic, composting, switching things off when not in use, taking care and maintaining your electronics well, etc. The idea here is that you need to find what works for you.
Being eco-friendly is not easy. It’s a whole shift of mindset to STOP using the light when it’s sunny outside. It’s hard to always remember to bring your canvas bag or Tupperware when taking out. We have to make a very conscious choice to live and work in a more eco-friendly manner for the betterment of our own planet and our own future.
What will you do as a start?